As I’m writing this entry, this manga is currently ranked fourth all-time in score on MyAnimeList, with an average rating of 9.06. After completing this manga, am I surprised that it’s rated this high? No. Does it deserve the rating it has?
With the time I’ve spent on MAL, I’ve learned a thing or two about the typical anime/manga fan. They’re young. And because they’re young, they’re more likely to be emotional/hormonal. Even if they’re not young, an argument could be made that watching anime or reading manga is a sign of wanting to remain young and simple-minded, what with the amount of garbage that’s being put out to appease young, male dicks. When something is released that is actually TRYING to be mature and well-handled, with a litter of emotional/depressing emotions and heartbreak attached to it, it’s sure to be received positively. Such is the case for “Our Happy Hours,” as I will refer to it from now on.
This story is sad. Very, very sad. The main characters are ravaged with traumatic and despairing events that have turned them into hollow human beings. One after another, depressing flashbacks haunt each character as they try to find any reason to continue in life, to little avail. The mention of suicide is aplenty within the story, and with how their lives had progressed up until the first chapter, even without knowing them, you understand.
I have always been hesitant around emotionally stimulating stories, especially ones that deal with harsh childhoods and the effects they have on a currently adult character. I’ve always been one to take such events, especially in fiction, and hold them as evidence, predicting how the characters may behave. In the case of Our Happy Hours, the first few chapters give many examples of the struggles that the female character faces, while the male character’s backstory is shown later on.
To get it out of the way now, Our Happy Hours’ biggest weakness is its length.
Eight chapters. I read this manga in less than an hour. The amount of emotional energy that this story was able to conjure up within that timeframe is impressive in itself, but I fear it may have tried too much.
The female character, Juri, has a lot of emotional grief. Her mother hates her for destroying her pianist career due to child birth. She tries to appease her mother by taking on the career for herself, only to be raped by her piano instructor as a teenager. Upon telling her mother, she’s told to keep quiet about it, and to forget it ever happened. She quits piano due to the incident, which does nothing for her struggling relationship with her mother.
Reading the scene about the rape feels almost non-important. We are already aware of her grief towards destroying her mother’s career, and the contempt she feels from her mother because of it. Why pile onto it? It makes the story predictably condescending, as if to say “How much more empathy may I reap from the reader?”
The male character, Yuu, is not far different. He grew up with an alcoholic father, and a mother who abandoned the family because of it. Along the way, his father dies, and Yuu, along with his younger brother, are sent to live in an orphanage, where Yuu’s younger brother is bullied constantly due to his injury-inflicted blindness. Once again, the story could’ve stopped there, but it didn’t. Soon after, Yuu’s younger brother kills himself (more suicide) because he doesn’t want to be a burden to his older brother. This only makes Yuu less empathetic, and he begins to take out his hate for the world on unsuspecting people. That is, until he finds a young boy, conveniently around the age of his little brother, and starts to take care of him, cleaning up his life along with it. But then the little boy dies in a car accident, and Yuu (inadvertently) kills a mother and child, along with murdering a man who had paid him for doing twisted deeds on people, back before he chose to take care of the young boy.
There’s a lot more depth to Yuu’s past, but nevertheless, it feels like overkill. Everything is sad. Everything is heartbreak. You must be completely empathetic towards the characters because we only have so little time to do so! Losing his brother in the car accident would’ve been enough, but the story had to have that extra insurance. Just in case.
Despite the text above, this is a very well-crafted story. I just wanted to get my complaints out is all.
Despite the limited time, the characters feel real. They feel like they’re struggling. They feel like despite everything that has happened to them, by depending on each other, they find a reason to improve themselves, and to view life in a different light. The growth that both of these characters experience is unlike many other stories. Sure, the visits being every week makes the amount of time that passes feel somewhat arbitrary, but the conversations feel as though they’re progressing along with the characters themselves. Our Happy Hours truly has the essence that it’s at least trying to be mature with its content and characters. For that, I fondly appreciate its hard work.
The secondary characters even feel important!
The art style is also fairly mature. Hell, most of the things about this story is mature. The characters look the part very well, and the art style shows emotion more than most other manga. Another thing I liked about this story was how old people were made to look. How little their eyes were. The darkness underneath the eyes. The creases and wrinkles. Attention to detail is very noticeable. The characters didn’t look fake. They were real. They were almost like real people. With real emotional anguish. If anything were to pull in the reader other than the story itself, it would be the pretty picture.
I stand by what I said in the beginning. This story is overrated based on its overemotional stimulation to its overemotional target audience. If the pasts of the two main characters weren’t as tear-inducing, perhaps this story wouldn’t be rated as high. However, a case could also be made that it’s rated as high as it is because it’s a genuinely well-crafted and mature story about two characters whose lives will forever be intertwined through darkness. The characters and their expressionist art style make the story. If the amount of drama that went into the characters’ pasts don’t seem as hollow and jarring as it seems to me, then I have no doubt that anyone could love this story.