Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Honey So Sweet
Nao and Taiga are coming up on their one year anniversary, and they're still blissfully happy. But what about the other people in their lives? Will Yashiro and Misaki ever admit that they have feelings for each other? And is it really okay for Sou to sacrifice any romantic aspirations for Nao's sake?
There isn't much to wrap up in Amu Meguro's tooth-rottingly adorable shoujo romance Honey So Sweet. Nao and Taiga are together. They're happy. They plan to be together for the duration. Short of manufacturing a dreadful disease or a parental threat to move one of them overseas, there's not much more to be done with the characters and their love story that would be particularly interesting to read. So where does that leave the series with this final volume? The focus switches to our supporting cast, as Meguro pulls a Jane Austen and “restores every body to tolerable comfort.”
The most immediate issue is of course best friends Yashiro and Misaki, who have been part of Nao and Taiga's support system from volume one. The two have been dancing around their attraction to each other for books now – Misaki is embarrassed by the idea of a relationship, partially because he's working so hard to overcome the imagined stigma of his pretty face, and Yashiro is fiercely independent and doesn't like to think of herself as the romantic type. This certainly has made for slow going in their relationship, even though even Nao, not the most perceptive of souls, has figured out that there's something there. The onus to do something would seem to fall on their good friends to push the two together, and Nao and Yashiro do discuss it, but in a surprising move, Meguro doesn't have Nao and Taiga play a major role in getting Yashiro and Misaki to finally acknowledge their feelings to each other – it's up to the two in question themselves.
This is a good plan in a few ways. First, of course, is that it subverts the cliché of happy couples urging their friends into similar coupledom, even if it isn't what the friends want for themselves. While that does rear its annoying head later, here Nao largely leaves the decision up to Yashiro herself; she'll offer a sympathetic ear, but she won't push anything beyond that. Given who Yashiro and Misaki are, this is also a better fit with their personalities. Yashiro has spent the past seven books establishing herself as someone who is no-nonsense and moves on what she believes in, so this is a decision she needs to arrive at herself. If she felt pushed into a relationship, even if it was by Misaki, she would always question why she was there. Therefore it is Yashiro herself who makes the first move in the potential romance, not only moving beyond gendered behavior (the boy always makes the first move), but also staying true to her character and not turning into a soppy mess when romance rears its head. It also works well with Misaki as a character – he'd never garner the courage to kiss Yashiro, no matter how much he may want to. Their relationship change has to be moved by her if it's going to happen.
The way that this was handled makes it all the more irritating that Nao can't seem to understand her guardian/uncle Sou's choices. Nao, in the midst of a happy romance herself and having just seen her friends enter into one of their own, can't grasp that to Sou, familial love currently trumps romantic interest. This sends her on a misguided attempt to fix Sou's love life, ending his story on a much less believable note than hers. While it makes sense that she wants him to be happy and she's too young to understand his feelings about parenthood versus romance in terms of priorities, her actions mark the first (and only) time that she becomes an annoying character. To the author's credit, she does have Sou try to explain things to Nao, but his ultimate decision to call his former girlfriend at Nao's urging feels out of character for him. Simply put, it feels like Meguro is trying to force a traditional happy ending on Sou when that's not natural for the character, and while she doesn't take it too far – the ending leaves things ambiguous – it does sour the finale of the series a bit.
Honey So Sweet has been a charming series all the way through. If this final volume is a little less engaging, it might be because the author isn't yet comfortable with long series – this is her first to extend beyond one volume. Despite the slight stumble, the series ends on a nice note, with the reassurance that life will go just as planned for Nao and Taiga. With its dream-like artwork and clear belief that true love conquers all, Honey So Sweet ends with the strong feeling of happily ever after.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Nice ending for most of the characters, soft art works well for the story's mood, Yashiro remains true to herself
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