I rarely review Japanese movies or dramas, because I watch them rarely, but I couldn’t avoid this one. Happy Marriage?! or simply Hapi Mari, is a live action of the manga with the same name by Maki Enjoji. If you’ve read it, you probably know it is a josei, which means it’s a mature work with R-rated sexual scenes and sometimes violence as well. Amazon Japan produced this adaptation and fit it into a 12 episodes drama which ended on August 31st.
Hapi Mari tells the story of Takanashi Chiwa, a 20-something woman who works hard to live and maintain her family consisting of herself and her father who loves to gamble. She has several jobs, and one of them is in a club. She is a hostess and has to “entertain” clients. This is not an easy nor an enjoyable job, because the drunk clients try to hit on her. One night while she is working, she has a problem with a man and ends up throwing a drink in the face of another who wanted to help her with her cause. This man is Mamiya Hokuto, a successful businessman who came there to see Chiwa. She is the woman his grandfather wants him to marry in order to inherit the family company. He and Chiwa’s grandmother have history, and it must be her that Hokuto shall marry or else he won’t get nothing. Hokuto proposes to Chiwa in order to help her family as well. At first she refuses then she accepts and they formally get married and start living together.
The manga is on my TOP 10 and I suggest you to read it if you love josei and mature stories with 17+ scenes (they’re really graphic) because it has it all, from romance to revenge to action and mystery. Until the last moment I couldn’t stop reading. The live action, however, is more dense and superficial. While it has some cute moments, the main plot of the manga takes another route and only scratches the surface.
The story is quite the same: Hokuto and Chiwa get married and start living together, and as they do so, they face difficulties of married couples and the fact that they are indeed strangers. Their relationship blooms and they open up to each other and try to overcome the problems they face. If I hadn’t read the manga, I would have taken this as a light and enjoyable watch, but since I did, I am a little judgemental. Don’t get me wrong, the story is similar, but the plot devices are a bit different and some of the changes are too easy to write. It seemed as if the writer didn’t put too much effort in writing some storylines that in the end reached a climax that made me shake my head several times. One of these plot points is the tri-quadrangle between Chiwa-Hokuto-Misaki-Yagami. In the manga, these characters exist but Misaki, Hokuto’s ex girlfriend and business partner, is mature and accepts with a heavy heart that her ex is now married. On the drama, she looks stubborn and fake and would want anything to break the couple apart, all of this while Hokuto watches and does nothing! I understand his character is stiff and detached, but show a bit of emotion, man. In the manga he was annoyed that Chiwa felt jealous towards Misaki, but eventually Chiwa got over it because the woman was harmless, not like in here. She was desperate to the point of boredom. Yagami-kun was another story. In the manga he is Chiwa’s co-worker and falls in love with her but ends up being transferred by Hokuto (Chiwa worked in his company in the manga). Here he often tries to shield her from her husband because he thinks he doesn’t deserve her, but he can’t do much about it since Chiwa is in love with Hokuto and he realizes that he is as well and is willing to protect her from any threat that means to harm them both.
I was a bit irked by the acting as well. Hokuto was played by Dean Fujioka, who is a known actor in the J-biz. At times I really couldn’t bear how he portrayed Hokuto. He was stiff, you couldn’t real his face at all, and his chemistry with the lead actress wavered a lot. I don’t know his other projects, so I can’t know if it was his portrayal that was like that or if he acts like this all the time. He didn’t know how to balance Hokuto’s stubbornness and control, imo. The lead actress is Seino Nana, who is 12 years younger than her on-screen partner, if I’m correct. She didn’t play Chiwa badly, although at times she was too naive. It looked as if she was trying her best but her partner didn’t cooperate. Perhaps that role wasn’t made for him? I hate to be so harsh on actors, but this is my point of view as a viewer. I still liked the live action and I would suggest it to somebody who wants a short drama (it’s only 12 episodes!) with not much drama in it and a happy ending. It would’ve been better from an adaptation POV, but it is rare to produce a good live action nowadays in dorama-land.