Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Nachi and his kohai Sakaki work for the same firm, and Nachi always seems to come up short when compared to the other man. Despite that the two have a firm friendship...but is “friend” the way Sakaki really sees Nachi? The two have a mutual acquaintance in lawyer Takizawa, who specializes in cases involving juvenile delinquents. This may come back to haunt him, but first he needs to figure out why part-time worker Haruto will smile for everyone but him!
Like many a yaoi one-shot, Yura Miyazawa's Honey Smile tells more than just the story on the back copy. Divided into two three-chapter stories, Honey Smile gives us the slightly related romances of two sets of office workers: the first three chapters cover the romance between college buddies turned coworkers Nachi and Sakaki, while the second half of the book follows the titular tale of lawyer Takizawa and his relationship with partimer Haruto. While both stories are sweet and ultimately harmless, this also results in neither of them really standing out from the crowd. Fans of yaoi more focused on the relationship than the sex will find this a charming somewhat forgettable book that is good but not great in nearly all of its aspects.
“Whereabouts of a Smile,” the first story in the volume, gives us Nachi, an office worker who is of average competency and cheery disposition. Nachi's college kohai Sakaki has followed him into the same company and often seems to be covering Nachi's back, helping out quietly when need be. Sakaki takes care of Nachi outside the office as well, putting him up when he's had too much to drink. Other co-workers are a bit baffled by this, largely because of Sakaki's nearly expressionless face. Only Nachi can tell when his friend is in a good or bad mood, and this serves as the basis for their romance. The slow build of Nachi's feelings as he comes to understand Sakaki's would be more impressive in a longer story, but Miyazawa still makes it sweet, and while Nachi's willingness to date another man isn't quite as believable as in some other series, it still is sufficiently romantic to make the tale work. Miyazawa's use of the second story's protagonist, Takizawa, as a catalyst in Nachi and Sakaki's romance serves as a nice transition between the two stories, making the book read as a cohesive volume rather than a collection of two stories too short to merit their own graphic novels.
Takizawa, the chain-smoking juvenile lawyer who helps get the heroes of “Whereabouts of a Smile” together, is decidedly less charming than Nachi when it comes to the point of view character. A former bad boy himself, Takizawa specializes in cases involving young delinquents, and this inadvertently leads him to true love. Haruto is a part-time worker at Takizawa's firm, and while he is a smiley, friendly fellow to most of the office, he never smiles at Takizawa and rarely makes eye contact. This irks Takizawa, and he sets out to befriend the younger man, which leads to a discovery about Haruto's reasons for being at the firm in the first place, to say nothing of why he avoids Takizawa in general. This story features a much bigger age gap between the protagonists, although both are of age, and has a more unequal feel in many ways. It never ventures into nonconsensual territory, however – it just isn't as sweet as story as the first one. It does, however, feature Takizawa genuinely attempting to make changes for his love, which is a nice addition.
Miyazawa follows a distinct pattern in both of the stories in Honey Smile, with the first two chapters of each tale being told from the point of view of one character and the final chapter from the perspective of the other. This helps to show the mutual nature of both relationships, and it is nice to get inside the heads of both parties. Both stories do contain a sex scene, but they are far from graphic and seem to be included to enhance the readers' understanding of the characters' relationships rather than to titillate. Her art is fairly basic within the conventions of the genre – the seme is taller and generally more masculine in appearance than the uke, each couple is made up of a dark-haired and a light-haired man, and lines are delicate. It is pleasant to look at, but nothing revolutionary.
Perhaps that is the best way to sum up this book in general – nice, but nothing major. Featuring two pleasant stories about men falling in love with attractive art and a good amount of faithfulness to genre conventions, Honey Smile is a nice little bad day book when you need something to cheer you up. It's a bit forgettable, but it is charming, and sometimes, that's all you need.
Overall : C+
Story : C+
Art : B
+ Both romances are strictly consensual, overall stories are very sweet. Pleasant, if slightly generic, art.
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