ExecutiveOtaku’s Intro: Honey and Clover is a series that has been written about fairly extensively in the anime blogging community. It’s also a favorite of many. So when, as a brand new blogger, I found out that Scamp from Bokutachi no Blog was currently working his way through the series, I proposed that once he was done that we make a post comparing how two different people viewed the series. Having just recently finished it, he and I ended up having fairly different opinions on it. From my viewpoint as a huge fan of Honey and Clover, and he as someone more mixed in his opinion, we have collaborated to bring you this post displaying and contrasting our opinions on such a widely well regarded show. While the series ended three years ago now, I feel that it is rich enough to be worth a (semi) retro-editorial especially given our different opinions on it. I’ve also just always wanted to write more about it despite joining the blogging community a few years late, heh. We both hope you’ll enjoy this inter-blog, international collaboration between Scamp and myself and our differing opinions. We also invite your own comments and opinions in the comments section whether they agree with one of us, with neither of us, or with both of us (somehow…).
Just a word: it should go without saying that this will contain some amount of spoilers.
Scamp: If FLCL is the perfect anime at portraying the transition from childhood to adolescence then Honey and Clover is the perfect anime for the transition from adolescence through to adulthood. At least, the first season is anyway. There is a phenomenon in any great slice-of-life anime I like to call the Azumanga Effect. This is where the characters, while not necessarily doing anything different, gradually grow on you to the point that you just love watching them together no matter what they’re doing. OK, this isn’t exactly restricted to the slice-of-life genre but it’s by this effect that these shows live or die by. In an ideal situation the characters should gradually grow on you until right at the end of the series where you actually feel pretty darn emotional just at the thought of saying goodbye to the characters, as if they were your personal friends and you’ve lived through those times with them. The best anime examples I can think of are BECK and, of course, Azumanga. This is what Honey and Clover should have achieved and was certainly heading in that direction. The insanely accurate depiction of college life, the slow maturing process of each character like a good cheese and the friendship between those bunch grew on me gradually, culminating with Takemoto’s return from his bike journey at the end of the first season. And yet the series didn’t quite feel complete just yet. There wasn’t that sense of closure that could’ve left the first season work as a stand-alone series. Several plot points had yet to be solved but most of all it hadn’t quite reached the uber-Azumanga Effect finishing levels just yet. That is what the second season should have done. But instead it abandoned all that for some fucking dorama. Hagu was turned into a just another Key adaptation esque pity moeblob. The resolution of Morita’s story was painfully anti-climactic. The second season killed the fun, killed what made me love Honey and Clover in the first place and, even though it’s been about 2 weeks since I finished it, I am still bloody pissed off about that entire season.
ExecutiveOtaku: “It’s so real!” was the exclamation of a friend of mine as she watched Honey and Clover with me, more precisely during the sequence in episode 07 when the song ‘Tamagawa’ plays. And this, in one sudden outburst, is exactly why I love the show. Honey and Clover is easily my favorite anime for its amazing combination of genuine emotion, characters you can identify with, its realistic approach to growing up, excellent visuals, and skillful use of insert music. That’s quite a lot of praise, but it’s hard for me to overstate exactly how much I love the show and how watching it (three or four times now) has impacted me. There are so many anime series that cover some of the same themes but are set in high school. While I know that this fits into the long standing (though currently changing) Japanese social concept that compulsory schooling is for fun and growth and that everything afterwards is srsfknbsns, it’s rather hard to believe that high school is the place that these themes play out to resolution. It has been my observation that the time when people really develop and figure out who they are is during the years immediately after high school. And in Honey and Clover it’s all there: the search for who you are and what drives you, the ‘student poverty’ that somehow creates great memories, that transitional phase into adulthood, loves lasting, one-sided, and short, and what to do with yourself after you graduate.
The growth and experiences of the characters as they go through this time in their lives is so well done that someone who is also at that point in their life can identify with all of the characters at different moments. Sometimes Takemoto’s feeling of emptiness is something you experience, other times you’re in Yamada’s shoes, or at a particular moment you might feel more like Mayama trying to pursue your dreams but still confused or clumsy in doing so. Maybe you know a Morita (or are one), or are under pressure like Hagu, or stuck between trying to be cool and trying to be genuine as Nomiya was. At different times you are, or you know people who are, all of these characters. And even with so much else to love about this series, this ability to identify with the genuine emotions being conveyed through the screen is the true strength of the series.
