[REVIEW] Oinarisama no Honey Bunny by Sakura Sakuya

Oinarisama no Honey Bunny (お稲荷さまのハニーバニー) by Sakura Sakuya (サクラサクヤ)

Japanese publisher: Tokuma Shoten, 2009

Licensed in English? Nein.

Volumes: 1 (ongoing)

Warnings: Er…avian homicide? And the implied sex with semi-transformed humans might squick some people.

Premise

Uno Koharu is a perfectly ordinary high school student — except for the part where he’s a bunny. Yes, the floppy-eared, fluffy-tailed kind. Long ago, Koharu’s grandfather promised his soul to an inari (fox deity) in exchange for the power to assume human form, a skill that has been passed down to his descendants. But living as a half-human/half-rabbit in modern day Tokyo isn’t easy, as Koharu learns when he’s rescued from a crow attack by the inari cum businessman, Goryou Ryouji. As a reward? Ryouji demands Koharu let the fox “eat” him.

Commentary

This is only the first volume of Oinari-sama no Honey Bunny (and yes, I’m wincing just typing the title), but readers should be aware that so far this manga is not a romance, but a quirky “urban” fantasy story with BL themes. There is little relationship development between Ryouji and Koharu beyond some kissing (called “tasting”, again using the eating-as-sex metaphor). I’m also cautious about applying the term “urban” when defining its genre, because the magical cast of characters rarely interact realistically with their modern, mundane setting. For example, are we really meant to believe that the public wouldn’t notice a giant weasel scaling local buildings?

Just your friendly neighbourhood weazilla.

As with some of Sakura-sensei’s previous semes, Ryouji is thankfully no white knight; he may follow his own moral code, but he is just as likely to act selfishly and arrogantly, while teasing others for his own amusement. I also enjoyed his interactions with his wolf servant, the straightforward Inugami. For me, though, Koharu fails as a protagonist. He is naive and weak, and is too often a victim of the plot rather than an active contributor to it. In some chapters he’s largely absent — almost as though Sakura-sensei herself preferred to focus on her more complex and interesting characters, including the sparrow-murdering, shapeshifting weasel spirit Sasame and the eccentric buddhist monk, Michiaki. I was actually much keener on Sasame and Michiaki as a couple than I was on Ryouji and Koharu with their lack of chemistry — never a good sign, as I generally dislike manga with other couples beyond the main pair.

The art is up to Sakura Sakuya’s usual excellent standard, especially the opening chapter and its scenes set in the 1940s. My only complaint was Koharu’s enormously out of proportion feet when he’s tied to the tree, and many of the scenes where our characters have their animal ears and tails showing (I found myself sniggering a lot, which is probably not the intended reader reaction).

But in the end it wasn’t any of these niggling problems that left me unsatisfied with this tankoubon. The lack of relationship development aside, Oinari-sama no Honey Bunny could have been a good fantasy manga, but it wasn’t. The villains and crises were never frightening so it was difficult to engage with the story, and the emphasis on chattering birds of multiple species was repetitive and boring. And, ultimately, the plot just didn’t seem to go anywhere. Even using the extra chapter as a prologue for the next volume wasn’t enough to pique my interest. Sakura-sensei promises more BL action in the next volume, but I’m afraid that’s little incentive when I don’t care what happens to Koharu and Ryouji to begin with.

Recommended?

This manga is underwhelming in both its fantasy and yaoi elements, and is only redeemed by a few interesting characters and lovely art. I’m not holding my breath for the second volume, that’s for sure.

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