Sweat and Honey

March 17, 2008

I’m sad that Passion Fruit passed under my radar.  I remember really liking the idea, and I figured we’d get a few interesting volumes, but I passed on the first two and was bummed when the line wasn’t continued.  I was surprised when a few people were making reference to another one of Okazaki’s works in English when I was reading reviews of Suppli, and I thought I’d pick it up since it seemed to be well thought of.

“Sweat and Honey” is a collection of very short stories… they’re sort of advertised as josei, but most of the girls are still in high school, so I’d be willing to bet they ran in a shoujo magazine.  The first story was probably my favorite, and was the most josei-feeling of the bunch.  It was called “After Sex, a Boy’s Sweat Smells Like Honey,” and was about an older woman in a sexual relationship that began to question her boyfriend, and all men in general, after her quiet cousin who had suddenly begun living with her starts revealing basic “truths” about men.  It was very short, but it was easy to see the main character’s feelings shift towards other things as her cousin kept sharing her thoughts.  I liked that it very effectively accomplished what it set out to do in only a few pages.  Well, maybe it only felt like a few pages, but it was very short.

The second story was cute and a little nonsensical.  A woman who walks her dog runs across a girl who seems to be the personification of grass/flowers/dandelion, and she keeps the girl company and begins to realize that a lot of her regular human interactions seemed very hollow.  I liked the contrast between the extremely bouncy grass girl and the somewhat bitter way other characters were shown dealing with the main character.

The longest story, broken down into three segments, was actually the one I liked the least.  I couldn’t really pinpoint exactly what was going on between the three characters until the end, when everything finally clicked into place.  It was some sort of love triangle between two female friends and one girl’s brother, and I couldn’t tell if the sister wanted a relationship with her brother and was spiting him for ignoring her by getting involved with her friend… I think that was the gist of it, and the theme was that it seems to rain in a world only ruled by girls (or the manipulative sexual relationship the girls were sharing), but in the end it seemed like the girls decided that they were suited for each other anyway.  But I don’t know.  Like I said, it wasn’t very clear, but I still kind of liked the story.  Whatever was going on, it was very pretty.

I definitely really liked this volume and thought Okazaki was quite good at telling stories in a limited number of pages.  Perhaps this will help inform Suppli and help me enjoy it more thoroughly now that I’m a little more familiar with her storytelling technique.