Happiness Recommended Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Briana Lawrence
Review Date: Thursday, July 24, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I went away to college when I was 18, and after graduating I moved out on my own.  Ever since then I‘ve been a sucker for family stories, it‘s my not-so-subtle way to hint at being homesick. 

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Souya Himawari
Translated by:Melanie Schoen
Adapted by:

What They Say
Orphaned high school student Yukiharu has six little brothers. But is his suddenly chaotic life about to pull in Makoto, his lover next door, as well? Happiness Recommended is an original compilation of tales of torment and neighborhood love!

The Review
Packaging:
The front cover has Yukiharu and Makoto in their school uniform.  Makoto has his arm wrapped around Yukiharu and Yukiharu looks very uncomfortable about being in Makoto’s embrace.  It’s the back cover that drew my attention, showing chibi versions of all six brothers along with Makoto’s twin brother and his sister.  Yukiharu’s brothers (the Hiraga clan) each have a number on their shirt, going from oldest to youngest. 

Artwork:
Since there are so many boys in the story it was a bit difficult to tell them apart at first, especially the younger children, but the manga-ka does a good job with giving all of the characters different personalities to make it easier to tell who is who.  For example, Makoto has a twin brother, but when they’re together in a panel it’s pretty easy to tell them apart.  Minori has a more… devious look to him compared to his brother (probably because he’s molesting Mizumo--the second oldest Hiraga).  I would’ve liked to see more imagery for the Hiraga household, showing more of how cramped it is with six (now seven thanks to Yukiharu) kids living there.  There’s a lot of focus on the characters, which is rather impressive since there are seven kids to try and keep up with, and even if Yukiharu is the main character his brothers do get a decent amount of time in the manga. 

Text/SFX:
All Japanese honorifics are kept in tact.  Sound effects also have the original kanji along with English translations.  When kanji is being translated from Yukiharu’s cell phone, the translation is done inside of a text box next to the cell phone.  The story takes place in Yukiharu’s point of view, so we get a lot of narration from him as the story progresses.  The second story, “Another Rainy Day,” is done in Yoshimi’s (main character) point of view.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Happiness Recommended
This is the main story of the manga.  It starts with Yukiharu dealing with the death of his grandfather, who he’s lived with ever since his parents died.  Feeling like he has no other living family left, he’s surprised to hear that his parents are actually alive and have had six other kids after him.  It turns out that his parents are complete dead-beats, and his grandfather took him away from them because there’s no way they could’ve taken care of a child.  It’s obvious that his parents are complete slackers, because their children live in a run-down shack of a home and have been abandoned.  Why Yukiharu’s grandfather didn’t do anything to help the other six kids is beyond me. 

Yukiharu goes to meet his six brothers and he’s immediately not welcomed there, especially since he’s more well-off than any of them with his cell phone, laptop, and other expensive things that they can never afford.  He also finds out that the family has enough problems to deal with: the second oldest, Mizumo, has gone so far as to “service” Minori, the boy who lives next door (but it’s obvious that both Minori and Mizumo are enjoying it) in an attempt to get money, and the third oldest, Hisashi, has gotten into trouble with the local gang.  To top it all off, Yukiharu has to deal with Makoto, Minori’s twin brother who seems to be completely obsessed with him for some unknown reason.

The story deals with Yukiharu and his adjustments to his new family.  Despite the horrible start, Yukiharu is willing to adjust any way he needs to in order to be with them, he even sells his belongings to get everyone more money.  In the middle of all of this Yukiharu’s girlfriend ends up breaking up with him because of the distance between them, which brings him closer to Makoto because the other boy comforts him.  He finds out that the two of them use to be close friends when they were children, which explains his somewhat obsessive nature towards him.

The family really comes together when Hisashi gets into a fight with the neighborhood gang.  Yukiharu is quick to jump in and help him without question, and he proves that he is a reliable brother who will always stand up for his family.  There is an extra chapter called “Is Happiness Recommended?” that shows Yukiharu’s first day of school where his new classmates mistake him for Mizumo.  He also finds out that he’s already quite famous due to Makoto obsessing over him and telling everyone about his “Haru-chan.”

Another Rainy Day
Yoshimi is an up and coming novelist who is having a bad day, the type of bad day where everything goes wrong and it feels like there’s a higher power laughing at your misfortune.  He spilled his drink, wrecked his laptop, lost all of his data, got dumped by his girlfriend, and in the middle of a heavy storm he gets run over by a bicycle and breaks his arm.  To add insult to injury, the bicyclist is none other than Takeda, the man his now ex-girlfriend has fallen for.  But there’s a chance to turn things around.  Takeda is determined to make it up to Yoshimi and Yoshimi is more than happy to treat the guy like a slave as revenge for stealing his girlfriend‘s heart.  But the longer Takeda stays, the happier Yoshimi is to have him around. 

Later, Takeda volunteers to use his own laptop to write for Yoshimi since his arm is broken, which leads to an interesting scene of Yoshimi dictating a sex scene to Takeda.  It proves to be too much for Takeda to handle and he ends up kissing him, immediately bolting when Yoshimi starts protesting.  Before Yoshimi realizes what he’s doing, he chases after Takeda and finds out that the man is in love with him.  Yoshimi is still unsure about his own feelings, but he decides to stay with Takeda until he figures it out. 

Comments:
“Happiness Recommended,” has a sort of heartwarming feel to it because it focuses a lot on family.  Yukiharu has to deal with being a stranger to his own brothers while trying to get adjusted to their living arrangements.  His brothers also have to deal with having a brother who had a better upbringing than they did.  As the story progresses everyone starts to get closer to one another, and it brought a smile to my face to see Yukiharu’s family starting to accept him.  “Another Rainy Day” has a stronger focus on boy’s love, showing the rather… unique… relationship between Yoshimi and Takeda.  The fact that Yoshimi immediately tries to take advantage of Takeda made me fall in love with his character.  What would you do when face to face with the guy who stole your girl, especially when said guy injured you and was willing to do anything to make it up to you?  I expected, at some point, for some feelings to stir up between the two of them but I didn’t expect for Takeda to make the first move.  I would’ve enjoyed seeing this as its own manga to see the relationship between the two boys develop more.  What would’ve happened next?  What would the ex-girlfriend had done?  There were so many different directions that could’ve been explored, it’s a shame that the story was so short. 

There is one huge problem with this manga: the ending.  When both stories end they just sort of… end.  Yukiharu walks off with his brothers after the gang fight.  Yoshimi and Takeda decide to try and be together.  The ending for “Happiness Recommended” is decent, but the ending for “Another Rainy Day” felt incomplete.  Here he is, right in front of you, the guy who your girlfriend has fallen for.  And suddenly, he’s hitting on you.  How can something like that end so easily?  The extra story (which the manga jokingly called “unnecessary”) added more to the empty ending feeling.  By showing Yukiharu’s first day of school I only wanted to read more, but instead it cuts off with more of Makoto’s obsessive ways towards Yukiharu.  What was the point in adding that in?  I would’ve preferred it being left with Yukiharu walking off into the sunset with his brothers after the fight.   

This isn’t a story to read if you’re in the mood for a few hot and heavy make-out sessions.  The boy’s love in this manga could be rated something lower than 16+ if it weren’t for one or two pictures of Minori and Mizumo in sexual positions and for the one scene in “Another Rainy Day” where Yoshimi is reading a sex scene for Takeda to type out.  The boy’s love is left in the background, leaving room for a story about family and how important it is to have them, even if you didn’t know that they were around. 



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1-56970-742-5
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Happiness Recommended