Happiness by Shuzo Oshimi is a horror manga about Makoto Okazaki, a sheepish teenager who suffers from bullying at school. Every day there’s a group who make him buy their lunch for them and have turned him into their errand boy. That all changes after he’s attacked by a vampire during the night.
Happiness is a really muted and downbeat manga. Unlike a lot of vampire stories, this isn’t glamorised or full of action. It’s an understated coming of age story, similar to the film Let the Right One In. The story has a really subdued tone throughout, that’s reflected in the art style that’s used. You can really feel Okazaki’s struggle with being bullied along with fighting the urge to drink blood, something that he doesn’t understand.
Okazaki is attacked by a girl in the middle of the night, who drinks his blood and gives him the option to die or continue living, he chooses to live, and wakes up in a hospital not really know what’s going on. Even by the end of volume one he’s not sure what’s happening to him, only that he’s acting differently and people are treating him differently because of it. A girl in his year takes notice of him for the first time, he stands up for himself in a random outburst of violence. It’s essentially going through puberty.
Vampires are presented in an interesting way in Happiness. Okazaki is sensitive to the light, but not overly so, as he’s able to travel to school. The urge to drink blood is very evident, but the transformation seems to be minimal compared to other stories, or maybe it will pick up more in the future. The story is quite slow paced, but that lets you have more time to really get into it. Not a lot really happens in this volume, but you’re hooked the entire way through it, and when the it ends, you just want to pick up volume two straight away to continue reading.
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