Honey Lemon Soda Volume 1 by Mayu Murata
I was aware that there was a great deal of anticipation when Honey Lemon Soda was licensed, and the first volume lived up to the hype! Popular boy inexplicably adopting an incredibly awkward girl is a familiar plot in most shoujo manga, but Honey Lemon Soda takes this premise and runs with it, making the reader feel instantly sympathetic with the introverted heroine in question. Uka Ishimori’s gets in the way of an errant blast of lemon soda wielded by Kai Miura. She freezes up and is unable to respond to his friends’ expressions of concern and she runs away when Miura apologizes to her. His friends comment “It’s kinda like she’s living out a different genre than the rest of us” which is a good way of summarizing how disconnected Uka is from people her own age.
In middle school, Uka was bullied, with classmates calling her “Rocky” due to her last name and stony expression. She’s determined to make friends and change in high school, and picked a school to go to based on its more laid back and flashy reputation instead of going to a school where people are devoted to studying. Every possible social interaction has Uka caught up in her anxious thoughts, as she has to force herself to offer to help a classmate with the answer to a question. Miura starts taking an interest, coaching Uka through some basic greetings. When she actually calls on him for help, he leaps in and defends her from some of her former middle school bullies. Uka starts expressing herself more often, although sometimes she’s so tense about communicating with others that her thoughts come out more like yelling accidentally.
Miura might look super cool with his effervescent blond hair, but he also seems to have more compassion than is typical in a shoujo hero, and he keeps dropping comments designed to help Uka become more comfortable with herself. Murata’s character designs are attractive, and there are plenty of dynamic panel layouts as the characters make their way through emotionally fraught situations. After reading the first volume, I am eager to see how Uka changes on her journey to break out of her shell and express herself more.