Happy Cafe Volume 2

By Kou Matsuzuki. Released in Japan as “Shiawase Kissa Sanchoume” by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

I’ll freely admit this volume was not as good as the first. This series is basically like candy or fast food – light and enjoyable, but you can’t remember a thing about it an hour later. Still, candy and fast food are insanely popular despite this.

Most of this volume is devoted to a rivalry with another sweet shop that specializes in Japanese desserts. You would think that would not really be that much of a threat to a Western-style cake shop, but there’s more going on here than meets the eye. The staff of the Japanese shop seem to have a grudge against our heroes, and are out to try to ruin their business.

The majority this arc relies on the character tropes we’ve already gotten to know after only one volume. Uru is hotheaded and impulsive, but also kind and has that smile that forces people to simply stare blushing at her. Shindo gets to be grumpy and blunt while still showing he’s essentially kind at heart. And Ichiro continues to merely exist until the inevitable future chapters that will give him backstory. Ah, the joys of walking ciphers…

There’s a slapstick humor to these stories as well, which I quite enjoy. Lots of cartoon violence and over the top reactions. Glad to see Uru’s insane strength is still being mentioned, and seeing her dragging Ichiro around was a hoot. Best of all is when Uru meets up with one of the rival store guys, and hears why he twitches whenever Ichiro is around. (Love Uru’s face when she first hears this… all women are yaoi fans deep down.)

There’s also a side-story here, dealing with a girl who looks much older than her age, and her encounters with her newspaper delivery man. It’s very much an ‘early one-shot’ sort of work that you traditionally see in Hakusensha shoujo around Volume 2 or so. And it creates a nice contrast to the main story because, as the author notes, the characters are nothing like the heroes of Happy Cafe.

This manga will never win any awards, and as shoujo goes it’s pretty much average. But it’s cute, and funny, and I think if you buy it you’ll like it a lot. And then probably put it on the shelf and forget all about it till the next volume, when you’ll pull it down to remind yourself who everyone is.

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