Scamp: Tough choice. It’s between Morita and Takemoto. While Takemoto might not have been the most interesting character in the world to watch, it was his story and development that really hooked me. That returns back to what I love about the series. The portrayal of growth through adolescence and nobody showed that better than Takemoto. I hate to say that he was a character that was easy to relate to (OMG, I’m also a generic high school boy who has troubles getting girlfriends just like that guy in *insert whatever here*) but that’s exactly what I’m going to say. Morita, on the other hand, is a complete and utter nutter. What he lacks in terms of his story and development he makes up for with his sheer energy. The moment that will always stick in my mind with Morita is, after disappearing for several months, randomly showing up on TV to accept the award for the movie he worked on and to equally randomly show up in the bed beside them. It wasn’t until he returned after several episodes absence did I realise how much an effect he had on the show. Everything turns funnier when you added Morita. Ideally if you were to mix Takemoto and Morita together you would have the ultimate anime character.
ExecutiveOtaku: Mayama. I know many fans of Honey and Clover tend to focus on Takemoto due to his epic journey of self-discovery, but I’ve always liked and identified more with Mayama. Mayama’s experiences were more about trying to find a way forward towards the future and what he wanted out of it, whereas Takemoto first had to find out who he was. This was more relatable to me, since I was never really unsure of who I am but have had lots of moments where I wonder about the future and how I’m going to make my place in it. The love triangle between Mayama, Rika, and Yamada was also my favorite part of the drama in the series, and it was really touching and heartfelt no matter which character’s angle it was presented from. Full disclosure: I was a Mayama/Rika fan right from the start.
In the end it was Mayama’s attempts and progression towards maturity that made me like the character, respect him even with his faults, and to sort of look up to him in a way. He would try to act like the cool upperclassman to Takemoto and others, but in the next moment make an anime or kid’s show reference or getting embarassed after making a mature sounding comment (for instance, the Galaxy Express 999 reference he couldn’t help making, but was obviously somewhat embarrassed to, when everyone broke into Morita’s room.) He grew up into an adult, but moments like this just show that he’s still young at heart. His determination in the face of a difficult and complicated situation in regards to both Rika and not wanting to hurt Yamada was admirable and relatable. As I head into the last year of grad school I often recall his journey and hope that I can pursue my goals with the same stumbling yet resolute steps forward.
Scamp: Easy choice. Takemoto’s bike trek across Japan. Throughout the first season they kept making references to Takemoto getting on his bike and just seeing how far he could go and I never quite got where they were heading with that analogy. But it clicked in those episodes exactly what the purpose of Honey and Clover was and what the anime was aiming to portray. Heck, you could write pages and pages of analysis into, as EO puts it, ‘Musings on Takemoto’s Bicycle Journey Analyzed in a post-Marxist Context or Something Equally Pretentious’, but there are people far better at writing analyital content and love the show more than I do who are far more qualified to compose something like that. I’m sure a quick search Mono no Aware, Ha Neul Seom, Kritik der Animationskraft or similar styled blogs that usually put me asleep will conjure something on Honey and Clover. I’m going to compare it to the feeling I got after finishing Forest Gump. As soon as the credits rolled I got an intense urge to go out the front door and start running. Honey and Clover achieved that same feeling times ten. Just to go out the door, hop on my bike and pedal. No direction, no purpose. Just to see how far I could go. I didn’t, in case you were wondering. I hadn’t got my bike repaired after I got knocked down by that van. Plus it was raining. It’s always bloody raining in Ireland. There’s a big difference between cycling in Japan and Ireland I’ll have you know.
: The scene at the hospital when Mayama finds Rika, talks to her, and then gives her a ride home as a pretext to talk to her about their relationship and tries to move things forward. The scene where ‘Yoru wo Kakera’ plays during episode 15 of the first season. While I’ve already covered it in my Defining Moments in Being a Fan post
(it’s my top moment), I’ll try and take a little bit different approach to explaining why it’s my favorite. It has great visuals, excellent use of music, and is an important point in their relationship. I have written about these before, but the true force of the scene to me was that I could feel both the emotions of the characters and the change in the direction of their relationship like the surge of a wave. As I watched the scene, I saw a relationship that had seemed deadlocked suddenly built momentum again and Mayama’s unexpected risk-taking paying off in a big way. It’s another example of the determination that I loved about Mayama, even if he’s not always the smoothest. And seeing Rika being affected by such a straightforward attempt to reach her through the guilt she felt towards both Harada and Mayama was truly profound.
