Title: Honey So Sweet
Genre: Romance, Slice of Life
Publisher: Shueisha (JP), Viz Media (U.S)
Creator: Amu Meguro
Serialized in: Bessatsu Margaret
Translation: Katherine Schilling
Original Release Date: January 5, 2016
Review copy provided by Viz Media.
Four pages into the first volume of Honey So Sweet, the main male character presents the female lead with a bouquet of roses, asking her to “date [him] with marriage in mind.” How the reader views that scene will determine whether or not they enjoy this shoujo romance title.
The first volume follows high school freshman Nao, a shy girl who wants nothing to do with delinquents due to an awkward run-in she had with one a few years ago. However, that same delinquent turns out to be her classmate Taiga — and he’s had a crush on her ever since. As they spend more time together, Nao realizes that her assumptions that Taiga was violent were wrong, and a friendship begins. Two other characters join them a bit later in the volume — a blond beauty who “isn’t here to make friends” and a potty-mouth who may or may not have a tragic backstory waiting to be revealed. And with that, Honey So Sweet is poised to tread down a familiar shoujo path.
That’s also this volume’s greatest weakness. It doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from other titles in its genre. It embraces its tropes and cliches, but those who are familiar with them may see exactly where this is going from the start. The main couple is easily identifiable, the supporting characters seem to be there for a “friendship” arc and to provide commentary on the main pair, and the situations they find themselves in are straight from the shoujo playbook — the main characters meet by doing a group project together, they try a “test of courage,” and much is made out of how scary Taiga’s default expression is.
This title also contains a newer trope that’s been popping up in anime and manga more recently; Nao insists that she can’t return Taiga’s feelings because she’s already in love with someone else: her uncle. The flashback in this volume paints it in such a way that it seems like Nao is confusing family love for romantic love — and her uncle very obviously does not return her crush — but it reads strangely from a western perspective. It also feels like it’s only there to serve as an obstacle to the main couple, since her uncle is barely present in the volume to begin with.
However, Honey So Sweet is able to balance all of this out by how earnest it is. The art is light and fluffy, and it’s easy to feel the artist’s love for the genre. In a word, Honey So Sweet is adorable. It’s difficult to call it out for not doing anything new with shoujo tropes when it’s real purpose seems to be to tell a cute falling-in-love story. In that sense, the manga does succeed — even though the end is already in sight, the journey may hold a few surprises.
Only later volumes will tell if Honey So Sweet can break away from the mold and become something new in its own right, but for now it’s a cute addition to the shoujo library that will appeal to fans of eventually-requited-love stories.
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