Happy Marriage?! vol. 1 -3 by Enjouji Maki

One of my jobs is shelving books at various libraries.

Today at work, I came across this title because someone had accidentally put it on a young adult/teen cart–this happens a lot because many people, even my colleagues in the circulation staff, don’t read manga and so they tend to assume manga = teen. This is isn’t really a judgement (though more people should read graphic novels and manga!) and I only bring this up because there I was, putting this in the correct section, thinking, “Jeez, it looks like the library has a lot of these. I wonder if they’re any good?”

But wouldn’t you know it, volume four was checked out.  I decided to try the first three, anyway.

SPOILERS

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Takanahi Chiwa is a just normal office lady, or so she tells us on the first page of Happy Marriage?! (Hapi Mari).  Except, she’s really not. Turns out she’s working another job as a hostess in the evenings because she’s struggling to pull her father out of debt and keep her grandmother’s house from the foreclosure.  Her friends at the office wonder why se doesn’t date more, but she really hasn’t had time–plus working at the hostess club hadn’t exactly given her the best impression of men.

Enter, hotty in an expensive suit, Mamiya Hokuto. He saunters into the Hostess Club and tells her she should quit her job because it’s ‘meaningless.’  When she explains she’s working to pay off debts, he tells her she shouldn’t be selling her body with so much pride.

Dude slut shames her.

Not a great introduction to this guy.

Chiwa agrees and tosses a drink in his face.

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You go girl. This guy is a jerk!

Of course, when she goes back to work the next day–after being fired as a hostess–Chiwa discovers that Mr. Slut Shamer is her big boss, the company’s president.

And, he wants to marry her.

It’s kind of convoluted why this is a good idea.  Apparently, Hokuto’s grandpa, the board chairman, was in some way indebted to Chiwa’s grandma.  He wants to repay her kindness by offering to take care of Chiwa’s family’s massive debt on the condition that she marry his grandson. Hokuto, meanwhile, is up for anything that mollifies the old man and which shows that he’s a team player because he’s got his sights on owning the full extent of his family’s businesses.

But, why grandpa thinks the marriage part is necessary, I’m not sure.  Reasons of plot, is all I can determine.

There are some cute interactions as Chiwa and Hokuto figure out how they’re going to live together.  A lot of the wacky hijinx that ensue revolve around the fact that, again for reasons, they need to keep their marriage a secret from the office and the press.

There’s also quite a bit of titillation around the fact that Chiwa is a virgin.  At one point, Hokuto is sick–having given himself heart arrhythmia from overwork–and Chiwa falls asleep at his bedside.  He pulls her in under the covers and they sleep-sleep together for the first time and it’s actually quite sweet (considering what a massively possessive pinhead this guy usually is.)

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If you’re getting the sense I never warmed to this guy, you’d be right.

The problem I have with Hokuto happens in volume 2, chapter 7. Chiwa is feeling like maybe she’s in a sh*tty position.  She’s married to a guy who is also her boss.  He’s threatened her job already at least once to get her to do his bidding. So when an old college classmate of hers, Sakuraba, shows up with a friendly smile and a job offer, Chiwa is sorrily tempted to jump ship.

A lot is made in this chapter of the fact that Sakuraba listens to Chiwa and appreciates her office skills.  He really believes in her and wants her to grow stronger.  Maybe he’s hitting on her a little, but he’s also sincerely recruiting someone he thinks will help his start-up company shine.  Chiwa is thinking really smartly here. Here’s a chance for her to shine and she can get out from under Hokuto’s thumb. They can still be married and all that, but she doesn’t have to work for him. He won’t have the power to threaten her job ever again.  She tenders her resignation and ready to make a go of things.

Then dickwad shows up.

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Your smoldering eyes sure are sexy, but you’re still a possessive piss pot.

Okay, you straight ladies out there, I get it.  I understand that this kind of talk from an alpha male is supposed to make me weak in the knees.

Problem is? This situation.  Hokuto isn’t swooping in to claim something he loves in some romantically manly way.  He’s stopping Chiwa’s freedom, her happiness.  The only reason he’s doing this is to retain his power over her.

Serious dick move, Hokuto.

I mean, yeah, plot says they should be stuck together in all the awkward situations, which includes her working for a man she married.  But, in the previous chapter, Chiwa overheard that Hokuto is fine with not having sex with her because he’s using her as a pawn in his family’s power struggles. So, this moment isn’t even charged with ‘ah, but he secretly wants her by his side because of LOVE’

At least not explicitly.

Implicitly, we’re supposed to assume that Hokuto is just having some kind of jealousy fueled hissy fit. It’s obvious we’re supposed to find his possessiveness sexy.

Sure, okay. You could; I don’t.

Thing is, Hokuto initially told Chiwa, at the very start, that he went to meet her at the Hostess Club because he was curious what kind of woman she was. Then, when she stood up for herself and tossed a drink in his face, he thought: ‘here’s someone who could be my partner.’ Chiwa liked the sound of that, as did I.  And, those words are partly why she agrees to this ridiculous arrangement.  But, that’s the ONLY time Hokuto ever thinks about her as a partner–after that she’s something he owns, a contract he’s brokered.  He’s constantly using phrases like, “You belong to me” and “Mine.”

RED FLAG, CHIWA.  RUN.

I kept reading, though, like you do.

I will say that despite the MASSIVE RED FLAGS, I ended up liking Hokuto a bit better in volume 3, when we meet his crappy family and discover he’s an actual bastard, as in born out of wedlock, that the family only barely recognizes.  I suspect the subsequent volume is going to deal more with whatever’s up, politically, with them.  That might make an interesting read.

If I end up continuing, however, it will likely be because volume 4 falls into my hands, literally–not unlike how I ended up with this first volume. But since I work at the library, this could totally happen.

I am, at least, kind of intrigued by the fact that Wikipedia tells me there’s an Amazon Prime live-action version of this out there.  I might actually have to see if I can find it, just out of curiosity.

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