High schooler Hinata Sorazomo learns that her eccentric new neighbor is Junya Tokinaga, a wildly popular novelist famous for his dramatic vampire romance series. His arrival happens to coincide with a string of escalating vampiric attacks on young women in the neighborhood. Combined with his strange behavior, this coincidence does not escape suspicious Hinata’s notice, but she’s soon distracted by charming Junya’s attentions, the eerily autobiographical nature of his books, and her own confused emotions.
Despite its familiar premise, Honey Blood had the potential to be an entertaining and involving vampire romance. Sadly, its attractive artwork and complicated romantic interest are not enough to make up for the series’ wishy-washy heroine and flawed storytelling. According to creator Mitsuki’s commentary, Honey Blood began as a one-shot and its subsequent serialization was short-lived. The sudden, awkward conclusion in volume two leaves many major plot elements unaddressed, which suggests that Mitsuki thought she would have more time to expand the story and develop the characters. A scheduled third volume entitled Tale 0 appears to include no more than the three original one-shots and an extra story, but perhaps the latter will give the author a chance to tie up some of the numerous loose ends.
While abbreviated serialization may account for the messy, unresolved conclusion, some narrative issues are present from the very beginning. Plot and relationship progression occur too quickly, with little support from the actual story. For instance, no-nonsense, rational Hinata suddenly devolves into a bland, angsty romantic with no personality or thought besides her conflicted interest in her hot, handsy neighbor with the tragic backstory. Likewise, the world-building suffers from the same haphazard construction and lack of definition. Are vampires considered plausible in this society or not? Are vampire “contracts”—sealed with a kiss and supposedly binding a vampire to his or her human host’s lifespan—a steadfast rule or a myth? What rules govern the creation and existence of newly-minted vampires and hosts?
The tone never finds its balance between silly humor, such as Junya watching and critiquing the new live-action TV drama based on his books, and edgier elements, like his decidedly unconventional relationship with his voluptuous editor or the darker portrayal of his former cohort. Given more time to blend, these disparate components could work well together, but uneven and cramped as they are, there’s no chance for the reader to reconcile the shifts from dark to light and back again.
Despite the publisher’s Teen rating, the story’s audience is unclear. Mature plot elements—including the teen protagonist’s relationship with her twenty-something adult neighbor, and more significantly, Junya’s former friend’s behavior in the second volume’s bonus chapter—suggest that Older Teen (16+) may be a more appropriate rating.
Honey Blood‘s quirky, complex leading man may be a draw, but readers looking for a quick vampire romance fix may be disappointed with the female lead’s lackluster development and the end product’s inconclusiveness.
Honey Blood, vols. 1-2
by Miko Mitsuki
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421573373
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421573380
Viz Media, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: T for Teen