The Netflix original anime My Happy Marriage (or Watashi no Shiawase na Kekkon in Japanese), adapted from the light novel of the same name, recently finished airing. I don’t watch a lot of romance anime, but I found myself enjoying this one, so I wanted to share my thoughts.
The protagonist of this nineteenth-century love story is a girl named Miyo Saimori. Her story has many parallels to that of “Cinderella”: After the death of her loving mother, Miyo is left to the devices of her uncaring father and her cruel stepmother and half-sister. The anime even nods to the Brothers Grimm version of the story in that Miyo seeks comfort from a tree that reminds her of her mother. However, this anime is more than just a Japanese retelling of the classic fairy tale. The reason Miyo is abused and treated like a servant is because she is the only member of her family who lacks supernatural abilities.
In the world of My Happy Marriage, there are malevolent beings called Grotesqueries that can only be seen by people who possess Spirit Sight. There is a special branch of the army dedicated to eradicating these monsters, and Miho’s family marries her off to the commander of this Special Anti-Grotesquerie Unit: a handsome but cold man named Kiyoka Kudo. It seems as though this arranged marriage is going to be yet another hardship in Miho’s miserable life, as Kudo is rumored to have cycled through several fiancées and scared all of them away with his cruelty. However, we quickly see that these rumors are unwarranted, and the title of the anime is not a ruse: becoming Kudo’s fiancée introduces Miho to happiness for the first time in her life.
Weak, self-deprecating characters such as Miho are often unpopular with fans; for example, Fruits Basket‘s Tohru Honda receives a lot of hate for being so humble and servile. Therefore, for some viewers it may be frustrating to see how slowly it takes for Miho to overcome her trauma and learn to stop apologizing for everything. In my opinion, though, it’s both heartwarming and realistic to watch her gradually break out of her shell thanks to the kindness shown to her by her fiancé, his servant, and his older sister. She is immediately accepted into the Kudo family with open arms, and having never experienced a loving home or family, it’s only natural that Miho is hesitant to embrace this healthy new lifestyle. Rather than chastise her for being so insecure, Kudo understands that she comes from a background of suffering and is patient with her.
My biggest complaint about this anime is that it sets Kudo up to be a character that he isn’t. For saying that he has such a reputation for being cold and heartless, we never see him being particularly cruel. He is stern, yes, but he has a good rapport with his colleagues as well as his servant and sister. He is always shown to be respectful albeit sometimes curt. My guess is that he earned such a dangerous reputation because his previous fiancées were self-absorbed women from rich families, and we see from his interaction with Miyo’s half-sister Kaya that he has no patience for such women. He also has extremely powerful supernatural abilities, which can be intimidating, and throughout the series several characters accuse him of spending too much time at work. Despite what the cast tells him, though, he doesn’t truly neglect Miho, and there are even times when he chooses her over his job. Still, the story is established as though Miyo is going to melt the icy heart of an unlovable man, when in reality he’s always been a good person who is perhaps a bit too invested in his work. I personally prefer how the anime actually does it, but some viewers may be disappointed to find that the “Beauty and the Beast” trope that this show seems to promise is nowhere to be found.
Overall, this anime tells a sweet story that is more about the healing power of love (both romantic and familial) than the passion of romance. The animation is beautiful and reminiscent of Kyoto Animation (Violet Evergarden, Free!, Hyouka)’s style. The worldbuilding is admittedly a bit weak, though the existence of supernatural ability does at least contribute directly to the plot. A second season has been confirmed, but the release window is currently unknown. An anime-exclusive OVA episode (meaning it will contain new scenes that aren’t in the manga) is expected in 2024.