Ruri “Hibari” Hibarigoaka has been accepted to Tennomifune Academy, a mysterious high school that will separate her from a special someone she’d admired en route to her middle school. Hibari has decided that she may reject any joy or friendships which could develop in this new chapter of her life. But when she crosses paths with an unfortunate girl who has fallen from a footbridge, saved only by her hair bow caught on a rusty railing, Hibari is compelled to help. The girl’s name is Anne, and after a quick talk, Hibari discovers two things. First, despite her upbeat attitude, Anne has the worst luck ever. Second, Hibari has just met her first classmate and inadvertently made a friend.
Anne, Hibari, and later Botan Kumegawa—a girl so frail that merely touching her hand can fracture a bone—soon discover that they have all been accepted to Tennomifune for a very specific reason. Of the school’s seven first-year classes, three are focused on students with high academic abilities, and three more focus on those proficient in athletics. However, class 7-01—made up of the most unfortunate children in the region—focuses on happiness, and this is the class in which our heroines find themselves.
Anne Happy is funny, and the finest part of the comedy is that you are never sure exactly where it’s going, but the punchlines definitely feel fresh. Doe-eyed Anne remains the most unfortunate of the key trio; in a class of only 40, her luck ranking somehow reads 49 as the number 0 on the card she is given is mysteriously smudged. With thick, snowy braids that match her ashen complexion, Botan has a talent for first aid, but only on herself as she is constantly sick or injured. Botan also berates herself as useless, yet she radiates a warm temperament which melts Hibari’s cynicism easily. As for Hibari, whose mysterious crush has an identity so absurd that I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise, she proves a sensible anchor for the chaos which surrounds them.
One of the most genuine aspects of Anne Happy is the support the girls give one another. Anne herself is so upbeat in the face of her poor luck that she rivals Pollyanna, yet she never grates, remaining quite endearing. While Botan’s self-deprecating attitude might become tiresome, her friends know that she simply needs some self-confidence, and they never abandon her, no matter how she might slow them down. Hibari might be most in need of good friends and it’s clear that the trust she finds with Anne and Botan transcends her past experiences. Later, the girls become better acquainted with classmates Hibiki and Ren, whose opposition to our main characters may be catty, but never delves into true mean girl territory.
The character designs are fun, though the girls’ expressions are the real standout. For instance, Hibari’s melancholy gaze nearly breaks the fourth wall—think of Jim in The Office—as a nod to the readers that everything, including her own malady, is pure madness. Scenes where the girls are dressed in bunny costumes, prominent breast shots, and spreads in which characters are scantily clad suggest a Teen audience, though there’s nothing so scandalous that the series cannot be enjoyed by mature middle school readers.
Billed as a “slice of life” series, Anne Happy is a high school comedy with more heart and laughs than manga fans have seen in quite a while.
Anne Happy, vols. 1-2
vol 1 ISBN: 9780316272179
vol 2 ISBN: 9780316276122
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 13 +