Earlier this year, Yen Press began releasing the shojo series Honey Lemon Soda, which introduced us to first-year high school student Uka Ishimori and love interest Kai. With Volume 2 in hand, let’s find out how their relationship develops!
Thanks to spending time with Kai, Uka has found some footing in the school hierarchy, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t still being made fun of or teased by her classmates. As we reunite with our heroine, we find her on a class hiking trip which is being hosted as a welcome event for first-year students. She turns up on the day with her gym uniform and a backpack filled with everything you could need for a hike, but everyone else is in their usual school uniform so she sticks out like a sore thumb.
To make matters worse for Uka, her fellow classmates decide to make her look like a fool as they change the signs along the trail. Uka has the only map, so everyone else is trusting her to take them along the right path, so naturally when they end up getting lost, all the blame falls on her.
While Volume 1 was about Uka’s middle school struggles, this one is very much about the problems Uka is facing from being friends with Kai. For as much sunshine as he brings to Uka’s life, he’s still one of the most popular boys at school so hanging around with him is bringing unwanted attention and jealousy to Uka. And just like in Volume 1, Kai is willing to help Uka to a certain extent but can’t prevent all the negativity.
It has to be said that Uka is well aware of her relationship with Kai causing her issues and Kai’s friend Takamine even warns her that staying by Kai’s side is likely to do her more harm than good in the long run. But our heroine wants to change herself and she knows that being with Kai is a gateway to achieving that. At the very least he acts friendly toward her and gives her courage to try and make friends in her class, even if that’s an uphill battle at times.
What I appreciate about Honey Lemon Soda is that it’s very grounded in reality. Kai hasn’t magically fixed all of Uka’s problems and despite the series being a shojo, it’s not fixated on the romance side of things either. Very little of this entry is centred around Uka and Kai as a potential couple, it spends the majority of its time with Uka’s struggles with making friends and facing tension in the classroom.
Given how many series like this would never think of putting the romance on the backburner in favour of character development, mangaka Mayu Murata deserves praise for being willing to take the story in a different direction from the usual. Building strong foundations now will pay off down the road when the romantic aspect does come to the forefront and ultimately it’ll be easier to buy into when Uka is in a better place. Right now she has her traumas to face and getting over those, gaining confidence and otherwise feeling comfortable in herself is not a short process. Jumping feet first into being together with Kai, with their difference in social standing, would be highly detrimental to her mental health.
Perhaps most importantly, now that I’ve read two volumes of this and watched how Murata approaches the story, I’m beginning to see how it has become such a long-running and popular series. There’s certainly a lot of potential here in terms of themes the creator can explore and there’s a lot of depth to it and its cast. As I said earlier, Honey Lemon Soda’s approach to its subject matter is rare for the genre and that’s going to be what draws in a dedicated audience here in the West. I certainly look forward to seeing more of it going forward.
As previously mentioned, Honey Lemon Soda Volume 2 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Amanda Haley with lettering by Chiho Christie. The translation reads well with no issues to note and there are a few translation notes at the back of the book, mostly detailing references.
Volume 3 is currently scheduled for an English release in August, so Yen Press is releasing this fairly quickly for now. This is reassuring, given the sheer amount of it to get through before we catch up to the Japanese releases.
Overall, Honey Lemon Soda Volume 2 builds on the strengths of the first entry and delivers a thoughtful story that’s willing to put the romance aside to better develop its cast. If you enjoyed Volume 1, then this one certainly won’t disappoint and certainly shows us why it has become such a long-running series.