Enter: The Littlest Ninja!
After a somewhat disappointing Volume 3, “Happy Café Volume 4″ is a good return to form for my favorite wacky group at the Café Bonheur. A new character appears who looks he will add some spice to the story, and Shindo and Uru come awfully close to…
It’s Ichiro’s turn in the spotlight at the start of volume 4, when his stunningly beautiful mother stops by to drop off Ichiro’s sibling, Jiro. Jiro is absolutely darling in her little dress and long blonde pigtails, but her attitude doesn’t match and she seems to have It in for Uru. Jiro turns out to be hiding more than jealousy for big brother’s affections however, as the Bonheur gang is going to find out. Next up is a glimpse at the home life of model/ Café Bonheur-customer Mitsuka. She comes from a very wealthy family, and her modeling means she makes good money herself which makes her a target for some unsavory types. But maybe her own happiness is closer than she thinks. Finally, Shindo and Ura are trapped inside together during a blackout. The two of them confront their fears together during the night, and Ura learns what it is that drives Shindo and what he is most afraid of.
This glimpse into the inner lives of Ichiro, Shindo, Uru and Mitsuka was exactly what was missing from Volume 3. Kou Matsuzuki has done a great job selling us her world and the delights of the Café Bonheur, but for the series to keep our attention there has to be drama, character development and story arcs beyond the lightness and fluff. Jiro was a good addition to the cast as well (I like that all of Shindo’s family is a little bit odd, each in their own way) and promises some interesting stories in future volumes.
As with Volume 2, about one-fourth of “Happy Café Volume 4″ is taken up by an unrelated story by Kou Matsuzuki, “Flower and Butterfly in Summer.” What seems to be creepy at first, a 32-year old man being the “Mommy” to a high-school age girl, but when you discover the secret it becomes quite heartwarming. According to the author’s note, these side stories take place in the same general universe as “Happy Café,” and that a few characters from Volume 2′s “Estimated Young Man and Woman” show up as customers at the Café Bonheur. I haven’t spotted them, so I will have to go back to my old volumes to take a look!