Cynical Chiwa doesn’t have the time, energy, or money for the pursuit of love; she struggles with two jobs to pay off her foolish father’s massive debt. When her day job’s company chairman suddenly offers to pay her father’s debt on the condition that she marry his grandson Hokuto, the company’s handsome young president, she resigns herself to practicality and nervously accepts. Hokuto may be a stranger, but he seems to be a decent man, if somewhat pragmatic; he bluntly informs her that he takes their contractual vows seriously and expects her to do the same. Chiwa soon surprises herself by actually falling in love with her husband—but what about Hokuto? Why did he really marry her? And is she the only one emotionally invested in their arrangement?
Not nearly enough josei manga is published in English, so I always feel compelled to talk up an enjoyable title when I come across it. Happily, Maki Enjoji’s attractive art and fun, engaging story make this an easy series to recommend.
Happy Marriage?! is an entertaining romantic comedy with a little sweetness, a little seriousness, and a little raunchiness. For example, take this scene as the couple is driving home from what has been an emotionally draining social event for Chiwa: concerned by her distress, Hokuto pulls over and gives her a comforting little cheer-up kiss. Unused to such everyday expressions of spousal affection, virgin Chiwa flips out and tells him to kiss her “properly.” She may mean that she’s not accustomed to what she perceives to be a sneak attack, but he willfully interprets her critique as an invitation to french kiss her. As they pull back onto the road, he smugly discusses her encouraging reaction and the two get into an argument about whether or not she’s a “woman” yet. Hokuto is having fun egging her on and distracting her from her funk, and Chiwa is up in arms about his definition of womanhood: “What the hell did you think I was until now?! A drag queen?!”
Chiwa is not the genre’s typical shrinking-violet virgin with no backbone or ambition and Hokuto is not its all-too-common cold, controlling heartthrob with a sadistic streak a mile wide. While both characters embody aspects of those archetypes, they break away from them enough—sometimes in unpredictable ways—to be likeable leads who keep the reader interested in their developing relationship as well as their larger personal histories and motivations. An added bonus: there is actually a plot besides the question of when the couple will have sex, as well as a network of friends and family who fill out and complicate the pair’s daily lives.
The art, like the pleasantly-diverting story and characters, isn’t anything groundbreaking. However, it is easy on the eyes, with a nice balance of black, white, and screentone. It features a surprisingly wide range of nuanced facial expressions that expands as the series continues. I especially enjoy Hokuto rolling his eyes heavenward in bemused exasperation; both he and Chiwa show a lot more emotion and personality development on their faces than many of their mainstream romance counterparts ever do.
Written for adults, Happy Marriage?! doesn’t shy away from sexual themes. By the third volume, the series’ sexual content hasn’t progressed beyond non-graphic nudity and heavy foreplay, but future volumes are sure to develop this aspect of the plot alongside the characters’ relationship. Mature readers looking for a romantic sugar fix that doesn’t strictly adhere to a cookie-cutter form could do a lot worse than this satisfyingly fluffy love story.
Happy Marriage?!, vols. 1-3
by Maki Enjoji
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421559346
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421559353
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781421559360
Viz Media, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: M (18+)