Following on from my First Thoughts article over on Anime Independent, I decided to watch the entirety of My Happy Marriage - the mixture of Cinderella and Pride & Prejudice makes for a riveting watch. To catch up those who have yet to discover this Netflix anime, the series follows Miyo, eldest daughter of the Saimori family. Despite the status of her father, she endures a life of abject misery thanks to a wicked stepmother and her younger sister, the bratty and arrogant Kaya (superbly voiced by Lizzie Freeman in the English dub). Eager to rid themselves of a girl they deem worthless, Miyo is betrothed to Kiyoka Kudou, a military man with a reputation for callous conduct toward women, to the point that all previous matches fled within three days of meeting him!
As the series progresses, we discover that Kudou is in fact an honourable man with no time for witless women seeking prestige through marriage, and though initially cold toward Miyo, his gentler side surfaces once he begins to understand the trials she's endured and the effect it has had on her mental wellbeing.
Years of mental torture take their toll on Miyo
It's tremendously satisfying when Kudou turns his cold attention to Miyo's family, and without wishing to spoil too much, it really is only a few episodes into this 12 part run that we see what righteous fury looks like. But far from being a doormat, it's Miyo's strength of character that often stays Kudou's hand and her humanity that brings out the best in him. His reliance on her perspective is ultimately what makes them such a perfect couple.
Beyond the romance, the world in which we find our couple is one of magic and demons, allowing the series to spice up the familial intrigue with some rather splendid action sequences. Though honestly I found myself eager to make it through those to return to the central drama between our two leads, the action does have consequences as it's soon revealed that Miyo isn't all that she appears and that her life has been controlled in more ways than she imagined.
This is very much a shoujo series, but with so many of my my peers having previously fallen in love with Fruits Basket that really ought not to be a barrier to anyone who wants to jump into a show with more brains than brawn. The quiet moments between Miyo and Kudou are often mesmerising - Miyo's initial reluctance to believe anyone would see value in her holds her down, but once she is shown a sliver of kindness it fuels her dedication to bettering herself - it's admirable and hugely endearing. Likewise, Kudou shows himself to be far from a perfect prince, and tries to understand his bride-to-be and her trauma as best he can, though not without making mistakes along the way.
Paired with the near-perfect storytelling is the stunning animation - it's gloriously crisp and beautifully directed, with some gorgeous background detail that really sells the Edo setting. Releasing the story weekly also helped to build anticipation, something I wish Netflix had done with its One Piece live action series. Whether it's emotional or action-packed, My Happy marriage always hits the right beats, making for a short but glorious season of romance where every episode is eagerly anticipated.
The story feels complete after 12 episodes, to the point that I don't want to watch a sequel. The feelgood buzz is too good to risk ruining with seeing what comes next.