Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Chihiro Takahashi is a second son who can't quite figure out what to do with his life. When his brother gets married and moves his wife back into the family home, Chihiro finds himself drifting from place to place working menial jobs...until one night he finds an abandoned kitten and takes her home. Shiro fills the empty spaces in in his life, so when she falls ill, Chihiro is frantic. That's when he meets burly veterinarian Daisuke Kumazawa. The vet saves the kitten and offers Chihiro a job as his live-in housekeeper. But will their relationship remain strictly business?
It has been a good few months for fans of yaoi mangaka Norikazu Akira, whose Spirit of the Roses was released in English in 2007 by the now defunct DramaQueen. A little while back June released her one shot Beast and Feast, and now SuBLime is marking the debut of their print line with her (considerably tamer) Honey Darling. While SuBLime has digitally published several titles before, this is their first actual print release, and though it is not as sexy or romantic as it could have been, it is still a interesting book and a nice inaugural piece for the imprint.
Honey Darling's main character is Chihiro Takahashi, a young man without much in the way of goals. He's drifting through life, not really enjoying himself very much, when one night he finds a little white kitten abandoned on the side of the road. Before he quite knows what he's doing, Takahashi has adopted the kitten and uncreatively named her “Shiro.” Like most doting pet parents, he quickly finds that his home life revolves around her, so when he arrives home one day and she doesn't greet him at the door, he gets worried. When he realizes that she's sick, panic sets in. He goes haring off to find the veterinary clinic he thinks he remembers seeing, to no avail. It is when he is slumped on the sidewalk, crying over his sick kitten that he meets Dr. Daisuke Kumazawa, a veterinarian. Dr. Kumazawa takes Takahashi and Shiro to his clinic, where he saves the kitten and gives Takahashi a lecture about proper animal care, but relents when he sees that Takahashi is in tears. This, it could be argued, is the turning point of the series, as shortly thereafter he offers Takahashi (and Shiro) room and board if Takahashi will be his live in housekeeper.
Unfortunately, this is about as romantic as it gets and the yaoi plot is a bit thin. Kumazawa is stoic to the point where it usurps his whole personality. One chapter from his perspective does help to show the affection he feels for his handsome housekeeper, but for the most part he simply wanders around expressionless, even during the sex scenes. Takahashi is a bit more preoccupied with his cat than the good doctor until a fairly forced realization of love towards the end of the book, and in fact the author herself worries that what was supposed to be a BL story became a cat story. She also notes that it took her three years to complete this single volume, which also may account for the weak romance plot. It isn't that this is a couple we can't get behind – because they are an appealing pair – but more that there just isn't enough time spent on developing their relationship. Given a more concise pace or more books to tell the story in, this could have been Only Serious About You with a cat instead of a little girl. As it is, we have a nice story about two guys who happen to live together with a cat and an author who suddenly remembered that she needed them to end up as a couple.
All of that aside, this book looks very nice. SuBLime has included a color page in the beginning, and the art is very attractive. Both Takahashi and Kumazawa look appropriately masculine with the former maintaining the delicacy of line and slimmer body type required by the genre. Female characters play an actual, albeit small, role in the story and also have their own distinct looks, and Shiro, although not anatomically perfect, radiates feline personality whenever she appears. Surprisingly few other animals show up given Kumazawa's profession and readers may find themselves wondering why he, a vet, has no pets before Takahashi brings Shiro over. But when dogs and other animals do appear they are well drawn and backgrounds give a clear sense of place despite the fact that they are fairly sparse.
Honey Darling may not be the most explicit or romantic yaoi out there, but it is easy to see why SuBLime picked it to initiate their print collection. There are some very touching moments (mostly to do with the animals, but emotion is emotion) and while the sex scenes are explicit, they are pretty much devoid of graphically depicted genitals. In other words, this is fairly harmless all around with a bit of this and a little of that to make it safe for those who are simply yaoi-curious but still appealing to set fans of the genre. Honey Darling is a pleasant reading experience, and it, along with some of the digital only titles, presages the start of a promising new imprint.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Pleasant, attractive art, likeable protagonist. Some of the animal scenes are very touching.
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