Monday, May 25, 2009

Yuri Manga: Honey & Honey

It’s kind of a weird quirk, but I love seeing manga, anime, book, and movie titles named after food. ^^;; Strawberry Shake Sweet, Antique Bakery, Tokyo Marble Chocolate, Honey and Clover, and so on. Added to the list is Sachiko Takeuchi’s autobiographical comic essay Honey & Honey. (Yum! ^^)

Unlike Rica Takashima's Rica'tte Kanji!?, Honey & Honey is a full-color manga that was written primarily to explain lesbian life to straight female readers using short, humorous slice-of-life vignettes.

The story is about Sachiko, an openly self-identified "neko" (more of less the Japanese equivalent of "femme") lesbian who attends a mixer and meets Masako, a "tachi" (equivalent of "butch") bisexual woman who becomes Sachiko's girlfriend. Sachiko and Masako go through life- going to the movies, shopping, hanging out with friends, and other day-to-day activities, while Sachiko occasionally pauses to explain various lgbt terms (sort of an "LGBT 101") to the reader.

Most of Sachiko's exposition may seem obvious to lgbt people, but in fact, it's pretty enlightening to many non-lgbt people, especially people who don't personally know any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals. For example, one time this past year I explained what the term "out" means to my best friend who didn't know what it meant when I used it in a conversation. I was surprised that she didn't know, but only because I'm used to knowing that sort of thing. (Actually, today we debated about whether lilies or roses are more representative of the yuri genre. I argued for lilies, but she argued for roses because most of the yuri she's seen- like Utena, Marimite, and the Haruka/Michiru scenes in Sailor Moon- is chock full of rose imagery instead. But I digress. ^^)

When read after Rica'tte Kanji!?, which was made in the mid-90's, Honey & Honey provides a sort of barometer of how attitudes towards lgbt people have improved in Japan since the 90's, however incrementally, for those interested in that subject. Despite Sachiko's joie de vivre, Honey & Honey directly addresses the issues faced by sexual minorities in Japan (and many other places, really) without getting on a soapbox.

The art isn't anything to write home about. The backgrounds are sparse and the character designs are pretty basic, and very different from the usual "manga" style. Nothing special, but Sachiko Takeuchi makes good use of facial expressions, especially in comedy moments, giving each character his/her own signature "looks."

For some reason, I like Sachiko quite a lot, especially her dry humor. The other characters are nearly all likeable as well, aside from the odd sexist comment to pop out of Masako's mouth. ("I play the tachi role, so you should join my family and take my name!" What the hell? ^^) And, despite the positive portrayal of FtM people, I don't like the use of "Gender Identity Disorder" to refer to transgendered people, but that's a nearly unavoidable reflection of the context in which Honey & Honey was created, unfortunately.

For what it is, Honey & Honey is very good: a friendly tour through lgbt life in Japan with a group of pleasant characters.

Story: B
Art: B-
Overall: B

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