Scamp: Eh, H&C is slice of life so talking about story is a bit redundant. I will say this though: the Yamada/Mayama/Nomiya/Rika story dragged on waaay too long. I didn’t really notice it by the end of the first season because I was too busy adoring the bike trip and reveling in the presense of Morita once again. But the start of the second season is where I really got sick of them, which is just another reason why the second season sucked. Mwahaha, go my biased views, go!
ExecutiveOtaku: I disagree with my colleague on story in slice of life being redundant. Life moves and changes constantly, and Honey and Clover reflected this with the progression that constantly went on even during the ordinary days that the characters experienced. If it was all just random ordinary days or entirely a drama the series would not be what it is. The progression was great, and the resolution in the second season gave us the realistic mixed bag of some things working out, some not, and the reminder to treasure them either way.
Scamp: I usually think of Josei series in my head as ‘older shojo’ and group the two together (or alternatively ‘shojo series I actually like’. This and Nodame are the only shojo series I’ve ever properly enjoyed). Not only do they act similar, the animation style is very similar. Sparkles, flowers and SD facial expressions are the order of the day. I can’t really praise or criticise it though, it did it’s job just fine. No more, no less.
ExecutiveOtaku:The artistry of the visuals in Honey and Clover is among my favorites in both anime and live action. The drawing style was mostly realistic but utilized various effects such as watercolor-like backgrounds, vivid recolors, and complete black or white backgrounds with just an object or a character to put the visuals in service to the emotions being expressed. Angles were often used effectively as well, such as the slanted, shaking angle when Mayama ran after Rika at the hospital, the moonlight cast down on Yamada as she drank and cried during the ‘Tamagawa’ scene, and the ferris wheel interior scenes. And rounding it out on less serious fronts were good use of chibi faces and comedic background changes/reaction shots.
Scamp: This is a hard part to review thanks to those bloody fansubbers. The music in H&C is excellent, I can certainly grant it that much. But when the fansubbers provide you with karaoke for every single fucking insert song that ever appears (and trust me, there’s at least one insert song with lyrics per episode) I started wishing the show would stop the insert music. My favourite songs were always the lyric-less ones.
ExecutiveOtaku:: The music really made many scenes for me and was the best use of insert songs that I’ve ever seen (my referring to certain scenes as the ‘[song name] scene’ may have given that away, heh.) Now every time I hear them I recall those events and remember my love for the series. I even made sure to listen to ‘Tamagawa’ on the shore of the Tamagawa River one night when I was on study abroad BECAUSE I’M A HUGE NERD.
Tangent – Authors Opportunity to Talk About Whatever
Scamp: I HATE DORAMA
I assume by now you can see that I really did not like the second season, more specifically the drama. However it wasn’t until discussing this series, and eventually other series, with EO did I realise exactly the extent of how much I hate human drama in my anime. In PlanetES, EO preferred the drama and imagery while I liked the ’slice-of-life in space’ aspect of the series. Full Metal Panic is yet another example of a series where I hated the second series, this time because it killed the fun that the first series and FUMOFFU had in bucketloads. Looking down through my favourite series on MAL there’s only two anime that focused primarilly on human drama that I’ve rated highly, Grave of the Fireflies and Welcome to the NHK. Funnily enough, I wouldn’t class either of these series as something I enjoyed. Rather, I appreciated what their messages were. Basically, I HATE DORAMA.
ExecutiveOtaku: Miwako is Mai Waifu
Oh Miwako, you acting older than you are, Mayama and Nomiya teasing, Rika idolizing, massage chair sitting, Yamazaki embarrassment scheming, heavy lifting, 60-40 hair styled, outdated reference making, mischievous office lady, let me count the ways I love thee! I enjoyed every minute that this wonderful supporting character had in the series. Her demeanor, sense of humor, commentary, and genuine support for the characters she interacted with (even if they were embarrassed by it) made her a standout supporting character to me.
Scamp: Insanely realistic and so easy to connect with, Honey and Clover is the perfect series at portraying the growth from adolescence through to adulthood. At least, the first season is…
ExecutiveOtaku: There has been no other series that I’ve watched that has so completely captured the real emotions and experiences of this period in life. It will be something that I’ll be looking back on and recommending to people for years to come.