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.
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.
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.
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.
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.