Even though I make an attempt to review manga titles aimed at adult readers — or manga that I think has a lot of “crossover” appeal to U.S. comic book readers — in the blog, I also don’t want to neglect my 5 year love affair with shojo. I open with this thought as I take a look at the most recent volume of Miki Aihara’s latest work, Honey Hunt, along with other recent shojo releases throughout the week, since it is Aihara’s Hot Gimmick that first sent me down this long, strange trip way back in March of 2005.
Honey Hunt volume 4 (published by Viz). Generally, manga reviewers have reached a basic consensus about Honey Hunt — it isn’t as infuriating as Aihara’s Hot Gimmick but it isn’t quite as addictive either. I am actually fond of Honey Hunt and while the heroine, Yura, may not be a particularly strong or charismatic character, I enjoy the whirlwind familial, romantic and career drama that swirls around her almost constantly.
For those just joining us, Yura is the sheltered daughter of two celebrities who has basically lived her entire life in their shadow. Upon discovering her mother’s affair with her long standing childhood crush, Yura essentially “divorces” her parents and decides she will challenge her mother in the world of acting. Along the way, Yura attracts the attention of her father’s manager and two male musical stars who just happen to be brothers. While Yura claims to want to make a name for herself as an actor, volume 4 finds her wavering in favor of romance over career. Unlike Kyoko of Skip Beat!, Yura lacks the driving ambition needed to survive in show biz — right now she’s getting by on luck and a mild form of pluck but I’m still waiting to see if she ever realizes there’s more to life than having the undivided attention of her favorite male idol.
Aihara is rather famous for her male romantic leads, and each of Yura’s potential suitors bears some resemblance to one or a combination of more than one of the boys from Hot Gimmick. The difference is that here these figures are much more palatable, although they are all thankfully far from perfect (which would just be dull, of course). Personally, I am rooting for Haruka, the cranky but surprisingly decent boy band member because he’s a good, honest guy who just happens to have an enormous chip on his shoulder. I think I like Haruka so much because all of his emotional baggage is so completely visible to anyone who is paying attention, since, much like Yura, he lacks the self-preservation skill of concealment. Among all the potential love interests, he is the only one who is completely inept at manipulating people which means he is the only one who treats Yura like a real person. Most of this volume seems to focus on Q-Ta’s — Haruka’s main romantic rival and brother — desire to monopolize Yura in a decidedly unhealthy way, bringing to mind the worst of the controlling, abusive tendencies exhibited by Ryoki from Hot Gimmick. The difference here is a level of scale and dysfunction, as the much slicker Q-Ta (i.e. shades of Azusa) is much smarter about getting what he wants without having to resort to underhanded tactics.
Thanks to its focus on romance rather than family relationships, there’s something conventionally shojo about Honey Hunt, or at least much less outrageous than its predecessor Hot Gimmick. While I long for more pages devoted to Yura and her bizarre relationship with her parents, particularly her absolutely awful yet compelling mother, I also recognize that by stepping away from oppressive family ties that so completely mark Hatsumi Narita’s existence in Hot Gimmick, Yura’s story is far less off-putting to my sensibilities as a feminist. I might wish Yura had a stronger desire to become a trail-blazer in the world of acting, for now I’m content watching her innocently try to navigate modest successes in the realms of both romance and work.
Review copy provided by the publisher.