Warning: This is graphics-heavy, so loading may that some time. Seems like I’ve gone a bit trigger happy with the screenshots.
Not an anime, but hey, this was adapted from a manga and there was an anime with 2 seasons adapted from the same source, so I think it has its place here.
The dorama (drama) for Honey and Clover is finally here. I’m sure the English subs will be out sooner or later, but in the meanwhile, here’s a sneak peak at the first episode, and yours truly purely subjective view on the characters, plot, and themes of this manga-turned-dorama.
Resolutions are crappy, but for the sake of bringing it to the readers early, I used a source that is fast but hard on the eyes.
By the way, keep in mind that I’m a newcomer to the entire Honey and Clover franchise. I’ve not read the manga, I’ve only watched the first episode of the anime, and my only reason for watching the drama is because I have a starry-eyed and heart-pounding crush on Ikuta Toma, a.k.a. the actor who plays Yuuta.
Played by the incomparable Ikuta Toma, Takemoto Yuuta is the narrator and main protagonist of Honey and Clover. He’s rather easily bullied by Morita and Mayama, his two closest friends, but on the other hand the ability to take it all in good humor is an illustration of his character.
In the first episode, he falls in love (at first sight) with Hagu, the heroine of the tale. And I feel for him, especially when he is perceptive enough to see the attraction between Morita and Hagu. And the way he accepts it even though it must hurt him.
Ikuta Toma did a really good job here. I couldn’t decipher much of Nakatsu (of the Hama Kimi Japanese version fame) in his acting, and yet I can’t help laughing at his antics and the way he gets so good-naturedly bullied. And poor guy, he seems to be unable to shrug off the curse of being the guy who loves but is not loved back.
At least there isn’t a lack of Hagu and Yuuta scenes in the first episode.
The costume he has on though, deserves some more mentioning. He’s wearing shorts, for heaven’s sake! He looks sooooooooo young. And the hair style!!! He looks completely like his early Johnny Junior days.
Played by a fifteen year old Narumi Riko, Hanamoto Hagumi is a shy, quiet, and genius painter who is a first year student in the art school everyone is attending. I can’t say much about her, except that she looks a lot more mature than her age, to the state of looking even a bit older than Toma as Yuuta.
She also looks like a ghost in certain scenes, because of the baggy white sack (I suppose the PC term is dress) she’s wearing. Very eerie looking.
By the way, I have absolutely no idea what is so great about her painting that won first place in the competition. Sure, great colours, but how on earth did that surreal mix of orange and red depict sakura blossoms over a pool? Obviously, I don’t have much of an artistic scene.
Played by Noda… I mean Narimiya Hiroki (Gokusen, Nana), Morita Shinobu is handsome and quirky, and apparently hides a talent for sculpture under that playboy appearance. Initially, just from watching the first episode, I thought that he likes Yamada, but then from research on Wiki it turned out to be otherwise. Nonetheless, I find him interesting enough.
I especially like that sculpture he did. Very evocative, very vivid. Much nicer to me than Hagu’s painting.
I also like the way he can be serious and playful. He’s cute. Looking forward to more with him.
Played by Mukai Osamu (don’t know what else he played), Mayama Takumi is a bespectacled architect-to-be who has a crush on his boss, Harada Rika, an older woman. He is also the crush of Yamada, and brushed her off most cruelly in the first episode. Nonetheless, I enjoyed how this calm looking guy could go all insensible and ran through the rain because of a phone call from his crush.
His interactions with Morita is also something very enjoyable to watch.
Harada Natsuki plays Yamada Ayumi, the clay sculpture girl who is in love with Mayama and a good friend of the other guys. She seems quite nice, with none of the cattiness in those stereotypical school dramas. The actress also has very expressive facial expressions. She reminds me of some dramas that I’ve watched, but I just can’t remember what.
Yuuta, a third year student of an art school, walks under the sakura blossoms in thoughtful silence. As he stops to admire the beauty of falling petals, something seems to call his attention. He turns his head to see a girl kneeling by the pool, dropping petals into water. And so he falls in love at first sight.
Unfortunately, from a distance his friends call his name, and he is grabbed by Morita and thrown into a push cart being pulled by his other friend, Mayama. The force of Morita’s grasp pulls a button off his shirt, and the girl picks that button up as Morita and Mayama kidnaps Yuuta.
The purpose of kidnapping Yuuta is apparently because of the famed curry that some club is distributing to all first year students. Yuuta, in his shorts and sweaters, looks young enough to pull it off, which is why Mayama and Morita have grabbed him. Unfortunately, Yuuta is found out, and they have to find another way to obtain the curry.
And so the three of them sneak into the club’s kitchen, disguised as the next shift. Just as they are about to eat the curry on the plate that Morita has produced, they are interrupted by Yamada, who is the owner of that plate, something that she had made in anticipation of a contest. Yamada attempts to kick them, but only Yuuta is unable to avoid the blow. Yamada then yells for the club to come back, and Yuuta and company flees.
Through the speakers, a teacher calls for Yuuta to meet him for attempting to murder him by not parking his push cart properly. That push cart has crashed through the teacher Hanamoto’s bike, dismembering it immediately.
