Honey Blood Volumes 1-2, Tale Zero
Honey Blood is a strange choice to translate. It’s only two volumes (with a bonus book of short stories), because it got cancelled in Japan, and its plot is both very familiar and sadly unresolved in its short length. The author, Miko Mitsuki, isn’t well-known here — I couldn’t find any mention of anything else she’s done that’s been translated — so the question arises: why this series?
The answer seems to be “vampires” (as you might guess from the title and cover art). Vampires in moody, languid poses, and supernatural romance.
Young women are being attacked and losing blood. The rumor going around school is that it’s a vampire. Hinata doesn’t believe it, but then she meets her next-door neighbor, Junya, author of a very popular vampire romance novel series.
She finds the whole idea of his work silly, but he annoys and fascinates her by such remarks as “How could a mere child possibly understand?” and “You’re a virgin, aren’t you?” She tries reading his book, which tells her that kisses are contracts for vampires. A kiss means that the vampire will die when his love does, removing his immortality. This is twisted, linking love with death, but the kind of overblown drama that fires teen imaginations.
Hinata keeps wondering if he’s a vampire, while he (supposedly twenty-something but dressing and acting as if from another era) keeps making plays for her. It’s very stereotypical in how she blushes and pulls away but keeps winding up in his embrace, as though a shy schoolgirl was so irresistible. (A bit creepy if you stop to think about it, too, but catnip for the teen girl audience.)
The romance is not particularly believable, since it comes out of nowhere, and the mysticism surrounding the idea of kissing is juvenile. The series is rated for Teens, and I can imagine them enjoying the atmosphere and the highly dramatic vows of love. Most other readers will find it overdone. The end of book one has a bonus short about the author’s conflicts with her editor, spelling out how the series will end quickly (and hinting at why).
In volume two, the couple is officially dating, which includes picking out a more modern wardrobe for Junya, as his editor (and former lover) slaps Hinata and worries Junya will be thought of as a pervert. She’s my favorite. I’d like this manga more if it were about her, since she has a more reasonable, less cliched attitude. (But then it might be too close to Midnight Secretary.)
Instead, we get Hinata and Junya bathing together with her cringing the entire time. This volume also introduces a rival who wants to use Hinata to get back at Junya and goes into more detail about Junya’s previous love (whom Hinata happens to look just like). I found it all tiresome to get through, all the more so knowing that all the jealousy and plots couldn’t go much of anywhere in the short space available.
I cheered Hinata whenever she decided that the best thing to do was to talk to Junya about her concerns (she has found out about the appearance resemblance), but too quickly, thanks to someone else’s meddling, she goes back to simply worrying on her own. Or she misinterprets a gesture and jumps to conclusion, all typical elements of the “I need to fill space and spin out events regardless of how stupid the plot becomes” school of story structure.
There’s not much of a conclusion; the final chapter simply restates the questions raised throughout the series. We also get a bonus short with the rival.
Tale Zero, due out next February, reprints the original one-shot manga that served as a kind of pilot for the series. In it, Hinata is a fan of the writer next door, instead of someone who questions the premise of his work at first. She pursues him, although she’s still written off as naive and too young, and the order of events differs from the later series.
Two more Honey Blood one-shots follow, then two stand-alone stories by the artist. In the first story with Hinata and Junya, she wants to do date things during summer vacation, not paying attention to his limitations. His sacrifice to give her what she wants almost damages him, leading her to make a sacrifice of her own, reinforcing their dependence on each other.
In the other, the two watch the filming of a movie based on Junya’s novel. He’s jealous of her crush on the leading man, and the two’s meddling leads to increasingly ridiculous decisions, as they consider casting Junya instead. Still, I enjoyed these two stories more than the main series, since they were more playful when it came to the concept.
The other two stories are school romances. One features a guy who’s a talented makeup artist and a tomboy who learns to be “cuter and more ladylike” through his help. The other has two kids who grew up next door to each other realizing their more adult feelings for each other when a bus accident happens. None are particularly memorable or will stay with me much beyond reading. (The publisher provided review copies.)