Honeymoon Salad: one of the best

This is in my top three manga of all time. Honeymoon Salad really is, to me, that good. I advise people who do plan to read this series to read Baby Leaf first, however. Baby Leaf is the prequel to Honeymoon Salad, and introduces one to the reason why the three main characters live such initially tragic lives.

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‘There’s no way to make a clean end of things of things. At this age, I’ve finally realized that,’ quipped Minori, the male protagonist of the series, at the very first chapter. It’s insinuated that he has problems ejaculating because of the psychological trauma his first girlfriend gave him when she left him out of thin air.

In short, shit’s happened in his life, and the primary reason is the girl who left him. The great thing about this series is that while all three characters are broken, being together with each other allows them to function the best that they could.

I keep thinking about why it took Youko ten years to catch up with Minori, but I realized that she must have been taking care of her mom. It’s stated in one chapter that Youko was devastated when her mom left her a large amount but passed away at such an early age. Also, she may have tried finding herself in her work: she did go abroad, after all. When she finally found what she wished to do in her life, she went to the only person she thought remained as family. While she may have matured, she still remained as reclusive as ever: after all, when her mother died, she went straight to Minori.

In ‘Baby Leaf,’ they functioned well as a couple, but Minori pointed out one of the biggest reasons that tore them apart: they never said anything or talked about what what most important to them. This was addressed early on in ‘Honeymoon Salad.’ While, obviously, Minori remained hurt, Youko told him after some hesitation how she really felt. When prompted by Minori as to why she came back, she replied in c02p17, ‘I came to settle things.’

It’s also in this chapter that we see how Minori is attractive to the two women that surround him. He may be brutish at times, but he is both considerate and reliable. Instead of physically hurting the panicking Ichika, he walked off; instead of throwing out the desperate Youko, he let her sleep on his bed, and was concerned about her throughout the chapter.

He is a modern-day gentleman.

This belief is further strengthened in chapter 3, where, despite his misgivings, he stays to protect Ichika. In a quixotic way, he manifests this consideration by trying to make Ichika orgasm during sex – then goes home after making her come. Sex is no longer an event of pleasure after Youko walked out on him, and this has led to his perpetual disaffection with life.

I love how the author subtly paints maturity with frankness. After his happy recollection of their meetings, Minori finally asks the question (in c05) he could never ask in the past: ‘What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say?’ One of the signs of adulthood is the lack of desire to cope with the bullshit of other people: as he no longer has time to play games with the woman he has loved first and last, he just asks her directly. Like before, she also ran away.

I see this as two antipodean women drawn toward the same man for the same things he provides: kindness, and stability. Minori isn’t the guy who will sweep women off his feet, but he is considerate, and quite a gentle man. It took Youko ten years to realize what she felt toward him all along, which was also the central reason why she did what she did toward him then. In the same vein, it took Ichika numerous sadomasochistic relationships to realize that love wasn’t shown by words alone: she has failed to believe in love because most of them were merely shallow words not backed by action. Although she still has difficulty in grasping the idea of love, Minori is the contrast to all her abusive relationships. He is a considerate person, and while still undeniably male, never views her merely as a tool to be used.

I think the most tragic thing about Ichika is that when true love actually arrives at the doorstep of her heart, she no longer knows what it looks like and fears that the few, broken pieces of her heart are going to get robbed again, even if it’s different with Minori. This prefaces the ending of the series.

The obverse, I think, is true with Youko. She’s had a fling with love, but was too immature to accept it back when she was younger, and repudiated it. After all her other responsibilities have disappeared, I believe her ultimate wish was to fix her life. This is the reason why she’s come back for the only man she’s ever loved, Minori. She’s faced with a dilemma, however, as Minori’s fallen for a girl who’s equally troubled in Ichika.

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Youko’s the mercurial girl who’s equally considerate and selfish: she broke up with Minori because she understood that he was a more sociable person and had a life to live. She thought he would be better off without her (similar to the inferiority complex of Ichika), but she didn’t want to let him go – and she didn’t want to be forgotten, so she spoke inconclusively.

Everything comes to a head when the emotions are all brought out of the table, and Ichika realizes that she doesn’t want to marry simply because she’s been too accustomed to getting hurt and knowing that words no longer cut it for her. She doesn’t want to be tied down by a word such as marriage, and also has a massive inferiority complex, to boot.

The island trip actually gave all of them the determination they needed to escape the rut they were all currently in: Ichika knew that Minori was the one; Minori knew that he had to marry Ichika, and Youko knew that she still, ultimately, loved him all that time.

I loved the ending particularly because how it provided closure to the tragedy between Youko and Minori. While in the beginning it was Youko who initiated the break-up, it was also she who initiated their marriage. Also prior to the chapter, she simply arrived at the answer she’s been looking for all this time: she could never leave Minori. Jack Twist comes to mind: ‘I wish I knew how to quit you.’

They’re all still fucked-up, but they’re more a family than a lot of families I’ve encountered.

Anyway, this manga reminds me of my flimsy romantic past, myself, and the hope I hold toward the future. I hope you enjoy it, too.

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