Honey Lemon Soda GN 2

Honey Lemon Soda GN 2

What distinguishes Honey Lemon Soda from its contemporaries? It’s the readiness to acknowledge that, even with the help of the most popular boy in class, breaking free from ingrained habits and the things that plague you is neither quick nor simple. The protagonist of the narrative, Uka, endured ruthless bullying in middle school, and it is not something you can easily “get over.” Mayu Murata, the creator, is aware of this and doesn’t use any magic to transform Uka into a popular girl overnight or even just into a contented person who is at ease with her circumstances. Uka desires change and trust, but she has endured too much tragedy over the years to allow herself to relax her guard. Even with this volume’s more overt wish-fulfillment aspects, she does everything with a trembling air as if she’s anticipating someone to suddenly cut away the floor she’s walking on.

Nothing better illustrates this than the first few chapters. Uka sets herself up for failure right away by being the only one who followed the instructions: the other students are all wearing their regular uniforms with sneakers as their only nod to practicality as the first years prepare for the (dreaded by me) class hike. You better believe that the majority of her class is prepared to snicker and ridicule her in ways that are all too familiar since we can tell from Uka’s shaky manner that she is regretting her faithful obedience to the rules even before she tells us. Because Kai is the boy whom all the females are vying for, the fact that he simply acts normally only serves to stoke their jealousy. Due to her possessing a map, the fact that she is the only one dressed for hiking, and this envy, one of the other students tampers with the trail signs and leads the group down a more tougher path, setting her up for bullying. Uka is held accountable when the group declares themselves to be lost because she is the one with the map and hiking gear. In what way was it, not her fault?

Since this isn’t Limit, things naturally turn out for the better, but this plotline demonstrates that Uka’s social issues won’t all be resolved by being friends with popular Kai. Kai is no more mature than any other fifteen-year-old child, and while he can help a bit, he’s not ready to (or in the position to) entirely save Uka. Since it’s much more common for the contrary to be true in this kind of manga, this works in Honey Lemon Soda’s favor. Although he doesn’t want for things to get worse, he might actually be contributing to it. Takamine suggests to Uka that perhaps she shouldn’t be hanging out with Kai after learning the truth about the trail incident because doing so will only expose her to more nonsense like this.

I believe it’s fair if that has the whiff of a different form of bullying. Takamine is a bit of an enigma, and it’s unclear whether he’s trying to oust Uka from his circle of friends or if he genuinely wants to help her. (Or perhaps simply away from Kai.) To Uka’s credit, she resists accepting what he says, but it still hurts her. It becomes worse when popular girls, including his ex, enter the restaurant where she is being harassed for hanging out with Kai and the gang. The truly terrible thing is that Uka already essentially understands what Takamine is saying; she is well aware of her social standing and frequently engages in self-defeating behavior unless abruptly shocked out of it. Her underlying belief is that she is destined to be alone and that no one will aspire to be her partner. Kai and Ayumi don’t really comprehend how difficult it is for her to recover every time someone disparages her. Whether Takamine? I wouldn’t hold my breath, but maybe.

Of course, Serina, Kai’s ex-girlfriend, is another surprise in this volume. She immediately establishes herself as one of Uka’s protectors, standing up for her against other females who don’t believe she merits Kai’s attention. Uka is uneasy just thinking about her interaction with him in middle school, but she is beginning to accept the possibility that not everyone will treat her badly. Serina’s support of Uka could be helpful if it’s sincere, of course, as she is actively trying to move on and persuade herself that she is permitted to join and be happy.

The future may not be easy because Kai is beginning to admit how he feels for Uka and others are recognizing it as well. This volume’s story of Uka is very much a case of “one step forward, two steps back,” but it gives the book a sense of reality that we don’t usually get. Honey Lemon Soda’s status as the type of shoujo romance that’s simple to fall in love with—one that’s sweet and bitter with just a hint of effervescence—is cemented by this second volume.


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