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  • Shojo Manga Pick of the Month

    Strictly speaking, Moyoko Anno's HAPPY MANIA is not "shojo" ("girls") manga. It appears in the women's manga magazine FEEL YOUNG, which features such other cutting-edge women artists as Shungiku Uchida, Yumi Tada, Milk Morizono, Erika Sakurazawa, and (before her crippling accident) Kyohko Okazaki. Fans who have read her work in the orthodox shojo magazine SPECIAL EDITION SHOJO FRIEND should have no trouble spotting the difference, considering that there is usually at least one no-nonsense sex scene per episode.

    The story follows the misadventures of Kayako Shigeta, a 24 year-old woman who is both obsessed with finding "happiness" and utterly manic. (Thus the title.) To Kayako, "happiness" means finding a steady guy, but judging from her ability to pick up the worst possible candidates and ignore the obvious best candidate (the ever-persevering Shuichi Takahashi), you would think she is determined to make herself miserable for life.

    The base story -- of a girl who stubbornly pushes aside the ideal boy in favor of boys who could never make her happy -- is an old standard, but, in addition to being extremely funny, Anno captures with stunning precision a sense of the Japanese present, at least as it is experienced by twenty-something women. Readers may be annoyed by Kayoko's ability to fall into the same depressing traps again and again, but I suspect they can also sympathize with this sister who sees nothing to be gained from working diligently (she's changed jobs four times so far) and who can't resist her urges for immediate sexual and romantic gratification, even though she knows it will only lead to trouble. And whereas the traditional heroine in such a story would be portrayed as a victim of predatory men, Kayako is herself a predator who thinks nothing of dumping a man who fails to spark her passion. Even after deciding to marry Takahashi (only because she is tired of having to work to pay the rent), she becomes entangled with a married man only because it is exciting. Standing naked by the sleeping Takahashi, she asks her readers if she should run off to meet her married lover. Naturally, she decides to go, but as she runs down the street she wonders what the hell is driving her.end dot

    Matt Thorn

    HAPPY MANIA, paperback, 4 vols. to date, published by Shodensha Publishing, serialized in FEEL YOUNG since August 1995.
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    Happy Mania ©1997 Moyoko Anno/Shodensha
    ©1997 Viz Communications, Inc.