Honey Lemon Soda Volume 5: Sandy Shores



I think part ignorance, and part being “old”, has led to me twisting my perspective of this series, which Honey Lemon Soda volume 5 fixes. It is a shoujo, and with that territory comes a focus on a younger audience. It’s a bit of the trap that comes with media sometimes. Target demographics can sort of get mixed up in delivery, but ultimately still be the purpose of the work. Really, Honey Lemon Soda isn’t something that’s made for adults, it’s just that it’s still very readable to people that exist outside of the target demographic. When you remain aware of that, I think Honey Lemon Soda volume 5 becomes a much more understandable read- allow me to explain.

In the last 2 volumes (volume 5 included), the heavy hand of story and character development has been felt a great deal. It’s led to a view of the series as “good, but it’s very clear what it’s doing”. But, when your target demographic is girls that will just be getting towards high school that heavy hand can be very helpful to them. The easiest way to explain is like the difference between Honey Lemon Soda and Skip & Loafer. The latter has a lot of undertones and inference that are a part of its understanding of high school life that provides a more “broad” picture, while Honey Lemon Soda is much more about punching in and driving its point home through words spoken directly to the reader.

And truthfully, once you come to terms with that aspect of the story, I think those pieces become much more palatable. Uka-chan’s character begins to find a sense of clarity in that reading, and you start to step into the shoes of a younger reader, understanding the struggles of self-expression and independence in a world that feels like it wants to fight against you. To that end, it very well may have been the contents of Honey Lemon Soda volume 5 that brought me back to reality to come to that conclusion. We finally get time with Uka-chan’s parents, and you can feel the grip Uka’s father has on her, only tightening as he finds her hanging out with a bunch of “hooligans”.

It’s really the penultimate “dreamy high school” experience. All the same, I think Murata does a good job of balancing both ends. It presents Uka-chan with a great deal of autonomy and independence in her decisions, while still gently guiding the reader towards the “correct” answer to the obstacle. I could probably complain that the altercation is over almost comically quickly, but at the very least Murata manages to extend her father’s concerns past the initial butting of heads the two share. It’s a tough line to walk between something that will satisfy more “critical” interest in the series versus how a younger audience may interpret the work.

Ultimately, it’s something that while I can complain about, it means very little for the target demographic. So to get back to Honey Lemon Soda volume 5, I’ll leave it at this: if you want a “higher-brow” series this probably isn’t it, but if you’re willing and/or interested in something that hits home for younger audiences you can definitely get good mileage out of Honey Lemon Soda.

Alright, back to it then. I think overall, the volume does a good job of connecting the dots between various plot points for the series. You move rather fluidly from Serina and Kai’s talk to Uka’s phone to her summer meeting with Kai (with a namedrop included) and then quickly pivot into the whole overbearing father point. It’s very well organized and structured, and I really like how Murata uses summer break specifically to express the “switch” being flipped with Uka’s personality. It’s tempting to leave a big moment within the context of school and the safety of routine, but stepping outside of the classroom and the social norms it enforces allows Uka to move forward on her own terms as her own person.

Also, Murata’s art style is just so cute. It feels almost like a crime to relegate some of these comedic and cute panels to backgrounds or page-fillers. Obviously, the art overall screams “shoujo”, but I personally love their heavy use of screen tones (and Uka-chan’s smile). It fills up the art so much, and Murata seems to have one for everything. It also has me intensely curious to see how J.C. Staff adapt the visual style. The key visual for the anime does look really good, but it’s so hard to tell without seeing things in motion.

And much like our grinning and every happy Uka in Honey Lemon Soda volume 5, or at worst recurring with each quarterly reading of a volume, I think I’ve come to a better understanding. The idea that something has to be the greatest within its medium is something that very easily bleeds into enjoyment and interest in other works. Not everything has to be perfect, and not everything has to be some deeply insightful and critically put together work. It’s just that when you want to talk about something in detail, it’s much easier to dive into the deep end versus a kiddie pool. Though that doesn’t mean the kiddie pool is bad, as there’s plenty of divers out there that are able to execute similar feats with much less.

I guess what I’m attempting to say is that rather than complaining about Honey Lemon Soda volume 5, it’s more like it’s forced to me to reassess my approach and understanding. Sure, it might be a little shallow and simple in presentation, but it’s the kind of depth that strikes a chord with its target demographic and helps point them in the right direction in life. Because of that, even though some might call it “bad” or “shallow”, I think they’re ultimately descriptors for something that the reader is looking for in a place that it wouldn’t be. Honey Lemon Soda volume 5, much like its namesake, remains a sweet and bubbly affair that sees Uka-chan continue to move forward and grow into her sparkling high school life. And personally speaking, I can certainly enjoy it for that.

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