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Happy Cafe Vol. #02 Manga Review

4 min read
All’s fair in love and dessert when the Bonhuer staff is dragged into a competition to see whose sweets are the sweetest.

Cute, fun, and a bit trite, Happy Café tries to prove that the pursuit of happiness and the workplace can go hand-in-hand.

Creative Staff:
Kou Matsuzuki
Lori Riser
Lianne Sentar

What They Say
Inside Café Bonheur, the pursuit of happiness continues. When two mysterious young men walk into the café to declare war, Uru’s passion gets the best of everyone, and they accept the challenge – with one condition: The loser will have to quit the industry for good. However, just before the contest, Shindo sprains his wrist! And when Uru’s mother shows up at Bonheur, will she convince Uru to go back home? Café Bonheur will have to survive through some turbulent times if it’s to stay happy – and in business!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):

Five months have passed since Uru started working part-time at Café Bonheur.  She’s settled into the regular routine and grown used to her coworker’s quirks.  Pleasing the customers comes first, even if it means thinking outside the box.  Uru is still out to learn more about her coworker Shindo, although after five months you’d expect her to know more than she already does.  Every small new piece of information about her older coworker is a personal victory for Uru.
Several side characters from the volume return to patronize the cafe.  The little girl, Sakura, and the young model, Mitsuka, seem to be on their way to becoming regulars.  It’s Misuka who points out that the Bonheur staff was entered into a sidewalk fair by some competitors.  The competitors themselves are an over-exuberant pair of ne’er-do-wells who have it out for the Bonhuer staff.  One seems to have a special aversion to Ichiro in particular.  (Both of the strange boys have a Kansai accent that has been translated into a southern patois, which is a bit jarring.)
Shindo is ready to dismiss the challenge, but Uru takes up the fight with gusto.  Unfortunately, she trips and falls, causing Shindo to dive to her rescue and sprain his wrist.  With the home team’s chef slightly injured the two part-timers try to step up and help out.  This leads up to a showdown at the fair, with Café Bonhuer’s western-style desserts against the Abekawa boy’s traditional Japanese sweets.  The customer comes first though, and with each shop competing to sell out, they are forced to come to an ego swallowing halt when a special request comes in.
Just when the mini-drama is over, Uru’s mother drops in the check on her daughter.  If Uru can’t prove to her mother that she’s doing alright on her own, she’ll be forced to quit her job and move back home. The last part of this volume contains the author’s debut story, a stand-alone work called “Estimated young man and girl.”  The broken-sounding title refers to the ages of the characters, a girl who is always mistaken for an adult and a college student who’s older than he looks.  It’s an odd little story of kindred spirits and about being only as old as you feel.
In Summary
“Happy Cafe” continues to be the manga version of an afternoon snack.  This isn’t a title for those seeking high drama.  The mild conflicts won’t have you furiously turning pages looking for the outcome.  While the art is still rough around the edges, the humor makes up for it.  Uru is far too feisty to fall into the clichés of the typical manga heroine.  At some point, romance is sure to blossom, but for now, it’s nothing more than Shindo and Uru blushing during awkward moments.  The real draw continues to be the light comedy and slapstick reactions of the leads.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A-

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: March 30th, 2010
MSRP: $10.99

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