by Takako Shimura
published by Digital Manga; $7.95 US
I might have more of an eye for art styles than I thought, since I was browsing two PDFs I downloaded from eManga when I thought, hey, these books remind me of Wandering Son. A little research revealed that Happy-Go-Lucky Days Books 1 and 2 are by the same author, Takako Shimura. They were originally published as Dounika Naru Hibi from 2002-2004; 2002 is when Wandering Son started as well, so it’s not surprising the characters looked similar to me.
Happy-Go-Lucky Days Book 1 and Book 2 are available as digital-only releases from eManga.com (and they’re gated for ages 18 and over). Both collect various short stories — seven in the first book, eight in the second, with each book about 200 pages long — and were translated through the Digital Manga Guild program. They’re tagged as both “josei” (why I was checking them out) and “yuri” (for girl-girl romance).
I found Wandering Son well-drawn but oddly paced, with the art attracting me most to the book, so seeing the same style here was pleasing. The characters, though, were confusing to me. I didn’t always understand their motivations or impulses, and I found the storytelling oblique at times.
The first story features a woman, left by her husband, who picks up a guy in a bar, goes home with him, and never leaves. Others show us a shut-in girl who sleeps with her shoplifting neighbor, a woman being set up for marriage who lives with a ghost (we find out more about the ghost in book two), and a teacher who gets crushes on his students. Characters reappear, with later stories revealing that some of them are siblings.
Note that these books do contain explicit sex scenes, as one might guess from hearing that some of the stories were originally published in “Manga Erotics F”. (And that seems to be what Digital Manga is mostly releasing these days, explicit manga and half-dressed girl photobooks.) Sometimes, those scenes make up most of the story. Not all the sex is consensual, as one story is about a girl coerced into sex by her tutor. That’s a recurring theme, of teachers preying on students, as something similar happens to one of two twin boys (one of whom is gay).
If you’re specifically looking for yuri, book two starts with two ex-girlfriends of a woman getting married hooking up with each other. There’s also an odd piece about an older cousin trying to teach her younger relative about sex and another ghost story among the various pieces here.
I wound up skimming a good bit, not really involved in the situations, but I liked seeing the various character expressions and designs. Once again, I appreciated Shimura’s work more for the visuals than the story content. Then again, I was reading these for free. Unless I was hard up for some explicit reading material, I wouldn’t find them worth the price to buy for download, because overall, I was left confused and a bit discouraged (mostly from the stories about adults preying on children sexually). (The publisher provided digital review copies.)