Happy-Go-Lucky Days, Vols. 1+ 2by Takako ShimuraDMP/EmangaRating: Mature (18+)
Not having read anything from Takako Shimura before, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from Happy-Go-Lucky Days. What I found is a two volume anthology that's a bit of a mixed bag. The series collects a number of short stories focusing on the relationships and sexual awakenings of a variety of different characters, ranging from a teacher who falls for his students, to coming of age tales, to ghost stories. While there's no central plot holding the series together, most of the stories are thematically linked through their focus on relationships, and a couple of stories are even connected via familial ties.
For the most part, Takako Shimura does a pretty good job at creating interesting and fairly believable characters and situations with the limited space available. The worries, fears and relationships usually develop in a fairly natural way, and while they may be a bit odd or unusual, they rarely feel false. Shimura's also not afraid of taboo topics or relationships either, with several stories involving the sexual awakenings of the young, or adults coming to terms with their latent homosexuality. In several of the tales focusing on homosexual explorations there's an underlying theme of societal/familiar reactions. A good example of this is a story which focuses on a young teen coming out to his twin brother. His growing relationship with a classmate takes a backseat, and instead Shimura focuses on his brother's reaction to the news and how his feelings towards his brother slowly change over the course of the story. Likewise there's more than one story that deals with themes of underage sex or sexual abuse and molestation, some handle it better than others.
Similar to how she's not afraid to deal with taboo subjects, Shimura's not at all afraid to depict taboo situations. These range from moments of sexual abuse, to some surprisingly graphic sex scenes between consenting adults. At no point do these ever come across as needless or even being done simply for titillation's sake. Often they're short and represent an important development or change in the characters relationships or state of mind. While she does a fantastic job at conveying emotions through both the characters, their body language, facial expressions and more, there are a few problems with her visuals. First off, at times the contemporary and simple characters designs are so bland and generic that it can be difficult to tell certain characters apart from one story to another. Secondly, there's a small pacing issue that plagues several of the stories. At times transitions that span location and large amounts of time will occur several times on a single page. It can easily lead to confusion about when events are happening, where and just how much time has passed.
For the most part Happy-Go-Lucky Days is a surprisingly enjoyable read. Some of the stories are bound to touch a nerve or make some readers uncomfortable, while others will lead to some uncomfortable moments and questions, and still others will probably elicit a chuckle or two. Just be aware of what you're getting into and be prepared for nudity, sex and adult themes. In the end though, the series was a pleasant and enjoyable surprise.