This review contains spoilers for Volumes 1 & 2 of My Happy Marriage.
Miyo Saimori has finally found her place in the world: a place where she can feel safe, warm, and loved, and that is by Kiyoka Kudo’s side as his fiancée. Having grown up with an abusive family, Miyo never thought she could find ‘her place’, and she thought that when they tossed her out to be Kudo’s potential bride, she would never hear from them again. She could not have been more wrong. Not only are they not done with her but they are angry that she dares to be happy with her betrothed being of a much higher rank and status than her half-sister’s fiancé. Now kidnapped, tied by the wrists, and thrown into the storeroom of her old home, she waits for her sister’s and stepmother’s judgement. Meanwhile, Kudo has heard of Miyo capture, and is determined to get her back, by words or by force…
The third volume of My Happy Marriage is the thickest volume so far, at 224 pages, and it’s because not only does this book conclude the current story arc of Miyo vs. her abusive family, but it also starts the next chapter in her life: being officially engaged to Kudo and starting their life together. For light novel readers out there, this effectively means that Volume 3 of the manga includes the conclusion of Volume 1 and beginning of Volume 2 of the light novels. This is interesting for manga readers, due to the ending of the first story arc seemingly hinting that we’re moving away from the ‘Cinderella’-inspired part of this story, and seeing what happens after ‘happily ever after’ per se, or more concretely, moving into the supernatural side of this story that has been peppered across the story so far but has not been the focus. Whether you want to continue from this point will be up to you, but for what it’s worth, it seems that even though a lot of main side characters, so far, are written out by the halfway point, there is a lot more story to tell.
Obviously giving away the said story means going too much into spoilers, so I’ll examine the characters instead and see how they’ve developed since the beginning. Let’s first look at Kudo; so far, we haven’t had a deep dive into his background or character, aside from a few panels here and there. We know his work and his position as a high authority gifted user from dialogue but this has never actually been shown. In Volume 3 however, we finally get to SEE why people call him a ‘demon’ and one of the most powerful users in their world, and it’s very satisfying to see him push back against the despicable people who made Miyo’s life a living hell. Another thing about Kudo’s character that I really liked in the conclusion of the first arc, is how he deals with the family members of Miyo’s who’ve kidnapped her. He has the power and status to just charge into their home and tear it apart until he’s found his beloved, but he doesn’t. He makes the conscious decision to ask the family WHY they’re doing what they’re doing, giving them a chance to repent and stand down, to try and avoid a confrontation. It’s only when they lash out and try to attack him (with magic or words) that he lets his power out to rescue Miyo. It’s that layer that makes Kudo more interesting than just your typical ‘stoic prince’ archetype.
Next, we have Miyo; the poor girl has been through a lot, and the first few chapters of this book put her back into the abusive hands of her sister and her stepmother. But what’s different here is that, even though physically she’s utterly defenceless and goes into survival mode as she’s been doing her whole life (switching off mentally and not fighting back), in her head and heart however she HAS changed; she now has a reason to hold on. So, when the family ask her to annul the engagement to Kudo, for her sister Kaya to take her place, them believing Kaya is a far superior fit, Miyo says ‘no’ for the very first time, and that is a big moment for her. But even though, by the second half of this book, her horrid family are now far away from her, her trauma is still very much in evidence. She struggles with sleep and still has nightmares of the abuse she was suffering, and it’begins to affect her daily life. As said in previous reviews, I’m glad that the author didn’t take the easy way out and have her trauma suddenly ‘vanish’ the moment her family did. She needs to work through her thoughts of self-doubt and hatred (which do creep into her daily life, as we see her trying to self-improve with Noble Lady training) and find her own worth outside of Kudo, as well as with him.
I expressed frustration at not seeing much ‘magic’ being deployed in past volumes in a world that is supposed to be full of powerful, gifted families, using their powers to help people, but here we get our first ‘battle’ as it were. It does not last long, and I don’t think it helps that Rito Kohsaka isn’t a natural at pacing battles within the panels. Don’t get me wrong; the spells themselves look lovely art-wise, but the flow from one spell to another is rather flat and unengaging, with no sense of urgency or spell-casting shown to display how this world works with magic. Hopefully this may be rectified in the upcoming anime adaptation, or later in the manga, as the next story seems to be hinting at more gifted users coming into play. Speaking of: the next arc seems to be taking a big turn from the sole focus of the romance (for now at least) to introduce the structure of their world and what problems they face with gifted users, and if they mistreat their own powers. The world building is very interesting, and has a lot of story potential too, with the hints increasing that Miyo may not be as weak as her family thought she was, but we’ll have to see in the next volume.
As in previous books, this volume contains an exclusive short story from the original light novel author, this time with a small scene of Miyo waking up from a nightmare and being comforted with tea and kind words by Kudo. It’s a very small scene but paints a nice picture of Miyo’s psyche as the nightmares continue to invade her waking state too. We also have a few pages at the very end of the book which looks into various rooms shown in the series and what they look like from a bird’s eye view. It is a nice extra to have, as it’s not something usually shared in manga.
My Happy Marriage continues to be an interesting read, but the move away from the fairy-tale inspiration and more into magical and political drama may or may not deter a portion of the audience. It’ll be interesting to see where the story goes from here, but for now it’s still a fun read and the art continues to be gorgeous.