Story: Norikazu Akira
Art: Norikazu Akira
Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell
What They Say
Chihiro drifts through life with no purpose, going from girl to girl, until one day he finds an abandoned kitten in a box. He quickly falls in love with little Shiro and couldn’t imagine his life without her. One evening, Chihiro finds Shiro has fallen ill. While searching aimlessly for an animal hospital, he runs into Kumazawa, a local vet who takes Shiro into his care.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It’s been forever and a day since I picked up a boys-love manga and I hadn’t had a chance to check out something from SuBLime Manga yet, so I decided to take a stab at this one shot to see where the company is going with some of its releases. While I’ve never been against BL titles, there have been only a few that have really worked for me. I’ve ended up with a bunch of anime adaptations that have worked well but there’s something about the shows and the manga, especially the very short form ones, that tends to ring hollow for me since it’s so forced with a top and bottom angle rather than really just looking at a relationship. But it’s what the audience wants it appears, so that’s what we get. With Honey Darling, we do get a little bit of that, but it feels reduced compared to what I’ve read and seen before.
This single collection story as a whole is good, though it is amusing that it took about three years for it all to come together. The author did it as a short story at first, which is the opening two chapters, and then it took two years for it to come back and get going with the remainder of the book. The story is a fun one as it introduces us to Chihiro, a young man in his very early twenties that makes it clear he’s the epitome of a second son that was tossed aside and is just eking out an existence. It’s actually really interesting to hear his inner monologue about it as he goes on about the way life has pushed him around and now he’s just existing and feels that it’s the best that he can do. And with people saying just being alive is a feat, even that feels like it’s reaching high for him.
His life changes though when he sees a kitten in a box while walking home and he ends up taking her in, calling her Shiro. Unfortunately, it only takes a few days before the cat gets sick and he’s running around looking for a vet. The one he finds, Kumazawa, is a pretty good one but the man who runs it has the kind of big nature around him that’s very serious, earning him a lot of “bear” gags for obvious reasons. What Kuwazawa does however is view Chihiro as something just like Shiro, i.e. a cat, and he decides to offer him a job as a live-in jack of all trades that he amusing calls his wife. It’s not that they take on that kind of relationship between each other, it’s definitely boss and employee that has added friendship along the way, but there are plenty of gags related to it since Kuwazawa is single and Chihiro hasn’t had any luck with the ladies for the most part himself.
Because of the structure of the book with the gap in chapters, when it gets back into the swing of things after the break it’s moved it forward a few months and there’s a good comfort between the two men as they go about their jobs and you have Chihiro trying to learn to be a veterinary nurse and to try and find some sort of future since Kuwazawa inspires him. With a few additional people in the mix that work in the clinic and some good emotional stuff that works right in showing that there is more to Chihiro overall and why it’s making an impact on Kuwazawa. The only thing that kind of throws things off at first here is the whole arranged marriage aspect that gets drawn in, but it’s handled well when the details start to come out, especially in how Kuwazwa handles it.
What does always interest me with a boys-love title is just how far they go with it. Many just keep it to some over the clothes groping and some other things, but others can go all the way. Honey Darling definitely goes all the way, showing their first encounter together and the way that Chihiro deals with these feelings that surprise the heck out of him yet he wants more and more. It’s not a pushy, blush filled or annoying experience and in its own way it has its sweet moments but also makes it clear there’s some raw passion to be had as well. It’s definitely presented as the payoff to the story and it does work well here, both in design and how they make it work as and an actual couple at this point, but a lot of that comes because of the way the book spent so much time not focusing on the usual top/bottom aspect.
Honey Darling is a book that, as the mangaka says at times during it, seems to be more about the cat than anything else. It’s not really true, but it’s a book that has a good hear to it and avoids some of the traps that I usually find boys-love books to fall in, or perhaps just the ones that are continually brought over that I’ve seen. I came away from this book enjoying the characters, the banter and the whole animal aspect as well. Nothing is really overplayed and the characters have a very honest feel about them. I liked the way the relationship built up slowly, had some forced but playful aspects and just enjoyed itself. That made it even easier to enjoy and makes it an even easier recommendation if you’re looking for a good standalone volume title.
Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A-
Age Rating: 18+
Released By: SuBLime Manga
Release Date: June 12th, 2012