What Shouldn’t Work But Instead Got Amazing: Honeymoon Salad (Manga)

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One night, I read through 4 volumes (30 chapters) of Honeymoon Salad, an adult and sexually explicit love story manga by Ninomiya Hikaru serialized in Young Animal magazine. I can be susceptible to impassioned recommendations, you see.

I read through all those chapters expecting things to fall apart, either in terms of the writing, or in the implausible arrangement that the love triangle finds itself in, or both. A 27 year-old salaryman lives with his 28-year old ex-girlfriend from high school who is now a writer, and his current 23-year old (quasi-)girlfriend who is a contract seamstress. The women became good friends, and all of them have become co-dependent on each other.

Outside of the co-dependence, the relationships are genuinely warm, with integrity, and full of gritty love. This is a spectacular read.

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It’s indeed implausible, but the manga has deftly, carefully, and lovingly crafted these characters and their circumstances. Natsukawa Minori is an adult who has difficulty articulating himself, though he has a firm sense of propriety and consideration for others, he finds himself in a perpetual bad mood. Saito Ichika is an emotionally fractured “country mouse” in the outskirts of Tokyo – also unable to articulate herself satisfyingly though is blessed with kindness and generosity. Saito Yoko is the senpai ex-girlfriend that haunted Minori’s dreams and is part of his inability to be present with other people. Intensely driven, but also sensitive to others despite her apparent selfishness; she is also aware of the compromised circumstances she faces and guts it out in a way that wins my heart over.

At a time when Minori’s life seems grinding into a desolate place, both women show up in his life. Things happen in a way that feels fast but also so carefully presented that it feels inevitable not in an off-putting way. How they all end up living together comes after many little but intense things that give a feeling of no one really knows what is happening, only that they’re all for it.

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The two Saito women are reminiscent of Yazawa Ai’s Nana wherein the two protagonist women share first names. However, they do not share a man, nor do they compete for a man’s attentions. But, love triangle conventions aside, the two Saito’s are not actively competing for Minori’s attention or affection. How this actually plays out is amazing.

These are three good people who really need each other. The dynamics of their love affair is less about the man stewing over whom to love or commit to or the two women fighting over him. It’s a lot like… a family. People doing all they can to support each other and make a great life, to fulfill dreams. This is a sublime kind of sappy, amidst the darkness that undeniably shrouds all of them.

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There is a fifth volume yet to be scanlated, and I am on pins and needles waiting for my opportunity to read it.

Like in any male-centered love triangle (and I love my love triangles) I prefer one girl over another. This case it’s got to be Yoko. Yoko, is the standout character in this story, and the one I relate with the most. Maybe it’s her being a struggling writer (something I lived through in my 20s), maybe its her brashness but at the same time a self-aware irresponsibility that acknowledges how windows of opportunity in life and in love slam shut. Also, all at once a deep respect and love for the people she cares for.

Maybe things do fall apart in the end, but when it does there’s no cheap way to account for it. There’s nothing cheap about this story. It is precious, dear, and some kind of awesome. What Honeymoon Salad nourishes me with is how the truth is more than one thing, and I’m better for being reminded of it.

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Oh, before I forget, this manga can be enjoyed primarily for the sex. It’s well-illustrated soft core ecchi. Even so, there is a truthfulness to the depiction of sex, where things fail, where things actually take work and effort.

About ghostlightning

I entered the anime blogging sphere as a lurker around Spring 2008. We Remember Love is my first anime blog. Click here if this is your first time to visit WRL.
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32 Responses to What Shouldn’t Work But Instead Got Amazing: Honeymoon Salad (Manga)

  1. I hope people follow your advice and read this. Hopefully in the next 2 days, so they can enjoy my post. And hopefully they’ll also read Sugar wa Otoshigoro for that sake lol.

    Such an amazing manga. I loved both girls, but of course the slant goes to Youko – it has to, as a writer and ‘free spirit’.

    We need to promote this enough to get that scanslation done. It won’t just happen – it’s been nearly a year since chap 30 was done.

    • I respectfully request that you publicize this post as much as you can, as a more detailed partner of lolikitsune’s post. He’s doing his darned best and so am I. I look forward to reading your entry mang.

  2. *grumbles* As slow as I am about reading manga, especially scanslated stuff, I might have to give this a try later this week or on the weekend. We shall see. Thanks for the writeup and recommendation, it does sound really interesting.

  3. kimaguresan says:

    I’m a bit more than half-way through this and am terribly in love with this. Maybe I’m trying too hard, but it hits home for me, with some of my past relationships. I had to put it down, so to speak, last night, but I got home and won’t stop till 30 is complete. So hoping we can create enough buzz that the last volume gets posted.

    • It always pleases me when things I like affect other people even more than it did myself. Us married guys have a luxury of looking back at past tragedies and indulging all our melancholy because we have an escape to a better reality: the present.

      I can’t stress this enough. It’s a luxury paid for with heartbreak and I am one who makes the most of it.

