This is a decent opening volume, but the next volume of Anne Happy will likely shape which direction the story will go.

anne happyTitle: Anne Happy
Genre: Comedy
Publisher: Houbunsha (JP), Yen Press (US)
Creators: Cotoji
Translation: Amanda Haley
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Review copy provided by Yen Press

So a girl with bad luck, a girl with a crush on a sign, and a girl prone to accidents walk into a bar — excuse me, school. No, this isn’t this start of a joke; it’s the plot of Anne Happy.

On the first day of high school, Ruri spots a girl dangling from a bridge and tries to rescue her. The girl, Anne, also happens to be a new student, and she’s in Ruri’s class to boot. The two also meet classmate Botan, and then they learn why they’re all in the same class: to find happiness.

Many manga have a protagonist with bad luck, but Anne Happy is one of the few where all the main characters have bad luck. Ruri (nicknamed Hibari) has an…unusual crush. Botan is both super-negative and physically frail. Anne’s (nicknamed Hanako) luck is amazing in the worst possible ways, but she’s eternally optimistic. With all their bad luck, this series is less “cute girls doing cute things” and more “cute girls trying to do things.” It’s hard for the three friends to do simple activities like hold on to an egg when Anne is being attacked by animals or Botan has collapsed from anemia, and field trips turn into a life-or-death struggle.

One of the dangers of comedy is for the humor to become repetitive. This is only the first volume, but I don’t know how long Anne defying the odds or Botan not being able to shake hands without breaking a bone will keep me entertained. Ruri is also in-between being the straight man (tsukkomi) and acting just as silly as the other girls. I think the joke about her crush will get old pretty fast.

Out of the entire volume, it was the last couple of chapters I enjoyed the most. Two new characters are introduced, the hostile Hibiki and cool beauty Ren, and everyone finds themselves playing a life-size board game. I don’t know if it’s the ridiculousness of a full-scale game or the humor of Ren hitting Hibiki with a die because of Hibiki’s attitude, but I found this section more fun than typical scenes of bridge breaking and animal attacks. I guess I won’t find out until the next volume whether it was the new characters or the situation that upped the enjoyment factor for me.

I can’t help but wonder what direction the story would have taken if this was a whole-class ensemble cast. Lots of manga have the directionally-challenged character, but what happens when a whole group of people who can’t tell north from south get together? We do see the teacher having to lasso one group of these characters, and I’m sure their story would be pretty entertaining. Aside from those students, what other “negative karma” is found in this class? There are 40 students in 1-7, but the rest are limited to being background characters. I know Anne Happy is going to focus on the three (five?) main girls, but I think there’s a lot of comedic potential with a whole class of unhappy and/or unlucky students.

While the title itself is a pun on (or could be translated as) the word “unhappy,” fortunately there isn’t a lot of wordplay in this manga. This makes for both a smooth translation and reading-experience. A few translation notes are included, and that’s really all that’s needed. If you want a comedy where you don’t have to rely on footnotes or extensive manga/anime exposure, then Anne Happy is for you.

The art is pretty bright and cheerful, but it also suffers from early-volume syndrome. This seems to be mostly due to Cotoji’s adult doujinshi and manga background. (Fortunately, if you’re worried, there’s minimal fanservice here, and most of the characters don’t have large, accentuated chests.) Ruri’s cat-eyes seem to be the biggest issue art-wise, as often her pupils just blend right in with her thick eyebrows. Chapters are fast-paced; so much so that the chapters don’t even add “the end” when they finish. I was surprised that Anne herself does not spend most of her time in super-deformed mode. While she is the shortest of the three main girls, she actually does look like a high schooler instead of, say, a blob or an elementary school student. I liked saving her chibi form for the humorous moments instead for most of the time.

Anne Happy is the kind of series that can go one of two ways: it can stay the typical school story but with a large helping of unfortunate events, or it can just go full-blown comedy with lots of absurd situations and “training events.” Personally, I’m hoping for the latter. I think this is a decent opening volume, but the next will likely shape which direction the story will go.