Title:Honey Lemon Soda Vol. 1 Author: Mayu Murata Publisher: Yen Press Language: English Format: Paperback Pages: 192 Genre: Slice-of-Life, Romance Publication Date: January 17, 2023
In Honey Lemon Soda Ishimori lives inside her head. She doesn’t have any social skills whatsoever and, because of such, she has earned the nickname of “rock.” One day, a boy named Miura with blonde hair takes a stand and defends her against some bullies. Many who know him think that it’s strange for him to go out of his way to help anyone, let alone a girl; however, he has done just that. Little by little, he begins to help her more and more to make her dreams come true… simple dreams of becoming a different person.
In the first volume, we get a bit of an introduction to Ishimori and Miura as characters. We get a little bit of backstory as well that answers some of the immediate questions. From there, we are taken on the beginning of our journey of Miura promising to make Ishimori’s paltry dreams come true. From telling her to ask him for help whenever she needs it to simply just sitting next to her in class when their seats change, little tiny nuances begin to add up to something bigger.
Rather than going point-by-point here in the story section, I’m just giving a brief overview and I will explain a bit about why in the final thought section.
We have a rather small cast of characters to start us off with so let’s tackle them.
First up is Kai Miura. His blonde hair is likened to lemon soda by Ishimori but that’s the only thing sweet about him. Kai is very brash and offputting. He doesn’t seem all that approachable and has only a couple of friends who truly understand him. This is why when he reached out to Ishimori, it seemed odd to everyone around him. So, we’re going with the rough and tough bad guy with a golden heart for this story… in other words… the male tsundere. I’ve seen a couple of other series take this approach. I wonder if this is the next trend in romance manga.
Next up is Uka Ishimori. Her social anxiety is finally treated with a bit of respect! What I mean by that is the fact that a lot of these series, where social anxiety is the focal point, get the comedy treatment. It takes a serious condition and practically mocks it. Here, there’s really not much in the way of comedy here… and if there is, it’s at Ishimori’s expense because of her condition and not making fun of the condition itself. With that, we get a good understanding of who Ishimori is as a character and the hardships she faces. This also allows her wish to be heard… her wish of becoming a different person.
She’s not just trying to live with and cope with her anxiety… she’s trying to overcome it. She even begins to develop feelings for Miura which means that she is also experiencing love for the first time. At first, she thinks it’s impossible but when Miura gives her the courage to make her dreams come true, her desire to change as a person grows stronger over the course of the first volume. Even simple things such as getting passed a basketball to show off her skills in P.E. is enough to show that she can change if she’s willing to do it but anyone with social anxiety can tell you that those mental roadblocks always prevent the simple from being simple.
We also have our cast of side characters such as Tomoya Takamine who is just a level-headed pretty boy. He understands what Miura is doing and is kind of staying out of Miura’s way. He’s acting more as an observer but he also steps in to defend Ishimori whenever she gets bullied. Right now, he’s kind of just there in the background but we’ll see if he amounts to more later.
Speaking of in the background… Satoru Seta is… um… there. He’s the fourth member of Miura’s little group and… um… that’s about it. You now know as much as I do about the character.
Finally, we have Ayumi Endou. She’s part of the group and doesn’t really do much until they have to change seats in class. There’s a bit of a misunderstanding (in a good way) between Endou and Ishimori. Before moving seats, Ishimori works up the courage to ask her to be friends but Endou was like “What do you mean? I thought we were already friends!” This tells me a lot about Endou and how she’s just outgoing and easy to get along with. She seems pretty cool.
I will be completely honest. I had some mixed feelings about the first volume. Based on the synopsis, it seemed pretty interesting but I think part of the issue is the art style. Some pages were clean, but others looked like just a mess. Some panels were drawn so small that even squinting made it hard to figure out what was happening. The dialogue positioning and formatting were a bit all over the place and oftentimes interrupted the flow of the story. It wasn’t super jarring but there were times when I was bouncing between inner thoughts and speech bubbles and losing my place in the dialogue. Less of that or grouping and confining the two would be better. I know most manga series do this but this one seemed to do it a LOT more than usual.
The only other gripe I have is the backstory. Once again, we are treated to a “our two main characters met in the past but do they actually remember one another?” I literally just read that in Miss Miyazen Would Love to Get Closer to You. I also read that in a light novel, Just Say You Won’t Let Go, too. Is this becoming another popular trend? I don’t like it for one reason… it’s not established upfront.
So, what do I mean by that?
A manga introduces us to two main characters. It treats those two characters as if they had never met before previously. None of the dialogue or interactions hint at it. Then, we get a flashback scene where it’s revealed that they did run into each other a long time ago. One of them wonders if the other remembers them and it turns out they do but opt not to say anything until its convenient for them to bring it up… typically before a confession or as a revelation that they knew and/or remembered all along.
This “Selective Amnesia” trope is highly annoying. Is it really that hard just to start off the manga with the backstory so it’s already established that they knew each other versus making it seem like they’re strangers and revealing that’s not the case? It’s jarring and unnatural and I wish series would stop with that crap.
But outside of that, the story itself was decent. It’s not the best start to a series I’ve read as there wasn’t really a major hook. Slight spoilers… they simply ended the volume talking about what Miura’s type is in terms of girls and it’s obvious that Ishimori is not that type. I guess that’s supposed to be a “UH OH” ending but… what would be the point of even making this series if Miura just wasn’t ever going to be interested in Ishimori? What kind of romance series would this be if he just helps her overcome her problems and is just like “okay, job done. See ya?”
In that retrospect, the ending didn’t really make sense. The only way it would make sense would be to break the expectations that the other characters have for Miura but since the volume doesn’t continue after that moment, we won’t know if that’s the case until volume two. Since that is the most likely and predictable outcome, why even use that as a “cliffhanger” ending? It’s a moot point.
Overall, just a decent start. I’ll continue to give it a chance to see if any of the issues get worked out. I am interested to see if Ishimori overcomes her issues and stops getting bullied but outside of that, there really isn’t much to root for so far.
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