Opposites attract in the Jdrama Honey So Sweet (2018) starring Hirano Sho, Taira Yuna, and Yokohama Ryusei

Thursday, August 12, 2021

  • Movie: Honey So Sweet
  • Country: Japan
  • Year: 2018
  • Length: 105 minutes
  • Genre: Friendship, Comedy, Romance, School, Youth
  • Starring: Sho Hirano, Yuna Taira, Ryusei Yokohama, Kaho Mizutani
  • My Rating: ★★★★ out of 5
  • You can find a list of my Japanese drama reviews on my Japanese Drama and Movie Reviews page. 

    Many thanks to RJGMan56 Subs for the fansubs! It's because of folks like this person that we're able to watch quality Japanese content with subtitles! You can either stream or download with English subs from their website, go to THIS PAGE!

    This film is marketed as Honey, but it's based on one of my favorite manga, Honey So Sweet by Amu Meguro.

    It tells the story of red-haired delinquent Taiga Onise (Sho Hirano) and self-professed scaredy-cat Nao Kogure (Yuna Taira). On the first day of high school, Onise calls Kogure out behind the school, and asks her to date him with marriage in mind. He knows it's because she lifted his spirits once in middle school when he'd been beaten up pretty badly and was huddled on a bridge. She just thinks she's being bullied by a delinquent. Turns out that delinquent can cook, knows how to smile, and wants what's best for the people around him. He notices and cares when one of his classmates, Ayumu Misaki (Ryusei Yokohama), is alone and depressed. And he reaches out to help socially awkward Miyabi Nishigaki (Nana Asakawa), a girl who never quite knows the right thing to say at the right time. Kogure even makes a friend in classmate Kaya Yashiro (Kaho Mizutani), something she never imagined happening before. She's starting to spread her wings. As Kogure starts to realize all of Onise's good points, she's understanding that her feelings for him might just go deeper than she originally thought and that the crush on her Uncle Sou that she's had for years might just be filial love after all. But will her realization of her feelings come too late? Will she be able to clearly communicate with Onise how her feelings for him have developed?

    Kogure being brave.

    I struggled a bit in writing this review. I wrote one version that railed on the differences between the movie and the manga, but now, finally decided that I had to judge the movie as much as possible on its own merit. Because what we have here is a movie that is probably 65% accurate to the Honey so Sweet manga. And while I might prefer the manga overall, the movie is also excellent. It's not an excellent adaptation, but it's an excellent story on its own, so the two things, manga and movie, really are very separate.

    So we'll go with that version of the review.

    Onise after he was all heroic on the school camping trip.

    Sho Hirano-san is outstanding as Taiga Onise in Honey So Sweet.

    He plays a gentle, lonely soul who falls in love with Kogure before he even knew her name. She did him a kindness when everyone else steered clear of him. So he made a decision to change his fighting ways (or at least, the reasons why he fought). There's a joyfulness to Hirano-san's performance that is charming. He's a likable incarnation of Taiga Onise, and I adore him in the role. Yuna Taira as Kogure is equally excellent. She's well-paired with Hirano-san, and she just sparkles with a cute vibrancy. She's actually the most like her manga character, I would say. And because I can't not mention him, yes, Ryusei Yokohama is terrific. He doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, but he gets enough, and it's fun having him there as the best friend to Onise.

    My favorite scene in the film, ahhhh, he stops her head from hitting the table when she falls asleep.

    One of the awesome things is the total lack of a genuine love triangle. That's a good change, in my opinion, from the manga that had a couple of different love triangles going on. There's also a really solid moment of understanding for Onise as to how he can live up to saying that he will protect Kogure. It's a common thing to say in Japan, but at the same time, for Kogure who has lost both her parents, saying that he'll protect her and make her happy has to have a deeper meaning. Her uncle exhibits smatterings of character traits from the manga, but my favorite scene with him is not from the manga, actually. He has come to a full acceptance of Kogure's maturity and growth, and he lets her go in this endearing moment that relives one of her growing-up moments when she was six and had just lost her parents. It's really quite precious.

    And the other half of my favorite scene.

    I'm also partial to stories where the boy can be the heroic figure. I'm old-school. I like boys being heroes in terms of saving the day and protecting the girl. Who would have thought a day would come when that would be considered weird? So I love Onise's protective side, and so does Kogure. He's valiant and kind and cute and shy and all of the adorable things, all while being completely masculine. They're an excellent example of the traditional masculine and feminine, actually. And for me, I love it.

    Misaki giving Kogure a little bit of a pep talk (because I have to have a picture of Ryusei).

