Happy Cafe Volume 1

5.0 out of 5 stars The place to be happy

I once heard an anecdote where director Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life) was accused by a critic of only making simple feel-good movies. Capra’s response was something along the lines of “What’s so bad about just making people happy?”

That’s pretty much the same answer I have for enjoying “Happy Café” (Japanese title “Shiawase Kissa San-chome” or “Happy Café in the 3rd District.” This is not a ground breaking series, or terribly original or well done, but somehow reading it…makes me happy. And what’s so bad about that?

The series starts off with the spunky gal Uru heading to the door of the Café Bonheur. Uru is sixteen years old, and recently left her home to try and live by herself due to her mother getting re-married to a twenty-nine year old man. Uru wants her mother to be happy and thinks she will be getting in the way at home. Answering a local flyer, Uru is hunting for a job at the Café Bonheur, and hopefully some happiness to go along with it. In the café, she meets the two other employees. Shindo is a cold and somewhat harsh guy, but whose skill at preparing the dainty sweets of the shop reveal another side to him. Ichiro is much more open and lively but has his own quirks as well.

In fact, “quirks” go along way in creating the atmosphere for “Happy Café.” Aside from the simple story, all of the characters are odd in their own little way. Uru is a small girl, who everyone mistakes for an elementary school kid, but she is freakishly strong. Uru has a hard time working in the café because she keeps breaking everything she touches. Ichiro only stays awake so long as he has food in his stomach, and keeping him fed is a running joke. Shindo likes to keep an aura of mystery about himself, but his small attacks of kindness show what lies between the surface.

In this first volume, some of the plots get resolved, like Uru and her step-father, as well as a new character being introduced in the form of Mitsuka, a girl so beautiful that Uru is blinded by her and keeps humming the theme to Cutie Honey whenever she comes by. A bit of romantic feelings start to blossom between Uru and Shindo, but just enough to give you a taste of things to come.

Like the story, the art in “Happy Café” is simple, but perfect to the story. Shindo and Ichiro are pretty much twins except for their hairstyles, and the backgrounds are almost non-existent. Uru is really cute, and shifts from realistic to cartoony as the situation calls for it. Everything is kept light and happy, which is suited by the art style. The only thing I can really think of to compare it to is “Yotsuba&!” although “Happy Café” is different in style.

If you are looking for a comic that is just fun to read and makes you feel good, then “Happy Café” is going to do you good. Just don’t expect depth, angst or any other clouds on a sunny day.


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