Manga Reviews

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Happy Hustle High

Happy Hustle High by Takada Rie
Licensed by Viz
5 volumes

Topic: Shoujo, High School Romance

Warning: Non-explicit Sex, Mild Violence

Oozora Hanabi is loud, brash, and friendly to everyone. Her classmates at all-girls' Uchino high school look up to her and rely on her for help, happily repaying her with free food. When it's announced that Uchino is being integrated with the all-boys Meibi High, most of the girls are so excited they can hardly function, but Hanabi just takes it in stride. On the first day of combined classes, Hanabi is late due to the bane of her existence - her pouffy hair, which she desperately wants to be smooth, flat, and sleek. Stopping to wet down her hair in the water fountain before going to the opening assembly, Hanabi meets a gorgeous but unfriendly guy, who turns out to be Yasuaki, the Vice-President of the Student Council.

Of course all three male student council members are so attractive that the girls are swooning with joy, but Hanabi is just jealous that the President has the kind of smooth, sleek hair she wants so badly, and pissed that the Vice-President was so rude and unfriendly! Hanabi soon becomes part of the Student Council, because she's the only girl who doesn't turn to mush when trying to deal with the male Student Council members. After successfully changing Meibi's "no dating" rule (by bribingTokihisa, the third Student Council member, stalking Yasuaki, and amusing Yoshitomo, the President), Hanabi and Yasuaki become friends of a sort, and their relationship progresses through a variety of misadventures.

Yes, this is a silly, fluffy, shoujo. However, it is also sweet and full of comedy in unexpected places! Hanabi is the kind of character you can't help but like: friendly and enthusiastic without being overly sweet; willing to fight when necessary but not constantly violent; not too concerned with school but not stupid either (at one point, when extremely motivated, she aces all her exams); and caring and helpful to her friends. She's also willing to make a fool of herself if that's what's necessary, and able to laugh at and apologize for her mistakes. Yasuaki is also likable and good-hearted, even though since he falls into the "aloof bishounen who doesn't like girls" category.

A lot of the comedy comes from Hanabi & Yasuaki's interactions, misunderstandings, and differing expectations, but it's never mean-spirited and always resolved fairly quickly. The story focuses on Hanabi and Yasuaki, with only a few supporting characters playing more than cursory roles. The recurring supporting characters do add a lot to the story, though, especially Yoshitomo, who can be highly and hilariously evil.

I thoroughly enjoyed Happy Hustle High (twice, in fact) but it's not a manga I'll keep on my shelves forever. The characters get bonus points for actually mentioning birth control at several points in the story, but lose a few for not mentioning it when they actually have sex. The art is pretty - lots of bishounen and cute girls - but the mangaka often draws Hanabi super-deformed while the rest of the scene is normal, which isn't a style I particularly like. I did really enjoy the way the mangaka set the story up for several of the stereotypical shoujo manga cliches, and then neatly sidestepped them and turned the story in a different direction. This is a fun and clever manga in many ways although the very fluffyness that makes it such a fun quick read also makes it easy to set aside.

Rating: 7.5/10.0

Review Submitted by TofuQueen


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