    Now, on to content. Stolen kisses do bother some individuals (a question of consent), so I'll admit that Onise steals a kiss from Kogure while she's sleeping. It also happens to be one of the cutest scenes in the manga and in the movie, so . . .? Plus, he spends a ton of time on the guilt-trip train afterward, pure Onise. We do have a high school girl whose boyfriend is definitely in his early twenties whereas she's only 15. Not cool, but also, not necessarily shocking in Japan. I'm sorry to say. There are some brawls and a boy gets beat up pretty badly in a rather violent scene. A girl has clearly been hit by her boyfriend. There's some peril and jeopardy and a girl being threatened by scary guys. A boy lets himself get beat up. And of course, there's Kogure's crush on her uncle. A common trope that goes absolutely nowhere and makes me wonder why the mangaka put it in in the first place. *sighs*

    The two lovebirds, Kogure and Onise, pinching each others' cheeks to make sure the moment is really happening.

    I will say that there is an unfortunate lack of time. So a lot of the relational elements from the manga get skimmed over or skipped entirely. And things are changed, like Yoshiro's boyfriend's entire personality and Misaki's character design since he's a combo plate of Misaki and Futami (an annoying love rival for Kogure in the manga). Viewers who've read the manga should be aware of the changes, and viewers who've never read the manga, well, ya'll won't know what you're missing and that's okay. Because this story does work, it's just different. Like two different chefs making strawberry shortcakes with the same ingredients. Things will taste a little different, but it doesn't mean that one is bad, it just means that you'll probably prefer one over the other based on taste. 

    And because I mentioned him, Kogure's uncle, Sou (a truly kind and generous man who loves her like a daughter)

    I've watched the movie more than once, and I will watch it again. But if you can, read the manga. Because, love triangle craziness aside, it's ADORABLE!

    Proof from my ever-growing manga collection.

    And finally, this delightful music video by JustOneGirl (because I love including these). Keep in mind, what you're seeing is the creative license of the creator. It's not entirely accurate to the movie in terms of what's actually happening. But it's cute nonetheless.

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    Discovering the World of Art Restoration

    Wednesday, August 11, 2021

    At this point, it's probably been two weeks since I've watched anything requiring subtitles. So much is going on in my life right now, what with the house purchase, and other things, that my brain just rebels at the thought of watching something that requires me to read along.

    Instead, as a form of decompressing every evening, my sister and I have started watching the Baumgartner Restoration YouTube channel. He's a professional art restorer and I love that he shares his work in this way. His restoration videos might only be 20 or 30 minutes or it might be a piece that takes 3 or even 5 videos to tell the entire story. One painting was done on wood and it was broken in several sections so that process spanned several videos.

    If you're looking for something soothing to watch to help you unwind, then this might just be the channel for you. Some videos have narration, others are pretty much accompanied by classical music while you watch him clean and restore the artwork.

    Below is one of my favorites, the restoration and cleaning of a painting of St. Francis.

    Or there's this video series of his restoring a piece called A New Dawn. I'm especially amazed at how removing the old varnish and applying new varnish makes the paintings come alive!

    May you enjoy discovering the magical world of art restoration!

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    When the next two months look like a form of CRAZY

    Friday, August 6, 2021

    It's crazy how so many things seem to happen all at once. Like, if you're banking on one important thing happening, then likely at least one more, and possibly two will happen at roughly the same time.

    The last time this happened was when I was going to college full-time, working part-time, and also in a local theatrical production of Pride and Prejudice as Charlotte Lucas. I ended up having a complete break-down at work, my mother being called by my concerned supervisor, and taking three days off in addition to having the weekend. It let me get caught up on sleep (that was a luxury during those few months of that play), and schoolwork, and then I was able to recover and be much more myself.

    Thankfully, the crazy isn't that bad this time around, but I am also far more aware of my limitations than I was 10 years ago. When I need to step away from my job for a few hours, I do it. My job thankfully has that type of flexibility to allow me that luxury.

    What's going on, you might ask?

    Two things.

    First, an updated system rollout for my workplace, switching entirely from an older version of software to a newer version. It looks and operates completely differently. Why does this affect me? Because I write the procedures for the processing department. That's my job, and I'm very good at it, and I have a team to support me and who I support when they need it. So that's all awesome. But it's still exhausting and intimidating sometimes when rollout after rollout keeps coming and my brain wants to go into overload. Especially if I'm only given a day to prep for something.

    Second, my sister and I are buying a house. We close on August 31st. It's a charming home, all recently remodeled, and just perfectly suited to us. Even the neighborhood feels well-manicured and calm. We're so thankful to be moving out of the apartment lifestyle. BUT, the idea of moving and getting all the paperwork signed and not forgetting anything brings its own set of challenges and stressors.

    I would give anything to blink and find that we're at the end of September and everything is finished and life is calm and we're making our first house payment instead of paying rent. But that's not reality. So until then, I'm taking deep breaths, throwing prayers God's way knowing that He'll catch them, and just remember to steal some downtime when I can. And push my sister to do the same. Nobody needs downtime more than her especially since her workplace has returned to the staff wearing facemasks. It's exhausting for her.

    If you think of it, say a prayer that the next few months go smoothly. I hope I don't sound like I'm griping because that's really not my intention. Everything that's happening is wonderful, including the software update. It's just that it's all happening at once that is creating that added layer of crazy to our otherwise smooth-sailing lives.

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