Miyo Saimori is from two very prestigious bloodlines with supernatural powers, but you wouldn’t know from just looking at her; treated worse than a slave by her stepmother and half-sister, and completely ignored by her father, Miyo’s life is one of misery. She was not born with any magical ability and her mother, long dead, was a rival to her stepmother for many years. One day, Miyo is surprised to find out that not only is her father marrying her half-sister to Miyo’s beloved childhood friend but also has decided to ship Miyo off to be a bridal candidate to Kiyoka Kudo. The Kudo clan are extremely powerful, but Kiyoka is known to be cold and cruel, with no bridal candidate surviving more than three days with him. Miyo has no aspirations for finding happiness as she moves into his home, but can love bloom in the most unexpected circumstances?
If you’re a long-time reader of Anime UK News, and this title looks familiar, it’s because the lovely Demelza reviewed the light novel version by Yen Press. Now with the anime adaptation due to debut soon, it makes sense to license the manga version as well, this time by Square Enix Manga. The manga adaptation came second in terms of releases, but the art of the light novel and manga are very similar, with release dates close to each other as well. I have not read the light novel so I will not be comparing the two, but how does the manga hold up on its own?
The back cover calls this story a ‘Cinderella-inspired slow-burn historical romance’ which is an accurate description; the Taisho-era setting is visually very striking, from the stunning character designs to the period details in the background. The art by Rito Kohsaka captures you from the cover itself and keeps you engaged with the story till the last page, but it should be noted that (so far) you don’t need to know much about the historical significance of the time period to understand this story, it’s mostly to set the scene.
Then there’s the ‘Cinderella’ side of the romance but it’s mostly for the backstory of the main character; she’s from a home where her beloved mother died and then loses everything she owns, to only become a punching bag for her new stepfamily, very Cinderella-esque. But I also appreciate that author Akumi Agitogi, really examines how something like that would affect one’s psyche. Miyo is emotionally and mentally broken; never expecting any kind word or action her way, being treated as an object and therefore she thinks herself only worthy of the abuse she gets. She doesn’t see the new arrangement as a way out, but simply what she deserves: an (apparently) cruel man who will hurt her just like her family does. However, even as Kiyoka Kudo shows that he’s more than what the rumours say, Miyo mentally battles with herself, telling herself that somehow, she’s in the wrong, she can never hope to be worthy of his kindness, and that this is only temporary. When someone goes through that kind of abuse for a significant amount of time, then it’s not just going to be resolved overnight; it’s going to take a lot of time, kindness and (hopefully) therapy.
This is where the love interest comes in; as is typical in this kind of story, Kiyoka Kudo doesn’t make the best first impression, but as you learn about him over the course of the book, you learn why he got his reputation in the first place. He’s a man in a very high-powered position, and therefore is cautious of anyone who throws a bride his way, because of course people want to get into the good graces of one of most powerful men in the world. But there’s more to him than just wealth and power; he notices Miyo’s demeanour very quickly and realises that his hostile behaviour isn’t the way to go, and she’s not like the other brides that have come before. The pair have chemistry despite being forced together, yet it works as Kudo treats her with kindness and respect. Also, he’s not infantilising her, which is important as sometimes the power dynamic can run the risk of that happening. She, in turn, isn’t just going to fully recover from her trauma with one act of kindness, but she starts to feel her own self-worth through his actions and begins to find her own independence away from her awful family.
There is one aspect of this story that has not been explored yet, despite being part of the synopsis on the back cover and at the top of this review, and that’s the ‘supernatural’ side. Yes, this book is set in a world where psychic powers are real, and several families ‘specialise’ in certain skills such as controlling the elements and telekinesis. The reason the Kudo Clan is so powerful is because they combine military might with the power to deal with ‘Grotesqueries’ and what does this mean? Good question…it’s something that is not really answered in this first volume. I’m going to assume it’s some kind of supernatural threat like demons and such, but the word is not commonly used in fantasy stories, so you’d think they would have explained it better, but sadly not. So far, it’s not too much of an issue as the first volume is setting up how the couple meet and their backstories. However, there’s an important reveal in the last chapter of the book that explains the importance of the different powerful families and so far, it’s hard to truly grasp why certain parties are interested in Miyo’s bloodline or why Kudo is so revered if we don’t get a bigger picture of how these powers work and help hold back the ‘Grotesqueries’. The teaser for the next volume is a heart-pounding romance panel that gets you excited, but it would be nice if we could get more world-building in the future as well.
If you’re a fan of the light novel, you’ll be pleased to hear that at the end of the book, we also get a special short story from the author herself; it’s a nice incentive if you didn’t want to wait for the next manga and instead check out the light novel. Although it was a bit of a brain freeze when I went from right to left to read the manga, to suddenly having to read left to right for the last few pages.
The first manga volume of My Happy Marriage is an intriguing start to a new romance story, with a unique setting and lots of potential for the characters to grow within themselves and together as a couple, with beautiful art to boot. Recommended, especially if you’re tired of high school-based romances and want something different.