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Happy Café: Volume 1    by Kou Matsuzuki order for
Happy Café
by Kou Matsuzuki
Order:  USA  Can
TOKYOPOP, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

If you are looking for a light, fun read to beat the winter blahs, Happy Café is the manga for you. This delightful story takes place in Café Bonheur, known for its amazingly delicious deserts. The very talented baker Shindo has a gruff, stone-faced demeanor, but that does not stop Uru, Café Bonheur's newest baby-faced employee from falling for him.

The other worker at Café Bonheur, Ichiro, has his own problems – whenever he gets hungry, he immediately falls asleep, which leads to some funny moments. Aside from showing her work at the café, Happy Café is also about Uru's growing up as she learns to live on her own after a misunderstanding between Uru and her mother's much younger new husband. Uru has a lot to learn about life, but Ichiro and Shindo are there to help – if she'd only let them.

Kou Matsuzuki's Happy Café is definitely a feel-good manga. Uru's dilemmas and antics are sure to put a smile on the reader's face. Matsuzuki helps keep the focus on her characters (as this is a very character-driven story) through sparse panels with minimal background, and then, only when absolutely necessary. In Happy Café, you won't find the lush scene-setting panels found in many shojo mangas, but that is just fine because Matsuzuki's story does not need gorgeous artwork to make it a must read.

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