All four of them go to Hanamoto-sensei’s room, where Yuuta tries to defend himself but could not, and they share a moment of bickering friendship. At that moment, a crush comes from inside Hanamoto-sensei’s room, and they went in to see Hagumi (Hagu) lying in a pool of pink paint. Yuuta is surprised (pleasantly, I think) to see that Hagumi, introduced as Hanamoto-sensei’s relative, is the girl he had seen under the sakura blossoms.
Yamada and the three guys have lunch, and Mayama mentions a book that he needs to be able to write up a paper, so that he could apply to join some masterclass. Hearing this, Yamada immediately sets out to look for the book through many, many, many bookstores. In the meantime, Yuuta and his two friends are starved back inside the apartment that they apparently shared (in different rooms).
Hanamoto-sensei shows Hagu around the school, and Hagu sees Morita’s sculpture, and is completely stunned. She is then inspired to paint. Running back to her workroom, she begins to furiously paint with swatches of pink.
Back in the apartment, Yuuta and company meets a returned senpai (didn’t quite get his name) who provides them with ham. After gorging on a feast of ham, that senpai talks about many words that are made up of two syllables. (I don’t quite get this significance, but maybe it’s cultural, or a nod to people savvy to the franchise.)
That night, Yuuta and Morita spend the night over at Mayama’s place. Yuuta and Mayama talk about Yuuta’s crush on Hagu, and Yuuta wants to hear Hagu speaks (up to this point, she has not yet spoken).
The next day, Morita sells an obnoxious sculpture (I think it’s ugly, by the way). They meet Yamada on the corridor, who shows Mayama the book that he is looking for. She asks for an Italian dinner in return for that book. While Mayama agrees at first, he then received a phone call from his boss, Rika, who asks him to work for him. Agreeing immediately, he drops everything (including his application for his master class as well as the promise he has made to Yamada) and runs off in the rain.
Yamada is left forlornly clutching the book to herself, while Morita and Yuuta look on in sympathy.
Morita and Yuuta then see the results of the art competition that Morita had participated and won for 7 consecutive years. This year, though, Hagu’s painting is the winner. When Morita sees Hagu’s painting, he stood there stunned for a long moment before running off, which Yuuta desperately chasing after him.
When Morita finally bursts into Hanamoto-sensei’s room, he hugs the surprised Hagu (looking completely normal and cute, for once) by hugging her. Yuuta, watching from the door, is shocked and probably don’t feel all that jolly.
After being separated by Hanamoto-sensei, Morita tells Hagu how he is touched by the painting. And Hagu, speaking for the first time in the drama, replies that she loves his sculpture too. Yuuta, standing at the doorway, got his wish of hearing Hagu speak, but he does not understand why he doesn’t feel happy about it. (baka… why else?)
Yamada is crying over her clay, and Morita arrives. They talk, in very subtle context, about Yamada’s crush. Morita cheers her up. In the meantime, Yuuta talks to Hanamoto-sensei about Hagu’s genius, and how Hanamoto-sensei would have run away if he had Hagu’s ability. Yuuta is thoughtful.
Mayama, together with Rika, hand in Rika’s project and leave. Rika drops a bomb on Mayama about him working for her ending soon. Mayama is stunned by unable to say anything.
Morita cheers Yamada up by saying that a war cannot be won on an empty stomach. And so, hearing from Yamada about the temperature of the oven (in which she uses to turn shaped clay into ceramic, he says that it’s perfect.
Morita calls Yuuta, who is looking at Hagu’s painting. After which Yuuta calls Mayama.
On the way to the convenient store, Yuuta sees Hagu and finally manages to talk to her. After that, they go together to meet up with Morita, Yamada and a returned Mayama, whereby it is revealed that Morita had apparently used the oven for making ceramics to make pizza. (eeks. Think about the hygiene…)
They take the pizza, drinks, alcohol, and assorted others back outside until the sakura, and they talk, eat, and bond with each other. Yuuta thinks about how they will always remember this moment when all five of them are together.
I love Ikuta Toma, but for the first episode, Morita is the one who shines through the most. Poor Yuuta, though. I root for him, I really do.
This dorama is full of beautiful imagery, as befits the tale of art students, I suppose. The sakura blossoms are probably the most prevalent imagery, and that, when put together with the soulful music, is an awesome blend.
I have no experience with Honey and Clover beforehand, so I am pleasantly surprised with the blend of seriousness and comedy. I think the best way to describe it is a humorous romance, because in the end, the key issue of this show seems to be about relationships; the love triangles (Yuuta, Hagu, Morita; Mayama, Yamada, Rika; Morita, Yamada, Mayama) are important, but I personally think that the best part of the show is the interaction between friends. Because outside of the love triangles, there is so much chemistry between the characters that it’s very easy to see that they are best of friends.
For a first episode, this is actually pretty well done in terms of character development and plot movement. There is story to tell here, and there isn’t any dragging of feet like a lot of dramas. I like it, and I’ll be watching more of it.
And of course, Ikuta Toma is still the best.