by Akumi Agitogi, Rito Kohsaka, Tsukiho Tsukioka
Series: My Happy Marriage #1
Publisher: Square Enix Manga
Publication Date: September 13, 2022
Genres: Graphic Novel, Romance
A "Cinderella"-inspired slow-burn historical romance with a paranormal twist set in Meiji-era Japan!
A browbeaten and mistreated daughter is cast out of her family home and sent to audition as a bridal candidate for the heir to one of the most powerful families in the land…
Considered nigh worthless for having failed to inherit the superhuman powers of the bloodlines into which she was born, Miyo Saimori lives her days unwanted and unloved.
She is treated as a servant by her half-sister who, unlike Miyo, is blessed with unusual powers, while her step-mother and very own father have little time or love for their eldest daughter.
Ultimately seen as nothing more than a nuisance and a drain on the family wealth, Miyo is packed off to the Kudo house as a bridal candidate for its heir, Kyoka Kudo.
But whispers abound about the Kudo clan, the most powerful in all the land. Still, will the allegedly cold and cruel house into which Miyo aims to marry prove much warmer than the family she left behind?
I adore Cinderella retellings, so between that and the gorgeous cover art, I couldn’t resist picking this book up from the library. It’s a very satisfying Cinderella-inspired historical romance with some light paranormal elements.
Miyo is the eldest daughter of the Saimori family, an old and renowned magical clan, not that you would know from the way she’s treated. Since her mother died and her father remarried his old flame, he’s refused to intervene while her stepmother and Gifted half-sister treat her like a servant and abuse her. When she’s betrothed to Kiyoka Kuda, a cold and cruel man who’s head of one of the oldest noble families, the best she can hope for is a quick end. Kiyoka, however, seems more interested in ignoring her than killing her. But when he finds out that Miyo doesn’t have the Gift, will her tenuous new chance at happiness be over?
Miyo, like most classic fairy tale heroines, is unbelievably wholesome despite how she’s been treated. She’s used to making do with the servants’ discards, not getting enough to eat, and generally being treated as if her mere existence was intolerable. It’s no surprise that she thinks she’s worthless and entirely unsuited to be betrothed to someone as handsome and skilled as Kiyoka.
If there’s one thing the manga wants to make clear, it’s the Kiyoka is ridiculously and unbelievably handsome. He’s been hounded with unwanted female attention for most of his life and frankly isn’t looking forward to dealing with another fiancée, especially one from a declining family like the Saimoris. While his family is wealthy and one of the oldest noble families, he choses to live simply on the outskirts of town, something that hasn’t set well with his previous fiancées. But for Miyo, it’s an unimaginable luxury to, well, not be continuously abused. So when she doesn’t run off screaming like all his previous noble (and spoiled) fiancées, Kiyoka is frankly bewildered – and then intrigued.
And we can all guess what happens next, right? The stage is set for a very sweet slow-burn romance, though there’s not a lot of that in this volume. Much of it is spent setting up Miyo’s history and showing the abuse she suffered at the hands of her family. It’s rather depressing, but Miyo’s continued dogged sweetness in the face of adversity is heartwarming. The manga also switches back and forth between her and Kiyoka’s POVs as he tries to figure out what’s happened in the Saimori family to make Miyo the way she is, and then gently coax her out of her shell. A lot of that can also be credited to Yurie, the elderly servant who’s served Kiyoka since he was a child, and who befriends Miyo. She was another sweet addition. As for the fantasy aspect, while there’s some mention of the Gift and Kuda’s job as the head of army division hunting Grotesques, not much of it is really explained. There’s a bit of a love triangle with a childhood friend of Miyo’s who’s eventually betrothed to her half-sister, but I’m not entirely sure where that’s going.
The story is set in a sort of Meiji-era Japan where traditional Japanese society is facing the influx of Westernization. What that means is we get to see some things like early automobiles and Western-style clothing while also enjoying the most gorgeously drawn kimonos. All of the artwork in fact is gorgeously well-done, from the textiles to Miyo’s (usually downtrodden) expressions. It has just the right amount of detail to really draw a reader into the page.
Overall, this is a sweet, if a bit low conflict, first entry in a Cinderella-inspired series. I’m very curious about the story is going, especially in regards to the fantasy aspects and what sort of machinations the Saimoris will come up with next!