Disclosure: The author of this book is a friend of mine and introduced me to Ice Ribbon years ago. This has had no influence on the opinions in this review, although obviously my status as a fan of the promotion does affect my appreciation of the subject matter.
Ice Ribbon is a women’s professional wrestling company based in Tokyo, Japan, infused with the philosophy of founder Emi Sakura that professional wrestling should be fun, both for the audience and performers.
In May of 2016 the company celebrated their ten year anniversary. The majority of Be Happy is an amazingly detailed, meticulously researched compilation of shows and matches with attendance figures, participants, match time, and results for the ENTIRE period from the company’s beginning through said 10th anniversary. And not only Ice Ribbon’s shows (which are of course covered in full), but also every match any Ice Ribbon talent at any given time participated in including for other companies. As someone familiar with data collection and maintenance, I know the effort, careful bookkeeping, and time required to compile data of such volume and accuracy. Amassing the detail contained here is enormous undertaking and impressive accomplishment.
Of course as a book presentation and accessibility is just as vital as the quality of the underlying information. It can be easy to overlook the importance of headers, proper bolding, etc, but it’s absolutely imperative in a project like this to make the enormous amount of information accessible. Short clearly kept this in mind, and the format of Be Happy is excellent and makes his chronicle accessible and enjoyable.
A short introduction provides historical perspective and a strong framework, as well as a list of all official members of Ice Ribbon and years they worked for company for easier perusing for fans of particular wrestlers.
The results are organized by year with a descriptive title for each and an easy to digest and browse format containing shaded headers for dates, boxed show names, then normal text results. Perhaps most importantly, there interesting tidbits (context about the wrestlers and what was going on in the promotion), supporting information (match stipulations, debuts, injuries, etc), and pictures in each part included that keep it from becoming a dry recitation and make Be Happy a throughly engaging tome to get absorbed in.
The pictures are wonderful, including things like ticket stubs and event posters in addition to the numerous wonderful pictures of the wrestlers themselves. Following the chronicle that makes up the majority of the book, there are dedicated sections of pictures featuring a sample of the incredible costumes and gear made by BACCHANALES TOKYO and the impressive fan-made banners that are hung in the venues during events as a sign of support and respect for the wrestlers. While Short himself apologizes in the book that the black and white pictures don’t do proper justice to the creations, all included pictures are still fantastic and a real treat to have included. The other post chronicle sections contain complete title histories (including all defenses) for the time period covered and top event attendance figures respectively.
In the introduction Short self-describes his book as a love letter to the company, and it couldn’t be more of a fitting description. This is a dense, laser focused examination of a fairly niche product, which is of course a treasure trove to huge fans of Ice Ribbon such as myself, but also made wonderfully accessible to those with any level of interest by way of the dedication, careful presentation choices, and above all else the love the author has for the subject matter.
Be Happy is an absolute gem, and I’m beyond thrilled to see my friend’s vision for this book come together in such spectacular fashion.