Happy Hustle High Vol. 1
From the author of Wild Act comes Happy Hustle High, a fun read that might not rock your world, but nonetheless, it offers something a little different in the romantic comedy department.
The hero of the story, Hanabi Ozora, is featured on the cover, showcasing Takadaís skill in creating perky, energetic characters. Rieís artwork is easily one of the most noteworthy points of attraction for Happy Hustle High, as she offers a range of comedic imagery paired with classic bishoujo/bishonen scenes that is sure to satisfy both guys and girls.
With so many romantic comedies out there today (I think I read about nine different series this week alone), itís hard to keep them all separated. Even if one were to isolate the books that were set in school and didnít involve some element of fantasy (like Ranma 1/2), thereíd still be scores of books to choose from.
I canít say that H^3 (as it was called in Japan) is altogether distinct. Takadaís art style is her own, of course, but the general events of the story can be found in various other love stories that have been penned throughout the ages.
The setup of the tale is interesting, however. Hanabi was one of the most-liked girls at Uchino High, an all-girls school. Though she was somewhat of a tomboy, Hanabi was good at helping out the other girls when they got into trouble, and the price to pay her back typically didnít exceed a good lunch or two in return.
On the first page of the book, Hanabiís world (to be more precise, her entire school) is turned upside down. What shocking revelation is announced that is sure to change the lives of every girl at Uchino High?
Theyíre going co-ed. Thatís right: boys, and lots of them. A neighboring boys-only academy is joining with Uchino, and daily life will never be the same for the ladies of "Happy Hustle High," as Hanabi decides to call it.
I enjoyed the brief look at what an all-female school is like (reminiscent of the very entertaining series, High School Girls), with girls talking about tampons, sitting spread legged on top of desks, and generally not being very attractive.
Having guys on campus is going to change their lives, and not necessarily for the better. Yet the newfound ease with which theyíll be able to socialize with men has them seeing the bright side of the change. That is until they learn that their new male school president puts a no dating mandate in the school rules.
They enlist Hanabi to combat this oppressive and unfair rule in her own special way, which pretty much means bribery, trickery, and seduction, though she didnít plan for the seduction aspect of it.
Naturally, thereís a dreamy, aloof, and impossibly talented love interest for Hanabi -- Yasuaki Garaku. Heís a little shy around women, but surprisingly, Hanabiís bipolar personality starts to incite him to show interest in women.
Thus weíre given a respectable establishment for a load of interesting circumstances as the various guys and girls featured in the story compete for (and against) each other in their newest subject: co-ed scholarship.
As I said above, Takadaís artwork is attractive enough. She tends to rely upon fine linework and uses a moderate amount of shading to add depth to the visuals. Sound effects have been (annoyingly) replaced with English translations, which throws off the balance of many of the panels (I really donít need to see "WHAAAAAAAAA" over half of a page), but this is an evil that doesnít seem to want to go away, even in todayís progressive manga environment.
VIZ Media probably thinks that theyíre doing us a favor by messing with the original artwork, but theyíre not. Not for me, at least. Iíd rather see Takadaís drawings than penned-in sound effects.
The translation is solid for the most part, even if there is a tendency to up the trendiness of the text. There are a few awkward adaptation moments (page 156ís "But Dude" sounds just plain goofy, and doesnít match the illustration in any way), but overall, the book works grammatically, and typos seem to be minimal.
The characters in Happy Hustle High are fun to read, the artwork is easy on the eyes, and the premise, at least, differs from a good number of other school-set romantic comedies. If youíre not burnt out on them yet (Iím not!), then H^3 is worth adding to the collection. Sure, it doesnít go too far into uncharted territory, but sometimes, itís nice to read a simple, funny tale.