Honey So Sweet
honey – ハニー –
Shoujo – Romance, slice-of-life
8 Volumes (complete)
Shy Nao is summoned by the scariest boy in school to talk. She expects Taiga the delinquent is going to demand she be his gofer, but instead he asks her to be his girlfriend! Too frightened to refuse, Nao agrees. But while Taiga does have a sharp face and lots of rumors surrounding him, Nao starts to realize he may actually be so sweet.
It’s time for your Japanese lesson of the day!
Bakappuru (also stylized as bacouple). A portmanteu of “baka” and the Japanese pronunciation of “couple” (kappuru). One of the first words any anime fan learns is baka, stupid/idiot. So, of course, a direct translation is “stupid couple”.
But this doesn’t mean two people in a relationship who lack brains. Instead, a bakappuru is a couple who dotes on each other, a pair of lovebirds who act so affectionate with each other that they often make other people feel embarrassed. One of the main characters in the series, Mizuki, often calls out the “silly couple”.
And that’s what Honey So Sweet is about: a bakappuru.
In fact, this song is just about perfect for this series:
The feeling while listening to Honey is the same feeling I get when reading Honey So Sweet: light, soft, and calming.
Nao hasn’t had much success in making friends in high school. But even she has standards: no delinquents! The timid Nao feels like her luck has totally abandoned her when schoolmate Taiga seeks her out. Instead, though, he gives her a bouquet and asks to date with marriage in mind. As the two start to “date”, Nao feels guilty that she’s leading Taiga on, as he makes her lunches and is not violent or demanding toward her in any way. She eventually confesses she has feelings for her uncle and guardian, Sousuke, but being around Taiga makes Nao realizes she actually loves him and not Sousuke. The rest of the series is focused on their dating and their attempts to broaden their social circle.
Although I say “dating”, the two don’t really go out to places. They hang out during lunch, study after school, and text/call on the phone, and… that’s pretty much it. In a world of fast romances both in the real-life and in fiction, it takes quite a while for them to even kiss. (Although Taiga says he wants his first kiss to be at his wedding, he almost gives a sleeping Nao a kiss before they become a couple.) Otherwise, their relationship is something you might see in an episode of Full House or something. The only real aspects that bumps up this rating from being G/PG is a situation involving Kayo, the girl who becomes Nao’s best friend and some comments about Nao’s bust size.
Speaking of Kayo, she reminds me of being a fun (and funnieir) version of the best friend in Kare First Love. Like Nanri, Kayo starts off not having any interest in making friends, and her relationship with her older boyfriend becomes a minor plot point. Meanwhile, Taiga gains a couple of close friends in the “tsundere mascot” Ayumu and outgoing Ayaha. While the rest of the cast is relatively calm and easygoing, Ayumu is stubborn and easily flustered.
While tsundere characters are common, a lot of readers are mixed about them. However, considering everyone else is easygoing and likes to keep their true thoughts hidden, his too-obvious reactions help add a dash of variety to the story. Especially since Ayaha and a new character late in the story provide the quintessential love triangle aspects. Not that those two had any chance because, again, Nao and Taiga only look at each other.
Some of you are probably reaching for you anti-cavity medicine, but wait. What I like about Honey So Sweet is that it focuses on a sweet romance, but it doesn’t lecture readers. It doesn’t paint Nao and Taiga’s story as the love story to end all love stories, that there is nothing else needed in the world if you have love. Both actively try to make friends and don’t become obsessively jealous. If you’ve ever watched a Hallmark Channel movie, that’s pretty much Honey So Sweet. A bit idyllic, but often cute and generally harmless.
But while those flicks tend to focus on a theme (save the town from bankruptcy, finding a Christmas tree, etc.), Honey So Sweet just kind of meanders. There’s the usual sports events and funny supporting characters, but this manga isn’t heavy on character growth for the leads or an eccentric high school life. There are definitely parts where the storyline is rough around the edges, like the ending. The manga goes out with a whimper, suddenly skipping ahead from planning their fall break to an epilogue about seven years later. Honey So Sweet wasn’t planned on being so long, but aspects like Taiga’s brother still didn’t find time to be included. Taiga is good at cooking, and I thought we’d see more of him training to potentially take over Sousuke’s cafe. It’s not like anything other than perhaps maybe a side couple teased late in the story not being explored, but considering the pace of the rest of the manga, it doesn’t feel like it was a natural place to draw the curtain.
Speaking of Sousuke, can we give him some type of award? Best guardian or something? In a world full of absent or outright awful parents, Sousuke willingly gave up his job to take over his sister and brother-in-law’s cafe in order to raise his young niece. He puts Nao first, gives the main couple advice, and is very hard-working. He gets a bit melancholy as Nao starts growing up and relying on him less, a welcome change from many parents who kick their kids out at the first opportunity.
As you would expect, the art is very soothing. It’s light, it’s fluffy, and it’s straightforward, a perfect mirror of the storyline. I really don’t have much to say as it’s fairly standard shoujo fare. In particular, I’m reminded of Mikimoto’s art from Kiss Me at the Stroke of Midnight. This is Meguro’s first multi-volume series, but it doesn’t feel like she is an inexperienced newbie. The art changes very little over the course of the series, and any differences can easily be explained in-universe as them physically maturing.
No honorifics are used. So Nao’s nickname of “Tai-chan” becomes just “Tai”, etc., and this slightly changes the nuances of the beginning of the third volume. Not huge, but “Ta” by itself sounds like a really bad nickname. (Glad Nao rejected Taa-kun!”) Even earlier, Taiga objects to be called “Oni-chan” (a cutesy nickname) by the janitor while in English it makes it seem as if he’s object to being called “Oni” (“Demon”). And while Viz often tends to use “sensei”, they don’t in the bonus inserts where Sou is a teacher.
While the original Japanese title is just Honey (stylized as honey), it becomes pretty obvious why the series was expanded to include the phrase “so sweet”. That’s because it is the shoujo equivalent of sugar, pure cotton candy for romance fans.