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When Shoujo grows up: Moyoko Anno's "Happy Mania"
By Dillon Font
You've all read shoujo manga. You know what to expect when you open up those steamy pages. Hot bishonen, great romances, angst up the wazoo and flowers, flowers, flowers. Thanks to the efforts of manga companies in America recently, manga fans in the US have been blessed with a large number of varied and excellent shoujo titles, such as Ai Yawaza's "Paradise Kiss" and Tomoko Taniguchi's "Aquarium". Yet, as manga fans in the US keep discovering, there are still more genres of manga unexplored in the American market. While girls in their teens are adequately covered, manga aimed at women over 20 is still neglected in America. Termed josei manga, this genre of manga tends to deal with much more adult aspects of being a woman in contemporary Japan, such as frank depictions and discussions about sex, dating in today's world, and being in the workforce.
An excellent and extraordinary example of josei manga is the popular work by Moyoko Anno, "Happy Mania". Finishing it's run at 11 large tankoubans and spanning six years, Anno's work has retained a strong fanbase in Japan, even spawning an excellent drama series based on the comic in the summer of 1998.
The manga centers around 24-year old Kayoko Shigeta who basically, not unlike most other shoujo heroines, is looking for love. The thing is, Shigeta is horrifically bad at it. She begins the manga working at a bookstore with nerdy Takahashi, who both obviously wants to be with Shigeta, and is also obviously the best choice for Shigeta. Yet, Shigeta is looking for the perfect man, cho-kakkoi dansei, to sweep her away.
Thus opens up the first chapter in this saga, Shigeta crouching behind the bookstore counter reading her love fortune in a magazine. It reveals that her meeting of fate is coming, the stars are right... For love. And who should happen to sway into the place but Perfect Man #001. She pursues him, believes to fall madly in love with him, completely expecting to hear those feeling reciprocated.
Except, of course, he's not really that interested in our heroine. Rather, he is just content to have a sexual relationship with her. Yeah, call him a boyfriend, it doesn't really matter to him. This sends Shigeta into a spiral, and she promptly freaks out and runs back to her best friend, sexy and well-dressed Fuku-chan.
This begins the seemingly endless cycle of Shigeta's search for love. Each chapter presents another man that Shigeta becomes obsessed with. Yet it doesn't ever seem to get tiring or lose it's charm.
One of the best aspects of this manga is Shigeta's interaction with her best friend, the stunningly beautiful Fuku-chan, a contemporary wise in the ways of love and sex. Their conversations are hilariously scripted, mostly based upon arguments about Shigeta's stupidity in her current endeavors. Playing both best friend and mentor, she is the perfect complement to Shigeta's impulsive nature.
This is only one example of josei manga out there, and is definitely an exceptional one. Hopefully more manga importers in America will start looking towards this genre in their future plans, for it is really an aspect of comic art that is currently not known as well as it could be on American shores. I promise to throw many green pieces of paper at the companies who bring this kind of excellence over here, translated in English for all American comic fans to enjoy.
|HAPPY MANIA - CHARACTER DOSSIER
The heroine of this love saga, Shigeta is probably one of the funnier characters to grace the pages of manga. She's impulsive as all hell and will stop at nothing to find the love of her life. She's filled with insecurities, but that doesn't stop her... Too much anyway.
Shigeta's nerdy co-worker wants nothing more than to make her happy, but sadly, she's not interested in him. He gets involved with many of Shigeta's insane plans and random flings, and always comes to the rescue during her times of need.
Shigeta's best friend, she has an abrasive yet down-to-earth way of handling Shigeta. In the end though she cares about Shigeta a lot, but is still holding her head in shock to Shigeta's constant bouts of idiocy in the face of her failing romance life.