Happy Hustle High!, Vol. 1

By Rie Takada. Released in Japan as “H³ School!” by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Shoujo Comic. Released in North America by Viz Media.

As many of you know, Viz has been releasing many of its titles digitally. And, while it’s great to have the latest Naruto or One Piece on your tablet, the main reason this is an amazing boon for consumers is seeing some of the older, out of print titles of yesteryear return. Let’s face it, I have enough trouble keeping up with the current titles I read, much less trying to go back and grab that series I missed 8 years ago. And this one intrigued me in particular, because I had vague memories of people really enjoying it. My other two experiences with the author – Punch! and Gaba Kawa – were more mediocre, so I wanted to give this a try to see if it was the exception. Sure enough, this is so far an excellent shoujo series with a great, spunky heroine.

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Hanabi Ozora is typical of the shoujo heroines I like – takes no shit from anyone, generally beloved by her female classmates, can be dense as lead when it comes to the opposite sex, etc. These qualities are put to the test for her when her school is folded into a boys’ school as it wasn’t doing all that well. Now she and her classmates have to deal with boys – boys who seem, at times, arrogant, haughty, and cold. But also, y’know, really amazingly handsome. In fact, the girls’ school council can’t deal with the devastatingly attractive Yoshitomo, who is making rules against classmates dating. That can’t stand! Enter Hanabi, who has no issues whatsoever dealing with handsome guys – hell, her biggest issue is her frizzy hair.

The romantic male lead, by the way, is not the aforementioned Yoshitomo, who so far tends to be the ‘arrogant with a nice streak underneath’ sort, but the school vice-president, Yasuaki. Yasuaki has trouble dealing with girls in general, so getting Hanabi in his face every day is almost too much for him. His cold aloofness, naturally, turns out to be shyness. Oh, and did I mention he’s a surfer? Hanabi has to get his signature in order to ditch the anti-fraternization rule, and he gradually comes to appreciate her never-quit attitude, which seems to apply to her entire life as well as her petitions.

The complications start when the other school council member, Tokihisa, starts to fall for Hanabi, who’s never dealt with romance, so has no idea why being friendly with another guy would make the first guy jealous. This must be resolved by a tennis match… between men! (With added Hanabi.) It doesn’t help that Yasuaki is effortlessly good at everything he does, leading to Tokihisa having a serious inferiority complex. And if you guessed we’d be dealing with a forceful kiss by the end of this, you’re right… in fact, as a bonus, we also get mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after a surfing accident too!

Absolutely nothing about this is original, but as I’ve noted before, if you want originality, why are you reading shoujo manga? This manga gave me what I wanted: a strong, amusing heroine, a variety of hot guys she could potential end up with, the one cool, brooding guy she obviously will end up with, and some nice surfing shots. (The author, by the way, has moved on to josei, writing for Hakusensha’s Silky and Shogakukan’s Judy. Since those two magazines combined have inspired zero North American licenses, we may not get much more of her over here.) I’ll definitely be checking out further volumes of this series.

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