Happy Cafe, Vol. 1
by Kou Matsuzuki
Sixteen-year old Uru may look like an elementary school kid, but she's living on her own and needs a job. She is hired provisionally at the Happy Cafe, and despite her penchant for breaking dishes (she's both klutzy AND possessing super-strength) allowed to stay. Her two coworkers are quite strange: Ichiro falls asleep whenever he gets hungry and can only be revived by food, while Shindo is cold and distant. But as Uru gets to know the two boys, friendships grow and may eventually lead to something more...
It's happy, it's quirky, and it's fun. So far, every problem that has come up for Uru and her co-workers is neatly resolved at the end of the chapter. There are several running gags, like Ichiro's constant sleeping or cracks about Uru's youthful appearance/short height, that are humorous now but over the life of the comic could lose their charm.
The art is nice, very simple and clean. Kou Matsuzuki does a great job pacing the story, so the panels and plot are easy to follow. The characters are easily distinguishable from one another, although if lined up with main characters from other popular series in the genre Shindo, Ichiro and Uru would be pretty indistinguishable. Given that the characters themselves are pretty average, the generic quality of the art matches the story.
Happy Cafe promises to be a frothy, light sort of shoujo series. High school romances are a dime a dozen and a good many of them do center on cooking/baking/restaurants. But from the basic ingredients of sugar, eggs, flour, and baking powder you can get a huge range of cakes that taste great; Happy Cafe's first volume may not break new ground through its art or story, but it is still an enjoyable snack for the mind.
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