Makoto Okazaki is an unpopular high school student who is frequently bullied by some of his classmates, being forced to act as their errand boy. But his life drastically changes one night when he is attacked by a mysterious girl, who plunges her teeth into his neck and begins drinking his blood. Upon satisfying her craving, she offers Makoto a simple choice: become like her or die.
When he wakes up in a hospital after his encounter, Makoto is unable to deal with the blindingly bright lights and finds that water cannot quench his growing thirst…
Happiness' first few volumes are great; Aku no Hana with vampires, what's not to like? Unfortunately, things spiral out of control pretty quickly, as this spooky Let the Right One In-esque romance-horror becomes a Tokyo Ghoul/Ajin wannabe around chapter 15 or so. We're left with 35 chapters of shady government agencies, cultists, a villain straight out of a Dean Koontz bargain bin book, two semi-interesting characters getting sidelined for what feels like forever, one uninteresting character getting mutilated for what feels like forever, and time skips. Lots and lots of time skips.
It's all so...typical. A damn shame considering the manga's early promise and the
mangaka's track record for non-commercial weirdness. I guess if there's a lesson to be learned it's this: selling out may lead to large amounts of cash, women and fame, but you're gonna get a lukewarm internet review from an unemployed thirty year old who still reads comic books, and to win him back you'll have to write incest-horror (see the excellent Chi no Wadachi).
A final note: the art is fantastic. Just look at that cover. There's also quite a bit of Van Gogh and Edvard Munch inspired panels scattered throughout. Alas, the rest of the material is not nearly up to the art's high standard; you're probably better off doing a google image search for the best bits and skipping the rest.
What we have here is a stylistic version of a trite plotline of monsters vs humans and the questions of good and evil. To me though this is the problem, the story was never interesting enough that there was a payoff. The whole thing was luke warm providing plot points that didn't escalate tensions, there were repeated moments where out comes were just erased in order to preserve certain characters. Miraculous victories for the MC and his group of friends for no reason.
I had this problem with Aku no Hana as well where I felt like the author doesn't understand human emotion, perhaps
he is cripplingly autistic and only experiences interpersonal relationships through media and stories, none of his own. As such the relationships of the characters don't come across as genuine and its hard to develop any emotional bond as the reader, which translates into the events that effect them not having the impact the author desired. Further the author blows his load in the beginning by localizing all the intensive action into the first arcs and he just bubbles out goo for the latter half and by the end he is curled in the fetal position still inside of you sleep farting at you.
We have several characters here whose motivations do not make sense in the context of the story, and we also have the case of a rule change for the vampires rendering the events of the first half null and void. It was like the author was backed into a corner or one day his editor who wanted to write a story herself called him drunk scream crying for a favor and he did it.
What saved it for me was the art, which was drawn incredibly well especially since the reference material for many of the panels in the book were non existent and had to be derived from the authors mind. Other influences that were clear are Starry Night by Van Gogh which made me keep turning the pages.
In conclusion, it was completely unoffensive like elevator music, didn't leave a lasting impact, didn't really excite me or make me feel anything, and overstayed its welcome after a while.
Happiness was what i would consider the pinnacle of good manga. It had a story that was short,sweet, and most of all pack with content. Each chapter asked as many questions as it answered and left me with a vague sense of wonder. To put it simply, it was an incredible experience.
Warning: very minor spoilers
Story 7/10 : I felt that the story was quite short featuring few real conflicts. However, it was great seeing the world develop as you slowly see the world become affected by the main character. You see the world shift due to their actions and how the world bites (heh) back.
Overall, the story could have been longer and built upon more things. But it was still enjoyable and pretty easy to digest.
Art 10/10: Wow...just wow. While the characters themselves have very realistic proportions and the blood is drawn very well, the real beauty is in the backgrounds. During one of the MC's many points of hysteria, you can see the background is similar to the famous artist Vincent van Gogh. This creates an amazing feeling of loss and confusion for the reader that helps emulate how the MC is perceiving the outside world.
Character 8/10: The manga goes through many time skips especially near the end. It gives us a good sense of conclusion for each major character and allows us to feel some closure that would have not gotten under usual circumstances. Every surviving character has come to terms with their situation and is trying to live their best life. They are living each day trying to find happiness(heh) in some form or another.
Overall 9/10: I would highly recommend this manga to anyone who has the time
I found the initial premise for Happiness to be intriguing. It starts out exploring how the humans-turned-vampires cope with their new lives. How they handle this new state (e.g., the thirst for blood), how it affects their relationships with others, and the struggle they face to remain “normal”. I was pleasantly surprised to find an absence of overt revenge or power fantasy elements. While this type of story isn’t anything novel, I liked the dark, gritty take on the “underground” lives of vampires.
Approximately halfway through the story takes a turn for the worse. It starts to branch out into different arcs, some of
which take the story in what I thought were very ill-thought-out directions. The first half has what I consider to be a much better composition (i.e., it was put together better; more compelling and coherent) than the latter, which was just generally haphazard and shallow. Even ignoring the questionable direction, I don’t think there was enough time given the length of the series to develop these new arcs adequately. While I genuinely enjoyed the beginning of this story, it had almost completely lost me by the end.
The main cast is interesting and I liked the different ways in which they are initially developed and brought together. As mentioned by the mangaka (in his note at the end of volume 10), he tried to explore the psychology of multiple characters (while maintaining character quality) as opposed to focusing on just one. In this respect, I think he was mostly successful and I generally enjoyed the different character narratives and perspectives.
One of the areas of weakness for Happiness which really detracted from my enjoyment was the failure to development some of the more significant supporting characters. The only one who really gets proper attention is Nao. Saku appears at multiple points over the course of the story, including some important events. He has significant impact on the outcome of some characters' lives, but he doesn’t even get a short backstory (or anything else, really). Nora was the biggest failure, I think. She is the catalyst for Makoto’s vampiric transformation, a guide for his new state of existence, and his love interest. Despite this, her backstory is introduced shockingly late in the story, her motivations are barely explained, and no romantic development is allocated to her relationship with Makoto.
I really like the art and think the quality is objectively good. Things like the way the mangaka drew the sky and other perceptive differences for the vampires added an interesting character to the visuals. This is the one element of quality that remains consistent throughout the series.