My Happy Place
I enjoyed the light fluffiness of Happy Cafe Volume 1, and after reading volume 2 I am officially a fan of the gang at Café Bonheur. “Happy Café” has taken some hits for being a by-the-numbers shojo series, and maybe so, but personally it is a series that I really enjoy and is just a lot of fun.
There are no big changes here, no added depth. The series remains just like the types of deserts served up at the café; tasty little bits of sugary goodness that give you a nice feeling but lack any nutritional value or true substance. The infectious joy of lead character Takamura Uru goes a long way, and Kou Matsuzuki has this way of drawing Uru with this big grin on her face that makes me happy every time.
Volume two sets up a rivalry for the Café Bonheur with the traditional Japanese confectionary Abekawa-ya who challenges Bonheur to a bakery showdown at a local festival. It turns out that the little girl who bought the strawberry shortcake in volume 1 is actually the little sister of the Abekawa sons, and they are none too happy that she has been shopping at Bonheur instead of getting her sweets at the family shop. Of course, the two sons who run Abekawa-ya, Sou and and Kashiwa, are almost mirror-images of Café Bonheur staff Ichiro and Shindo, but with different personalities.
Aside from the competion, Uru’s mom stops by to make sure her daughter isn’t being a pest and is pulling her own weight at the café. Both Shindo and Ichiro are amazed at what a babe Uru’s mother is, and do their best to support Uru in proving to her mom that she is doing well on her own.
An additional back-up story, “Estimated Young Man and Woman,” takes up the last third of the book. The story is Kou Matsuzuki’s first published manga, and although it is quite different in tone from “Happy Café” it shares some similar themes of people who look young/old for their age, and of daughters being raised by a single mother.
The only real complaint I have about “Happy Café” is the translation choice made for the Abekawa brothers dialog. I hate, hate, hate it when the Osaka dialect is translated as some sort of English Southern accent! For one thing, the Osaka dialect is an Urban dialect, closer to a Boston or New York accent rather than a “country” accent, and for another thing it just makes for a jarring reading experience throwing the reader out of the flow of the story. I know that regional dialects are a challenge for translation but there are better ways to handle it the cheap trick of “Y’all come back now, y’hear!”
Aside from that, if you like the sweets being served up in “Happy Café,” then you are going to enjoy this continuation of the story. Something about Matsuzuki’s style just touches a cord with me, and the only thing I can really compare it to is Yotsuba&!. That is another series that I can’t explain why I like it so much, I just do. Because it makes me happy!