Happy Marriage is created by Maki Enjoji and was published in 2009 in Japan and was brought over to the US by Viz Media in 2013. It centers around a woman, Chiwa Takanashi, who is forced into an arranged marriage with a man she has never met in order to save her father from his debts. The man, Hokuto Mamiya, happens to be the president of the company she works at, so they must keep their marriage a secret from the rest of the world for the time being. The story mainly focuses on the challenges of living with someone you don’t know, and the problems that come with entering into his high-class family.
I don’t think there was anything about the art that really surprised me. It’s a pretty standard art style for a romance manga, large detailed eyes for women and narrower eyes for men. The expressions are pretty good, showing a variety of different emotions including serious moments. The backgrounds aren’t exactly minimalist but Enjoji also doesn’t overuse effects that can make a panel feel too busy and take away from the expressions and art it’s trying to complement. The panel design is also laid out in such a way as to make sure each page is not busy, making the story easy to follow.
Hapi Mari is a great fluff manga if you want an easy romance to read that also has some depth to it. The main question of the story is: what is marriage? Both characters start out thrust into a marriage none of them were prepared for and have to figure out how to love and live with the other person. I get the sense that Hokuto respects her as well in his own way, which is nice to see in romance manga, as he never explicitly forces her to marry him and even says he will be faithful to her for as long as they are married. At least in the first volume, there’s never any moments that he forces himself on her either, putting building trust ahead of sexual intimacy. There was a moment where he makes an advance in the beginning and she gets scared, but I never saw any violent forcing of sex like you might see in other manga.
The only real tension we see in this story so far is some natural sexual tension, the tension stemming from keeping their marriage a secret, and blossoming jealousy as the gulf between Chiwa and Hokuto’s social standing is brought more into the foreground. Maybe the reason I think that is because all the serious moments are paired directly afterwords with comedy that pretty much cancels out the drama and romance of the scene. That’s why, from what I have seen so far, I would classify this manga as a fluffy romance. It’s great for what it is, and I think some of the themes it covers (finding something to protect, the meaning of marriage, and the meaning of family) are presented well in the story itself.
However, this isn’t higher on my list of best romances because there’s not enough variance in emotions that it presents and evokes. The manga also uses some outdated tropes and scenes that push it down the list a little for me as well, such as the scene in chapter two where they get trapped in a storeroom. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a similar scenario whether it be trapped in an elevator or a sport storage room at a highschool. I get that in this one he purposefully traps them in there in order to get a chance to talk to her, but it still rubs me the wrong way. Even her fear of the dark is a common trope as well, though it does allow for a dramatic scene that added some depth to both characters and the story. Overall through, the first volume is great if you want an easy romance not heavy on the drama.
Verdict: I’ll definitely be returning