My Happy Marriage, Vol. 2

By Akumi Agitogi and Tsukiho Tsukioka. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon” by Fujimi L Bunko. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by David Musto.

The late lamented manga Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei had as one of its characters a girl named Ai Kaga, whose name was a take on “guilt complex”. She constantly blamed herself for anything that happened around her, even if it had nothing to do with her. This was mined for considerable humor, as was everything in that manga, to the point where Ai’s apologies could actually be weaponized to take out soldiers. Now, take that sort of person and play it 100% seriously and tragically, and you have an idea what reading another volume inside the head of Miyo Saimori is like. Yes, the title continues to be the most ironic one ever, as just because we’ve removed Miyo from her abusive family does not mean that we’ve actually solved her problems, especially since her husband is also a past master at non-communication. The result is that this book feels a lot like the first one did: beautiful and well-written, but not something to read if you’re in the mood for a “light” novel.

Having settled in at the home of her fiance, Miyo is trying to learn the art of being a bride, complete with lessons on “how to act at parties” from Kiyoka’s bright and outgoing sister Hazuki. Unfortunately, she’s started to have horrible nightmares every night, which has made it hard for her to get any rest and has caused her mental health to once more deteriorate. This is not being helped by the fact that she has no idea how to ask for help or to say she needs to rest, and Kiyoka himself has no idea how to offer help if Miyo does not ask for it first. The result is that both of them are once again doubting their partner’s feelings. So it’s a very bad time for a man to show up and turn out to be her cousin, related to her mother’s side of the family… which has as many dark secrets as her father’s side.

As you’d expect with a book like this, once we reach the breaking point for Miyo and she is allowed to become proactive, she shows off that she can be a terrifyingly powerful and gorgeous young woman. It’s just that we kind of have to get through 150 pages, a break-up, more family abuse, and a heaping helping of despair first. I’m not surprised that Miyo’s actually not just powerful, but one of the most powerful Gift-Users around, as this was signposted in the first book. Possibly the most interesting part of the book was Miyo’s feelings towards her mother, who had deliberately suppressed Miyo’s powers in order to protect her… but this also led to Miyo’s abuse by her family for years. She finds this very difficult to simply accept with just a “she did it because she loved me”. I also really enjoyed Hazuki, a desperately needed outgoing and extroverted young who also has a sad backstory but is still strong.

I’m still looking forward to the next volume of this series, but I suspect it will once again be “no, this is still not a happy marriage”, because the plot seems to be “overcoming obstacles”. As such, let the reader beware.

My Happy Marriage, Vol. 1

By Akumi Agitogi and Tsukiho Tsukioka. Released in Japan as “Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon” by Fujimi L Bunko. Released in North America Yen On. Translated by Kiki Piatkowska.

Brief content warning: this book features an abusive family, and unlike other light novels we’ve seen to date in this genre, they do not vanish after the first 20 pages. The marriage, though, is not abusive.

It’s rare that a book affects me so much that I think to myself that I may have to drop another, similar series for being thoroughly inadequate, but that’s sort of how I feel. After reading the first volume of My Happy Marriage, I suspect any time I try to get back into I’ll Never Set Foot in That House Again!, a book with a very similar premise, I will come away thinking it shallow and boorish. Because My Happy Marriage is wonderfully written but also amazingly painful, the story of a woman who has spent most of her life being thoroughly abused by her family suddenly finding herself in a marriage that turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to her… and feeling that she doesn’t deserve any of it. Miyo’s pain and suffering suffuses this first volume.

Seemingly set in a Meiji-period Japan where some families have superpowers, this is the story of Miyo Saimori. Hers is a Cinderella story, but that also means it starts out the way Cinderella’s does as well – after her mother dies and her father remarries, she’s despised by her stepmother, and her younger sister is raised to hate her as well, particularly as she seemingly has no powers of her own. She has a maid on her side… till the maid is fired. She has a childhood friend who has a crush on her… but he’s too cowardly to do anything. She’s reduced to worse than a servant. So when she’s suddenly told she’ll be engaged to the powerful Kiyoka Kudou, she doesn’t know what to think. He’s been looking for a bride for some time, and has rejected all of them. Will Miyo be what he really needs? And can he possibly help her out of the deep pit of self-loathing and despair that is her life?

This book is very compelling but also very hard to read, as you are drenched in Miyo’s POV, and she is an abused woman. Despite being taken to Kiyoko’s house near the start of the book, we continue to focus on her family, who are losing power and influence and desperate to get it back. Fortunately, once she gets to Kiyoko’s house, she does start to have some allies. Kiyoko is, as his reputation says, cold and dismissive at first, but that’s mostly because he’s had a succession of women after his position and power. In fact, once he opens up to Miyo he becomes quite the loving fiancee. His elderly maid is also wonderful, and the first person that Miyo really opens up to. As for her supposed lack of power… it’s heavily implied in this book that she does indeed have strong powers, and that they just awaken late (something her mother was trying to get across to her father before she died). I suspect future books will go into this.

I also hope that future books will better try to match the title of the series. I want to read more of My Happy Marriage, but that’s mostly as I really want to see the happy part. This was good setup, and very much needed to get a good look into Miyo’s psyche, but it’s not what I would call a “light” novel. (Actually, given there are no internal illustrations, it probably should be classified as a light novel at all.)