by Casey Brienza,

Honey Hunt

GN 2

Honey Hunt GN 2
Yura Onozuka, the shy daughter of two celebrity parents, is fast learning about how business can be a truly dog eat dog world. First, a jealous colleague spills coffee on her schoolgirl uniform costume. Then her manager Keiichi Mizorogi betrays her, leading her to doubt the sincerity of everyone she has ever met once more. And finally, the veteran actress who will be playing her mother in the Noodle Girl production harbors serious doubts about her actual acting chops—this woman has a longstanding rivalry with Yura's mother and believes that this chip off the old block only got where she is now through familial connections. Fortunately, our heroine is able to confront all of these challenges and more…with the support of her new friends, the Minamitami twins.

The manga with the title that sounds like a tacky adult video continues in a surprisingly untacky way—no small achievement for Miki Aihara, the mangaka who has drawn everything from a high school girl who becomes her boyfriend's slave yet ends up staying with the jerk anyway, to a high school boy who ends up in a torrid, not to mention sexual, relationship with his teacher. Nope, this time the subject is not slavery or statutory rape. The subject, this time, is stardom, and while some might consider celebrity, such as that peddled by paparazzi-supplied tabloid rags, to be as tasteless as the latter two categories, Aihara does not stoop nearly to those sorts of extreme lows of narrative construction. And honestly? Honey Hunt is all the better for her restraint.

The second volume of this ongoing shoujo series revolves around three main episodic conflicts and the heroine Yura's accompanying reactions and attempts to cope. The first of these conflicts began in the volume one: Another jealous cast member has ruined the Noodle Girl Natsuki's costume right before she is scheduled to begin shooting. Yura, though, demonstrates an admirable level of insight into her character and on the spot resourcefulness that leads to an impressive moment of triumph. This sort of on the job success seems reminiscent of Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura, and its influence—not to mention a “Me too!” sort of slavish attitude toward commercially successful manga creation that is endemic in Japan—shows here brazenly. But since it's subplots like these that make Skip Beat! great, Honey Hunt has also managed to put its best foot forward.

The second of the three main conflicts in volume two involves one of a more personal nature—Yura's relationship with her manager Keiichi Mizorogi. Although Yura was determined to become a professional actress all by herself, without the assistance of her parents' celebrity, as it turns out, Mizorogi was actually using her parentage to market her. Without her knowledge, of course. But during a press conference for the Noodle Girl show, she is unexpectedly outed as the only daughter of Takayuki Onozuka and Yukari Shiraki. Her faith in Mizorogi betrayed, she decides to flee the agency…and, with the help of Q-ta, who had missed the press conference due to a gig abroad, lands on the literal doorstep of Haruka.

Fortunately, none of this descends into anything smarmy…not a small accomplishment for a creator like Aihara. You get the feeling that Mizorogi is just doing his job and not trying to go out of the way to be a jerk to Yura. If he has to be ruthless, well, that's what show business demands. As for the twin brothers, they do not take advantage of her in any way. Rather, they help remind Yura what is really important. While she may have started in the biz as a way of getting back at her parents, she now realizes that she actually likes this work and wants to make a name for herself for her own sake. This subplot gives the reader the opportunity to get to know the principal characters better, and it's nice to see the mangaka attempting to create complex, interesting characters whose dark sides are less teeny-bopper bodice ripper extreme and more believable from a real world standpoint.

The final conflict rounding off this installment revolves around an old show business rivalry between Yura's mother and the actress who will be playing Natsuki's mother, Rinko Koizumi. The woman bears a grudge and believes, perhaps not without cause, that the man reason why Yura is to have received this early career honor is due to her parentage. She plans to test Yura to her acting utmost, and if the girl cannot impress this formidable matriarch, then her professional life might become quite…unpleasant. It's both rare and refreshing to see an older woman character of this sort in manga, and I hold out hope that she will become a permanent recurring member of the series' supporting cast.

All in all, with noticeable acceleration of the story, coupled with the mangaka's consistent draftsmanship skill, Honey Hunt is fast becoming the sort of shoujo manga that fans will want to hunt down for themselves. A teaspoon or so full more “honeyed” improvement, and it will become an absolute must read.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+

+ A good amount of plot development in the first volume. Attractive artwork and character designs.
Does not quite yet exceed in quality other titles of its subject matter and reader demographic.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Miki Aihara

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