Web Comic Spotlight: Honey Catch

Honey Catch

Writer: Wang Tao
Quality Control: Quincy Cho
Final Fixes: Jade Law
Typesetter: Rachel Ordway
Publisher: Tapas

Review by Christoph Staffl

Just FYI: There are very mild spoilers throughout the review, but nothing you wouldn’t find out in the first couple of chapters anyway.

Like with many other BoyLove (BL) stories, Honey Catch focuses very much on both our protagonists Chu Lin and Ziming. This inspired me to write about the genre in general, before we dive into the comic at hand.

Though I enjoy reading BL stories, and most of them bring something new to the table (even if it’s just interesting new characters), it would be refreshing to see a new approach to the genre. Just because we as the readers of a romantic story know the ending, the journey to this particular ending does not always have to follow the same structure. The ending, being the two protagonists becoming a couple, allows for and should invite some variety.

Honey Catch also follows these basic structures of the boy-meets-boy principle. Both of the protagonists’ life situations even allow them to spend every waking hour together. This baseline is not a problem per se, just something I notice now and then because it is almost impossible to spend every minute of your day with a person you just met. If a writer, nevertheless, decides to force his or her characters together, you need other problems for them to solve or the story is just not interesting enough.

In the case of Honey Catch, both protagonists come with a lot of baggage. Chu Lin lost his virginity at a very young age under, let’s say, interesting/problematic circumstances, which could end up haunting him later on in the story. He is 24 years old and believes he is 100% straight. I say “believes” because he was never interested in boys, but at least has to be bisexual (something you can conclude from the fact that this is a BL story and what is hinted here and there within the story itself) — but more on that later.

In addition to that, Chu Lin’s girlfriend just broke up with him (he had a couple of girlfriends over the last ten years and was never single for an extended period). He does not have a job anymore or a home. You might say that Chu Lin is at the bottom as we meet him.

Ziming is in many ways the complete opposite of Chu Lin. He is openly gay, a year younger than Chu Lin, knows what he wants, is an up and coming fashion designer and already very successful, never had any lasting relationships (which is one of his rules), but his sex life is very active and fits his overall lifestyle: career first, everything else second. He reminds me a lot of the character of Brian from the TV series Queer as Folk.

As I mentioned before, we meet Chu Lin, after a short introductory scene, as his girlfriend is talking to him on the phone to break up with him. For some reason he is not allowed to go back to their apartment to pick some things up, which means he is homeless. It also seems like that the only friends he ever had were his girlfriends. Where is his family? Does he know nobody at all?

Depressed, he ends up in a bar, drinking too much, of course. Ziming notices him and picks him up for a one-night-stand — not aware, that he picked up a straight (?) man. They end up in bed together, but Chu Lin is not so drunk as to sleep with just anybody, which leads to a very awkward morning after. Ziming has, let’s call it, compassion, for the time being, and allows Chu Lin to stay at his home as long as he wants. I am not exactly sure why that is to be honest. This story is of the type where you just have to accept some things and hope that at some point everything will make sense. For the time being, I am comfortable enough with the story to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The good thing is that their different personalities and life situations lead to some tense conversations and provide a great source of conflict. We learn a lot about them in the first couple of chapters.

Overall, Honey Catch is a fun read, with well-written dialogue and compelling protagonists. There is not a dull second in there, and I am eager to find out more about these two. But I also want to know more about their lives in general, and for that we need side-characters. We mainly meet acquaintances of Ziming because at the stage of the story where I am currently at his life is the center of attention. I do hope we also meet some ex-girlfriends, friends, and family of Chu Lin. It is something that would round off the story.

One of Ziming’s acquaintances happens to have a crush on him, which leads me to question Chu Lin’s actual sexual orientation. Is Chu Lin the real love interest here? Those little mysteries are something I love in BL stories because they make them unique and worth remembering — as well as worth reading in the first place.

The black-and-white artwork is beautiful to look at and reminds me of mangas — especially the framing of the story and the display of (emotional) reactions of characters. Though you might see similar styles a lot, I quite like it, because it brings a certain atmosphere to the story, one that quite fits the genre. It also brings along certain expectations to the story which in turn can (hopefully) be subverted by the creator.

One last thing I want to talk about is again a more general topic and concerns content warnings. I understand that they can sometimes be of importance if a story or article tackles loaded issues. However, sometimes they are just not necessary. At the beginning of Honey Catch, you find a warning regarding violence and assault. After reading the synopsis and seeing this warning, I expected the worst.

Maybe one of our protagonists was abused as a child and later in his life meets a person who finally helps him get over it. Or perhaps the story is a Stockholm Syndrome inspired tour de force of a wrong relationship. But at this stage, it does not seem to be either. Every hint and possibility of sexual intercourse comes along with a requirement of consent. Even though the first night our protagonists spend (almost) together begins rough-er and with something that can be interpreted as role-playing, as soon as one says no, it is over.

This behavior sends an important message that is very much appreciated. Throughout the story, you will find more examples of such expectation-subversions that are very well done!

The Verdict: Read it!

Though I started this review by criticizing some aspects of the BL genre, I love the passion behind such projects. I talked at length about expectations and some of the stages a BL story usually goes through. A playful interpretation of both those things makes the story of Chu Lin and Ziming worth reading, and I can’t wait to read the next chapters.

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