Shuzo Oshimi is a manga artist who is not afraid to play with your feelings. His previous series Flowers of Evil is a particularly harrowing read with characters who are a psychological mess and are placed in scenarios that are very real. His new series Happiness takes a step into the supernatural, but readers will find that they will still be taken out of their comfort zone.
Nothing interesting in happening in Makoto Ozaki’s first year of high school. His life is a series of quiet humiliations: low-grade bullies, unreliable friends and the constant frustration of his adolescent lust. But one night, a pale, thin girl knocks him to the ground in an alley and offers him a choice. Now everything is different. Daylight is searingly bright. Food tastes awful. And worse than anything is the terrible, consuming thirst. The tiny shames of his old life have been replaced by two towering horrors: the truth of what will shake his awful craving and high school itself.
There are plenty of familiar elements that are present in other horror and manga shonen series, but where Oshimi excels is his merging of these elements with his style of storytelling. Like the protagonist of Flowers of Evil, Makoto is a jumbled up teenager who is going through a tough adolescent phase that unfortunately skews into pervy territory. Vampires for the most part are portrayed in a rather glamorous light throughout most mediums with the pros usually outweighing the cons. Makoto however finds that his already difficult adolescence has gotten even harder. In particular his lust for girls is now being combined with a lust for blood which only increases his growing angst. It is refreshing to see such a natural reaction to this sort of change of circumstances in a well explored genre.
Art-wise, Oshimi is also on top form. The main sequentials are done with his realistic non-exaggerated style that manages to convey emotion and feelings at a subtle level that a more over-the-top style could not manage. It plays with your feelings and enhances the approach he is taking with the horror/vampire genre. But special mention must be given to the colour segments and cover. Like those for Flowers of Evil, these are some of the best-looking pieces you’ll see in manga today.
Whilst Happiness may not yet match its title as far as tone goes, this is a great teen/horror story and it is going to be interesting seeing what direction Oshimi takes it in.
Happiness Vol 1 is published 29 September by Kodansha
9781632363633 p/b £9.99
Post by Leo
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