Nao Kogure was only trying to be nice in middle-school when she left an umbrella and bandages for the injured Taiga Onise, but she gets the shock of her life when he years later he suddenly asks her to date him!
Nao Kogure prefers to keep to herself, and although she hasn’t made any friends yet in her first year of high-school, she’s content to live with her adoptive uncle Sou. While walking home in middle-school, Nao came across injured delinquent Taiga Onise lying in the rain, deciding to leave him there in fear of getting involved with trouble. However, she couldn’t just do nothing and left bandages and an umbrella with him before running away. Little did she know that this made quite an impression on Onise, and upon unexpectedly meeting him again in high-school he asks her to be his girlfriend with marriage in mind! Although Nao has severe reservations about spending time with him, she soon finds that the gruff and scary looking Onise might actually be a good guy after all.
This is a grounded slice-of-life high school romance, so if you’re a fan of something like Strobe Edge or Kimi ni Todoke you should take a look.
Honey So Sweet Vol. 1 tells the sweet (I know, I know) tale of Nao and Onise’s budding relationship as they get to know each other. While the story of a delinquent actually having a heart of gold has been numerous times before, Honey So Sweet‘s strength is in the earnestness that both Nao and Onise display in their feelings. Both Nao and Onise are charmingly awkward and continually unsure of the state of their relationship, but learn more about themselves as a result of their willingness to take a bit of a risk on each other. This won me over quickly, as Nao and Onise easily become the type of protagonists that you want to root for, and this is something that I really look for in a romance series.
The first chapter does a great job characterizing Nao’s feelings, as she quickly agrees date Onise out of fear, really cementing her initially insecure nature. However, Nao finally finds the courage to tell him the truth later in a scene that hit exactly the right dramatic notes, providing an excellent basis for the beginnings of their reluctant friendship. The sense of progression in Nao’s character in this chapter alone is representative of this volume as a whole, as this series does a great job of emphasizing the subtle growth both Nao and Onise experience just as a result of spending time together. The final chapter, in which Nao and Onise agree to help out at her uncle’s restaurant is another fantastic example of this, and I thought this chapter did a great job at showcasing the little bits of personal growth they each experienced as a result of their short time together.
Along for the ride with Nao and Onise are a fairly interesting supporting cast who are introduced effectively in this volume. A decent amount of page space is devoted to introducing two other friends, Ayumu Misaki and Kayo Yashiro, to balance out their group as they embark on a school trip. I felt that these two provided interesting foils to Nao and Onise as they all slowly become friends, with Misaki in particular showing the potential for a good deal of depth as he seemingly struggles with similar insecurities to Nao. At any rate, this volume did a great job selling me on this group and I’m excited to see how they all develop as friends.
The final supporting character introduced is Nao’s uncle Sou, who raised her and is has been her guardian ever since the untimely death of her parents. Their relationship is the most troubling part of this volume, as it quickly becomes apparent that Nao has some conflicting feelings toward her uncle. Disregarding the fact that this feels a little bit distasteful in general, it almost feels like their relationship was included because the author needed some way to justify Nao’s hesitance towards Onise over the course of the volume. Her feelings are on the subtler side and although Nao says they affect the way she acts, her actions never really sold me on this being the case. Thankfully this never becomes an overbearing story element and didn’t really hinder my enjoyment of the volume, but I really question if the inclusion of these feelings towards her uncle was really necessary as it brought down the tone of the book a little bit.
While some of the best moments in this volume are the subtle ones which show the gradual change in Nao and Onise, author Amu Meguro is also able pull out the stops on some of the bigger, more emotional moments with her artwork. I enjoyed the artwork in this volume quite a lot as the characters faces were pleasingly expressive without being overdrawn. This focus on the characters’ faces was used effectively to convey the emotions of a given scenes, distracting successfully from the backgrounds which tend to fall on the more simplistic side of the spectrum.
Honey So Sweet Vol. 1 is a promising start to the series, and although it doesn’t quite nail everything it provides an enjoyable rendition of a familiar romantic theme thanks to the earnestness and likeability of its characters. I enjoyed the subtle yet tangible personal growth both Nao and Onise experienced over the course of their time together, and I’m eager to see how their romantic relationship as well as their friendship with their group develops in the future.
Honey So Sweet Vol. 1 was published by Viz Media on January 5th, 2016. Authored by Amu Meguro, the series began in 2012, running for 8 volumes in Shueisha’s Bessatsu Margaret magazine. Volume 2 will be published in English on April 5th, 2016.
All images taken from the free preview available on Viz’s website.
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