  4. kaei says:

    I just started reading this thanks to your review, and I haven’t gotten very far yet (but I’m loving what I’ve seen so far) so I don’t know which direction it’s going to go; however, I’m curious about where you said “Like in any male-centered love triangle (and I love my love triangles) I prefer one girl over another.” However, it doesn’t seem that you actively dislike the other girl, so, I guess what I’m curious about is – because you also said “These are three good people who really need each other” – wouldn’t the optimal solution be not to have this little “family” break up at all, but rather be in a permanent, polyamorous relationship where all three are equal? Just curious.

    • That’s what I’m hoping for as well, but all he means is that by self-inserting himself with the male lead, he can see which girl he’d like more in that position. Not that he’d necessarily only choose her (though I won’t speak for him). I certainly would kill to have such a ‘family’.

    • lolikitsune says:

      You’re right. But who knows where they’ll end up? 10 chapters remain untranslated. 🙂

    • digiboy is right. I prefer her in a “self-insert” kind of way, and not a shipping kind of way. I’m still a bit ambivalent about that, but given Minori’s and Yoko’s history… it’s very hard not to root for them.

      The Baby Leaf manga is a 1-volume back story of Minori and Yoko. I find it a good explanation/telling of how they broke-up and why. The reason is heartbreaking.

      • Marla says:

        I’m just wondering. I just finished reading Baby Leaf and I must be slow. I have no idea why they broke up. I mean, was it: because she was there? She felt like it wasn’t her that he liked? She wanted him to grow? He was becoming attached? He was becoming a hermit? She didn’t love him?

        I mean, why?

        • Ugh, I’ll have to re-read it since it’s been some time.

          What I remember is that Minori’s reasons for liking/not being okay with her are pretty weeeeird; i.e. that whole bit about the monkey in the zoo. I think that has something to do with it.

  5. lolikitsune says:

    Great post, though I feel there’s so much more to say. I don’t know what I should say here and what I should save for potential post(s?) of mine on the topic, but hmm…

    If I were to pick one word from your post to be the most important, I’d say it’s “family.”

    It’s wondrous, really, close to unique, and magical how Ichika needs Youko, needs Minori to love Youko, even as Minori only really seems (romantically) interested in Ichika. They’re dysfunctional, but functional in their dysfunction. I think I cried a little when Youko came home.

    • kimaguresan says:

      There was definitely a tear when she came home.

    • There IS so much more to say, but at this point I didn’t want to take the discovery of such lovely things from the readers, not that I think I can get everything right, nor just address everything worth talking about.

      But yes, the family dynamic is probably unique, and I agree that there is a magical quality to it — but the kind devoid of sparkles and fireworks, but rather terse conversations and stiff lipped understanding (mostly by Minori).

      About dysfunction, here’s how it usually plays out:

      Characters are good, functioning, and at times amazing individuals.

      But,

      …they are terrible together/they bring out the worst in each other. The relationships are either what holds them back in life, or the things that are missing in their lives.

      In Honeymoon Salad,

      the characters are embattled individuals, they are limited by their hang-ups and their circumstances.

      But,

      …they are awesome together; they are awesome for each other. They bring out the best from each other. In their own lives they are unable to be there for another person in a significant way, but for each other they only give the best of themselves… the very best of themselves.

      Mang, this is beautiful. This is magnificent to me. I can only want everything that’s good to happen for each of them. But also beautiful is the very idea that it may not end up this way, that asking for this may just be too much from life. But for a time… it is beautiful like this.

      Also, http://ghostlightning.tumblr.com/post/1085496664/i-am-tempted-to-read-honeymoon-salad-as-a

  6. lolikitsune says:

    Also, thanks for spreading the word 🙂
    Validating to see this shit go around.

  7. Shance says:

    I never bothered to read all of the chapters, but skimming through it: I CAN ACTUALLY SEE THE ENDING.

    Now, I don’t want to speculate, but considering Minori’s current attitude, Youko’s persistence, and Ichika’s kindness, Honeymoon Salad might actually pull off a Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien here. If Minori gets softened by the two girls, however, it’s going to be an opened harem flag as an ending.

    For the final volume, it will mostly depend on Minori.

    • I don’t get the reference, but don’t bother explain it to me because I don’t want any spoilers or hint of spoiling. I hope you do find a translator and get this project done. I’d be so very thankful.

      • Shance says:

        I wouldn’t recommend it, but you should watch Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien when you have the chance. It’s more gratifying to watch than School Days, that’s for sure (even though you almost get the same thing).

      • Myssa says:

        Kimi Ga Nozomu Eien, by the way, had one of the more FRUSTRATING male leads prior to Makoto (just ask Stripey or Zyl). The series is dramatic, definitely, but most of the drama revolves around the stupidity the characters seem to just do.

      • lolikitsune says:

        Kimi ga Nozomu Eien is amazing. Watch it. But not right now. You need to breathe between these stories of broken people 😛

        @Shance: KGNE ending is out of question. Not going to say anything about the rest of your comment, since only the KGNE thing is not a spoiler for GL.

        • Myssa says:

          The series ending, or the OVA ending? In both cases (well, before the TV series ending anyway), extreme amounts of brain-wracking stupidity could be had.

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  9. Martin says:

    Not sure why, but I thought this was yet another high school story so I wasn’t too keen on putting myself through the teenage issues thing. Since the characters are roughly my own age (a rare and wonderful thing in manga) I think I’ll give it a read after all. Sounds like I’ll enjoy it…will get back to you on this one.

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