Honey and Clover
Honey and Clover follows a circle of five friends through their experiences at an art college. Their lives will have many happy and hard times which will change them through the years.
This review covers Honey and Clover I & II (36 episodes total).
Most I had heard about this title was that it was about unrequited love, so I had a few preconceived notions and this one was a tough sell for me. There are a LOT of other things this title has going for it though, and they come together in a package that makes Honey and Clover exceptional. The best place to start is with the characters. The four worth me discussing are:
Yuta - He's a guy who struck me as weak willed and rather dull. The fact that he was also the narrator for much of the series worried me at first. However, as things progressed I found that his spoken words and actions weren't saying nearly as much as his narrative dialogs as he thinks about things. Nearly all the characters are developed this way, so be prepared to understand them through their introspection as much as by what they do. An interesting development in the series involves Yuta randomly getting on his bike and traveling across Japan. His friends assume it was to "find himself", but upon his return, when asked if he did so, he simply replied: "not really". Honey and Clover is a series that digs into questions like that, but doesn't give simple answers. After all, most of life's questions don't really have any answers.
Hagu - I'll be blunt. Hagu disturbs me. A lot. While cited as being 18 years old, she looks and acts like she's 12. One aspect of Honey and Clover covers how two of the male characters fall in love with her. If she had looked OR acted her age it wouldn't have creeped me out as much as it did. In the end I think I forced myself into state of denial where I figured was only my imagination that she looked that young. Thankfully she's not annoying, and her character does have interesting points, although she doesn't really shine until the end of the series.
Takumi - a guy stuck in a storm of drama and does his best to survive it, while confronting his own feelings. He's in love with a woman who's completely withdrawn after the death of her husband. What truly makes his character is his relationship with long time friend Ayumi. Ayumi is in love with him and won't let go. He tells her that he can't return her feelings, but at the same time feels she's a precious person to him and can't hurt her either. This creates an awkward situation between the two as he can't bring himself to push her in a way that would hurt her, but can't reciprocate her feelings either.
Ayumi - more awesome than all the other characters combined, she's the girl in love with Takumi despite the fact that he doesn't love her. It would be easy to write her off as a dumb girl who can't get over her crush, but Ayumi is well aware of the fact that her love is fruitless, yet can't bring herself to let go either. Much of the story revolves around her trying to cope with her feelings, and hoping maybe Takumi will change his mind. She truly wants him to be happy, yet struggles with her selfish desires to have him love her. And man can this girl drink!
Honey and Clover presents an interesting environment. Many titles deal with high school, or college, but Honey and Clover has characters which are in transition to life after college. Many titles have "the crew" and a different things happen, but they always gather back together as always. In this anime the characters and gatherings are always different as life changes them, and sometimes major characters drop out of the story for a while. By the last episode I found it surprising how many small steps were taken, and how each of the characters had managed to change so much. Episodes take place over the course of years, but they often only deal with a slice of their time together like during a festival or Christmas. I wouldn't say this title is slow paced, but sometimes it's easy to miss what the point of an episode was - it's often pretty subtle.
As for shortcomings, there isn't a whole lot nor are they substantial. The intro sequences were pretty lame in my opinion. The first episode of season 2 was a strait up recap of season 1 (nothing interesting added). Hagu still disturbs me.
While emotionally very deep, I was also surprised at how it came off as light hearted. I had expected this to get mired in brooding angst, but instead it maintained a positive disposition, while shifting to other emotions when appropriate. While I haven't mentioned it, there is a lot of comedy throughout the series, and I found this show was surprisingly funny. Another thing to keep in mind is that the ending isn't a dead set conclusion. All the characters are left to transition to the next part of their lives, and Honey and Clover implies where they're going, but doesn't draw up a strait out closure. I'm not sure everyone will be receptive to that, but keep in mind that a big part of Honey and Clover deals with how life is an ever flowing thing. There's still more positive things I could say about this series, but I think I've said enough. Honey and Clover is a thoughtful, introspective show dealing with unrequited love, and changes in life as well as experiences with friends. It doesn't sound like much, but it adds up to a good series worth your time.
Hagu: There are so many things I want to do. There is an endless amount of things I want to make scattered inside of me. I want to open all of these boxes. But a human's life is too short to open them all.
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