Genre: Horror Shonen
Year Release in English: 2015-2019
Source: Azuki Manga Cafe
Sometimes you start reading a series and next thing you know, you’re several chapters in and deeply invested in the plight of the characters. Volumes don’t matter. What is structure anyway? So this review of an entire manga will be slightly different in that I will be talking about the series overall rather reviewing each individual volume.
In short, this vampire horror filled with emotions and the centering of childhood upended by supernatural happenings reminiscent of Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Content warning: body horror, blood, gore, murder, serial kidnapping, bullying
The central characters in this supernatural manga are Makoto Okazaki and Yukiko Gosho, a bullied boy and a shy girl. One day while running errands, Okazaki gets attacked by a vampire and then stands up for himself. Gosho, however, experienced some tragedy in her past. Friendships are hard, but she latches on to the boy. Her arc, however, shows her as a force of her own, especially once the villain Sakurane makes his appearance. This manga is intense and heart-wrenching at times. Tonally, it really reminded me of Let the Right One In, from the brutality of childhood to the strange tenderness of vampirism.
The art throughout is absolutely gorgeous. It doesn’t pull any punches from the grotesqueness of vampirism, but the impressionism really works when trying to depict the enhanced senses that come with the transformation. This series really focuses more on the characters’ feelings rather than just action and bloodshed, though there is plenty of that. The interactions are almost literary, and I loved the attention to detail. The characters have depth and inner lives, which we get glimpses of throughout. It’s nice to see teen characters who don’t just exist in service of their special abilities.
Interestingly, I finished the last two volumes after having watched the recent Netflix series, Midnight Mass. There are some slight overlaps, though there is a cult arc in the ending of Happiness that honors the supernatural aspects of the manga much better. It’s harrowing, it makes you feel like the sun has set on these characters’ chance of a good ending. But the ending is so, so, so satisfying. The threads of the high school conflicts, secret societies, government conspiracy, and cult activity all get tied together, but not in a way that feels manufactured to force a good ending.
The final volumes go by like a dream, which Oshimi established as a bit of a signature in the earlier chapters. Though there is clarity around the sequence of events, the way the threads come together aren’t clearly spelled out. It lives up to its title in a way that envelopes like a fog more so than simply being a light at the end of a long tunnel.