After a near perfect third volume, it is time to return to Happiness once again. Things are getting worse than ever as new threats arise and our turned characters may never be able to live their old lives again. Is it good?
Writer/Artist: Atsushi Ohkubo
Translators: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Makoto and Yuuki are both heading down different paths in terms of dealing with their vampirism, a new character has entered the scene, Nora is being setup to walk a new path, and an old character dies marking the first major death in the series. Despite being the end to this portion of the story and quite a few things happening, Happiness Vol. 4 also felt a bit lighter and quicker overall than before. The series is usually very decompressed, but here even moreso, which ultimately makes the manga go by much faster than usual — which is probably the only real weakness to the volume. I just wish there was a bit more things happening in the story, like more focus on Makoto’s family instead of the token nod at the very end.
As always, characters and development are key to what makes this series so strong. Everyone is so richly defined and well-written that every single action they choose makes complete sense for their character. It may not always be the smartest choice or move, but it feels right for the person. We get new context for Noa and why she gets so invested in Yuuki, seeing her family life with how her parents treat her and each other. Yukiko is being pushed into a more active role, while the new character just introduced, Masami Sakurane, is hard to get a read on; he could be good or bad and judging by his behavior, I don’t think we’ll know until he meets Makoto or Yuuki. Speaking of which, the latter’s character arcs are incredible. Both having turned into “vampires”, they are each heading down their own paths and are acting rather interestingly. They are complete opposites of one another, but given their lives up until recently, especially in context of how they treat others and how their moms react to them, their arcs feel very real and believable. Going forward, it’s going to be rather horrifying to see what take places.
I saw you add him on Facebook obviously.
Oshimi’s writing remains impressive in quality. The characters, again, are very well-written, with a less-is-more approach to them, their personalities and histories shown to us without exposition or coming straight out and saying what they are like. There are a lot of little details that can be picked up on in how everyone interacts or events that happen, making this such a rich experience and excellent example of “show don’t tell” in storytelling. The dialogue is also pretty strong. Even though most of the conversations are very short or brief, there’s a lot of emotion and drama conveyed in them. The pacing is very quick due to how decompressed and drawn out the scenes are, though the story never feels like it’s on fast-forward. The tone’s still incredibly unnerving and eerie, making some scenes very uncomfortable, since you’ll never quite sure how they’ll play out. It’s never quite as haunting as the previous volume, but it does have its moments.
The artwork is incredible and helps with bringing the series and its bleakness to life. While there is a disappointing lack of surreal and horrific imagery this time around (it pops up and when it does, it’s incredibly drawn), Oshimi still does a solid job at drawing the mundane and normal… sort of. The mundane and “normal” parts of the series are slowly slipping away the further the story chugs along, leaving behind only the atmospheric and haunting settings and moments that helps build the tone of the series well. The characters are drawn well and are great with expressing a good range of mood and emotion throughout. The layouts are constructed competently, while giving a strong sense of motion and energy to every scene. You especially notice this in Chapter 16 during all of the action.
I don’t approve of your Axe Body spray you freak.
The last thing to note about this particular volume is the rating. The series is usually rated T+, for 16 and up, but this latest book is rated M for adults only. That’s due to the more heavy sexual content this time around, even more so than previous volumes. It’s about as graphically violent as before, but there’s a lot of rather intense sex scenes in the manga. There’s no nudity to it, but due to visceral artwork by creator, it’s hard to really notice that. If you’re not much into sex or sexual content in your series (if you are, I’m surprised you made it this far), just be warned. Kodansha did not label this book with a warning on the front cover like their other series.
Is It Good?
Happiness Vol. 4 is a great conclusion to the first part of the series, ending on a note that’ll leave us wondering what’ll come next for our characters. To say any more about the plot and cast would spoil, so just check out this manga if you haven’t already. A series like this is one that must be experienced to truly appreciate it.