Happy Hustle High Volumes 1 and 2 by Rie Takada
Rie Takada has a ton of series out – Punch!, Wild Act, and Gaba Kawa. I’ve read the first two volumes of Punch in the past, but it took several months before I decided to read another series by her. Happy Hustle High doesn’t provide a new spin on shoujo conventions, but it has engaging characters and attractive art that makes it a very readable series.
Hanabi is a boisterous girl who is quick to protect all of her friends from random gropers with her lightning quick reflexes, shouting, and innovative use of her cell phone. She has major issues with her hair, which is prone to extreme frizziness. Hanabi goes to an all girls school that is being absorbed by a nearby boys school. On the first day of school she’s late, and she runs to class, causing her hair to puff out like a dandelion. She spots a nearby outdoor sink and wets her hair down, only to meet an incredibly handsome and aloof boy on the other side of the trough. When she asks him where the assembly is, he just points without saying anything.
When Hanabi finally arrives at the assembly she finds out that her mystery man is named Yasuaki, and he is the vice president of the student council at the former boys school. The president is a flower arranging genius named Yoshitomo who has an enviable head of smooth hair. They are joined by Tokihisa, a headband-wearing tough guy/student council secretary. Soon the girls ask Hanabi for her help to overturn the rule that bans dating at their new coed school.
A typical love triangle develops. Hanabi is impressed by Yasuaki’s surfing abilities, and learns that he doesn’t speak to girls because he simply doesn’t know how to act around them. Tokihisa makes fun of Hanabi’s hair, so she punches him. He’s impressed by her strength, so of course love will soon follow.
Hanabi joins the student council as an “outlaw representative” of the girls, and soon starts to wear away at the boys’ no dating rule. Yoshitomo seems to be an interested observer of human behavior, and he says that he’ll agree to change the rule if Hanabi convinces the other two boys. She quickly manages to bribe Tokihisa with promises of free lunch. Yasuaki is harder to convince, and she starts stalking him through the school hallways. Eventually he agrees to change the rule if Hanabi can catch a wave as a first-time surfer. She manages to get on the board, but is knocked over and almost drowns. Yasuaki rescues her, and their on-again off-again romance begins. Hanabi learns that Tohihisa views Yasuaki as his bitter rival because Yasuaki is so effortlessly good at sports. Tokihisa is incredibly competitive, and he wants to try to replace Yasuaki in Hanabi’s affections.
As the second volume opens, a hair disaster caused Hanabi to stay home from school for days, playing video games. Yasuaki goes to check on her, and they fall asleep. Unfortunately Yoshitomo also stops by Hanabi’s apartment and plays a practical joke on them by removing their clothes while they were passed out. Hanabi freaks out, but Yasuaki tells her that he’d never do anything to hurt her. They aren’t officially going out yet, and Tokihisa starts greeting Hanabi by giving her huge hugs. She tells him that she likes someone else, but doesn’t tell him that she has a crush on Yasuaki.
Tokihisa makes an elaborate play for Hanabi’s sympathy by arranging to get hit by a ton of shot puts right in front of her. Hanabi decides that she has to nurse him back to health since he saved her from being hit, but she tells Tokihisa that she can’t date him because of her feelings for Yasuaki. She is not a very capable nurse, almost stabbing him when she is peeling fruit, and being so boisterous that the school nurse asks her to leave. Tokihisa agrees that they can just be friends.
The art for Happy Hustle High is very cute. Takada is able to illustrate Hanabi’s many violent mood swings as well as Yasuaki’s more reserved amusement at the crazy girl he’s taken up with. There’s a frequent use of chibi mode whenever Hanabi is blowing her stack, and plenty of action scenes that follow all the sports that the characters play. While the love triangle and high school hijinks in this series are nothing new, Happy Hustle High is pleasant to read and at only five volumes is a fairly short series, so it isn’t a huge time commitment for anyone looking for a quick shojo fix. This series is rated for older teens, as there is a certain amount of sexual innuendo and situations within the context of the fairly healthy relationship between Hanabi and Yasuaki.