Can a story about a professional assassin be endearing? Toshiya Wakabayashi’s manga, Happy Kanako’s Killer Life, answers that question with a resounding: Yes!
Nishino Kanako is sick of being berated and harassed by her boss, so she quits her job at the marketing agency and starts hunting for a new career. She’s excited to land an interview with a new firm, but is shocked to discover during the interview that she’s accidently applied to an organization for hitmen!
But, hey! A job’s a job. And it’s not like she’s going to turn down a position that offers benefits in this economy! Plus, with her years of experience with making herself appear unobtrusive, and her surprising talent with a gun, she’s a natural as an assassin. Maybe things are finally looking up for Kanako, after all.
Despite its gallows humor, Happy Kanako’s Killer Life is quite the cute, and even uplifting, manga. Kanako starts the manga feeling pretty down on herself, but begins to gain confidence as she realizes that she’s pretty good at her new job and that her boss and co-workers actually respect and value her.
The once shy and timid young woman is soon able to shrug off the more grim and frightening aspects of her job. She even starts to get a bit trigger happy when she sees people treating others with cruelty, though she is able to hold herself back from committing indiscriminate murder, most of the time. After all, it wouldn’t do to knock someone off if she’s not being paid for it. There is such a thing as having professional standards.
Even if she can’t solve all her problems with violence, Kanako’s new found confidence does help her to be more proactive in her day to day life. When she sees a man yelling at a mother who’s baby is crying on a train, she tamps down her initial instinct to just shoot the offending gentleman, instead stepping in and loudly complimenting the woman on her adorable baby. Her simple actions soundly puts the man in his place and reassures the poor woman, all without Kanako having to resort to making use of her new hitman skills. She always had the means at her disposal to make a difference, she just needed to realize that about herself. That’s a pretty sweet message for a story about a woman learning to enjoy working as a professional murderer.
The humor in Happy Kanako’s Killer Life is to die for! Okay, bad puns aside, this is a very funny manga and I loved the blasé attitude Kanako quickly develops towards her job, and how the hitman firm she works for seems to just operate as a perfectly normal company where killing is all in a days work. This manga isn’t graphic, often not directly showing any of the deaths Kanako causes, and it manages to keep things light-hearted and upbeat, despite the body count.
There were a few jokes where I wondered if some of the humor has been lost in translation, however. Kanako is constantly making animal-themed play-on-words, which are punctuated with drawings of cute and expressive animals that pop up behind her. These little jokes range from silly and fun to absolutely grown-worthy, and I wonder if they might have been funnier in the original Japanese text. It’s possible that they are just as cheesy in Japanese, of course. If anyone has read the original, let me know in the comments.
Corny animal puns aside, Happy Kanako’s Killer Life is a funny manga with a quirky main character, who’s journey into becoming a more self-assured and dangerous professional I really enjoyed reading. This volume ended with some hints at a romance subplot developing between Kanako and a police detective, and I’m very interested in seeing where that goes, so I will be eagerly awaiting the next volume. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a good comedy, provided you don’t mind a touch of dark humor.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on this manga, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this manga? What’s your best bad animal pun? Let me know in the comments!
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