Saturday, May 16, 2015

Merry Month of Manga Review: START WITH A HAPPY ENDING

Ok, I picked this one pretty much for one reason alone: KITTIES.  YAY KITTIES.

START WITH A HAPPY ENDING (Happy End de Hajime You), by Risa Motoyama.  First published in 2010, and first published in North America in 2012. 


This collection of stories brings together a motley crew of people united by two things: they have all recently died, and all of them did something nice for a cat.  As such, the Cat God has given these lost souls a second chance at righting the wrongs of their lives, albeit in feline form and for a limited amount of time, and each in turn discovers what they had been missing all along.


Start With a Happy Ending is a brief and sweet slice-of-life story that's content to deliver trite yet earnest morals alongside a lot of cute cat fanservice.

Admittedly, the entire premise is kind of gimmicky to begin with.  You begin to wonder just how many people are going to die in attempts to save cats from being run over or how many pet cats are willing to sacrifice themselves for their owners.  It's just as gimmick as the notion of a Cat God that happens to possess such a specific power for situations just like these.  They also tend to be a bit rushed, as everyone comes to the necessary revelation or resolves their problem in just a few pages.  Still, all of these stories work in spite of these faults because they do bear some emotional truth.  The lessons they have to teach are simple ones - your family loves you more than you realize, don't overwork yourself, don't pretend to be someone else to please others - but they are lessons given in complete sincerity, and they are lessons that are universal.  It also helps that each character responds in slightly different ways.  Some choose to stay as cats, some chose the afterlife, and some chose reincarnation, but everyone is satisfied with their choices and able to move on from their past mistakes.  It all works out in the end, which is the same that can be said for this anthology in general.  It's simple, sweet and sincere, and sometimes that's all you need to be satisfied.


The artwork for Start With a Happy Ending is as simple as its moral lessons.  The characters (both human and cat alike) are simple and flat, and they more closely resemble the illustrations of a children's storybook than they resemble your average manga. Expressions tend to be big and broad, especially where the cats are concerned, and the same can be said for the backgrounds.  Panels and pages alike tend to be small and simple, but seeing as this is neither a terribly talkative nor an artistically complex work, it all works out fine. 


If you want something simple and heartfelt that involves lots of cutely-drawn kitties, then Start With a Happy Ending is just the sort of diversion you'll be looking for.

This volume is published by Digital Manga Publishing.  It is currently in print.

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