Review based on first volume.
“Unlucky in love” is a mild way to put the string of bad luck 24-year-old Shigeta is having with men. A less-than-committed bookstore employee by day, an emotional disaster by night, Shigeta has a knack for hooking up with men who will dump her at a moments notice. Common sense says she ought to be choosier, but the most recent issue of Zipper promises that her dream man is right around the corner. Now Shigeta’s throwing herself at everything except the kitchen sink and her nerdy, no way, no how, never-gonna-hook-up-with-him co-worker, Takahashi.
Aimed at women in their ’20s, Happy Mania is a very funny look at female insecurity run amok. No plucky, uber-cute-but-she-just-doesn’t-know-it protagonist here. The main character Shigeta (no first name given), is having a mid-twenties meltdown over her looks, her job, and more importantly, her lack of a boyfriend. The bookstore job she took just to meet men has failed to provide a love interest, even though it’s been a whole month, and with her relationship karma at its peak, she’s decided it’s time to get aggressive.
Ignoring her roommate Fuku’s sage point that having sex does not mean she’s destined for love and marriage, Shigeta hooks up with a customer, steals another girl’s man, and decides she’s in love with someone who’s barely legal. As far as she’s concerned, anything is better than being alone, and if that means slathering on make-up or placing “break-up” hexes on others, so be it.
Decidedly insane, this title from Moyoco Anno (whose husband Hideaki is the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion) is a window into of the mind of a twenty-something woman in great need of Valium or Prozac. Shigeta is a hyper, maniacal, shallow character who is at once frightening, exceedingly funny, and insulting. I laughed my way through just about the entire book, because Shigeta’s attitudes and actions struck such a universal female chord, but at the same time I kept thinking that men shouldn’t be allowed to read Happy Mania, or they might come to the conclusion that all women are insane.
It’s almost a blow to womanly pride to have a woman portrayed as being so wretchedly pathetic, but I guess if male readers can live with the Tenchis and Love Hinas of the manga world, I can take Anno’s depiction of a mid-twenties crisis in stride. There is far too much comedy in Shigeta’s lamentation of her body fat and lacklustre love life for me to remain indignant for too long. I question if male readers will find the characters and situations as funny as female readers, but I wouldn’t rule it out as entertaining for men.
For those who like their manga pretty and well drawn, though, I’m going to say give this one a pass. Just about the kindest adjective I can come up with for Anno’s style is “raw.” The layout is clear and the drawings have emotion, but they are not as clean or precise as most of what has been brought to American shores. It seems a style somewhere between Fuyumi Soryo’s (Dolls, Mars_ and Ai Yazawa’s (Paradise Kiss, Nana), but either way, a poor relation.
I’m happy to see Tokyopop chose such a mature-audience oriented title, and something clearly aimed at females for that matter, but I believe that for most people, Happy Mania is going to be a gamble. I’d give it decent betting odds, but female readers might find it a safer gamble than their male counterparts. With all the talk of love, commitment, soul mates and voodoo, ladies are bound to find it funny, while men might just see it as cause for alarm.
Kayoko Shigeta – (goes by Shigeta) The heroine of Happy Mania. All she wants is love, and she’s certain her soul mate is out there somewhere if she could only find him!
Takahashi – Shigeta’s geeky co-worker who has a massive crush on her. Sadly, she sees him as nothing more than a friend, and is always enlisting his help in her search for romance.
Fuku Hiromi – Shigeta’s best friend. She is way more grounded than Shigeta, and often serves as the voice of reason.
Language – Mild cursing, strong sexual content
Violence – One knife attack — though played for comedy
Nudity – Lots
Sex – Lots