Manga-ka: Makoto Tateno
Publisher: Doki Doki
Rating: Teens (13+)
Release Date: September 2009
Synopsis: “Welcome home, madam!” For the patrons of Lady Braganza, an afternoon outing for tea and cake becomes an immersion in high-class lifestyle, where mannered servants attend to their each and every need. You see, Lady Braganza is a butler café, and the cheerful staff of Shiva, Renjo, Ivory, Silk and Eve are charged with the task of making each and every “sir” or “madam” feel like pampered royalty!”
The Lady Braganza is a butler café where patrons are treated as royalty, served the most delectable of teas and cakes while being served by the most wholesomely attentive staff. Happy Boy’s cast of characters all work at this café and it’s their job to make sure every customer finds themselves pleasantly lost in the illusion – but not all readers may find themselves as entranced.
Boys’ love fans are likely familiar with Makoto Tateno’s body of work – ranging from the thieving Yellow or the costume-donning Hero Heel – but this work, though ripe with intended potential, isn’t intended as a yaoi. Despite this readers of her work will still find a lot familiar with Happy Boys, but though she can draw a guy in a suit with few complaints, Makoto Tateno’s stylistic consistency continues to create some difficulties in telling characters apart and unfortunately for said characters, their generally one-dimensional personalities don’t help as much as they could either.
The staff members of Lady Braganza consist of a variety of expected and type-casted characters – the guy with glasses, the young guy, the gay guy, the old guy and…. well, the other guys. While momentary focus on different characters offers glimpses of more than surface-level individuality, there still isn’t a whole lot of distinction between the group members. Partially it comes down to being so casually introduced to a cast of more than seven characters in one chapter but it also doesn’t help that each person has two names on top of that – one being their original and the other being their ‘butler name’.
Still, despite the trouble in telling the characters apart sometimes, their interactions still manage to weave a pretty fun story at times. All the guys are learning to get along as both employees and friends, and seeing the difference in countenance between their professional personalities and their natural behind-the-scene selves proves to be an entertaining contrast that creates more than its share of troubles.
A big part of this pertains to the fact that all the characters must adhere to very strict rules in order to maintain the fantasy for their patrons – which includes not socializing outside of work, never letting a patron see you outside of work and living together in a complex where higher level employees are the only ones allowed their own apartments. There’s some bickering between some, while more mutual understanding exists between others, and though at times it seems they don’t get along as a whole, the positive vibe the whole book maintains constantly reminds you that it’ll all be okay because they’re actually kind, caring individuals who’re just becoming friends on someone else’s terms. In this case that person would be the café’s elusive owner who always seems to be away on some sort of exotic spelunk around the world.
Happy Boys is ultimately a title well established by its name – though they may annoy each other on occasion and have their own pretty-boy issues, overall this is a volume full of Happy Boys, or at least a story about boys meant to make you happy in the feel-good fluffy sort of way. Shallow characters keep this book feeling superficial overall but it still has its memorable charms as long as expectations don’t range too high.