It's beach trip time!
Not going to lie: this volume of Anne Happy and I got off on the wrong foot. Ruri and the gang go on a trip to the beach. Well, I should say trip to the “beach”, as the place they visit is artificial. With Botan’s never-ending maladies and Anne… being Anne, the trip goes as well as expected. But this day at the water barely lasts half a chapter before switching to the school field trip. This felt so random because of how short it was. One page has Anne buried in the sand, the next the whole class is one a bus. Did Cotoji feel like the manga needed to meet some sort of fanservice quota or something?
On the other hand, the field trip takes up almost the entire rest of the volume. I really think Anne Happy shines in these longer misadventures. The Happiness Class is forced to play a hide-and-seek and tag hybrid for sleeping rights. Chick/animal magnet Ren and ultra-competitive Hibiki are forced to team up with the other three girls. (Of course, Ren doesn’t care; Hibiki does.)
What makes this volume so enjoyable is that it doesn’t rely solely on Anne (and, to a lesser extent, Ruri and Botan) for entertainment. Their teacher’s background is solely coming to light, and the manga gains a mascot in a rabbit robot controlled by a real person (identity unknown). It’s nice to see Sensei have someone to play off of. A teacher with some sort of scary background and one rabbit with octopus-like arms, that’s a funny combination. Ren also gets some time to shine alone and not just be Hibiki’s crush. (Hibiki is still definitely the most annoying of the five main girls.) I knew Ren seemed to attract girls, but now we see animals love her as well. The other girls have their moments, but no one really dominates the volume. I hope this trend continues.
The tag game doesn’t include a lot of twists, but the characters provide plenty of laughs thanks to their own bad luck. Ruri’s crush, however, is pretty much ignored. She’s pretty much regulated to being a babysitter. The author does start laying the groundwork for Ruri’s obsession with the sign. Botan’s sister also seems to be something Botan isn’t quite ready to discuss yet. I look forward to see if Anne Happy starts taking a more serious look at the girls’ underlying issues.
The art also feels stronger in this fourth volume. Ren gets some adorably cool images of her and the forest creatures that would undoubtedly make Hibiki faint in happiness. Sensei also spends a lot of time in battle-mode, so we finally get so see her not spending the entire volume looking like Guila from The Seven Deadly Sins. While I did mention fanservice, the water scenes seem less focused on the girls’ bodies than some of the earlier ones. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to your tastes.
I still think the sugoroku game arc has been my favorite part of Anne Happy so far, but the field trip chapters make a close second. The pacing is extremely odd with a beach chapter suddenly becoming a school trip chapter, but seeing Ren and Sensei have some real characterization makes up for it.