Genres: Comedy, Drama, Josei, Romance
“I realized why I was lost. It’s not because I didn’t have a map… It was because I didn’t have a destination.”
Honey and Clover is a flowery and sweet show with an overarching mild feeling that lingers throughout, just as the name would suggest. The anime itself if fairly old now, having been released over 10 years ago in 2005 and despite all the time that has passed, the message of the story is one which is still very relevant. This show isn’t really just something you merely watch for the sake of entertainment, rather you watch it with a deep sense of emotional understanding and connection. This is most certainly one of those shows which tackles very real issues for many people in a much grounded way- with the exception of some over the top comedy and action to make it all less hard hitting.
Honey and Clover is a story which is focussed solely on a group of people, with a lot of embellishment in the way of side characters. We start off by being introduced to Takemoto, a university student learning the arts, who is living with the other major characters in the show, Mayama and Morita, both of whom are also in the same field. They all share a small, run-down apartment but often find pleasure in each other’s company. Takemoto is the nice, average guy in the group and also the youngest. He doesn’t really seem to have much of a personality at the start and his character is in fact rather dull at times, but that is how he is meant to start off. Mayama is the mature one in the group and can be a little reserved compared to the others at times. Morita is the odd-ball in the group, supremely talented but insanely infuriating at times with all his shenanigans. Morita might seem like he has no idea what he is doing but his extravagant personality hides a different, less straightforward side to him. He is probably the character that will appeal to most people at the start of the show.
Next up we have the teacher in the university, Kazuo-Sensei, with whom all three students share a very close relationship, he might as well be their friend as opposed to their teacher. He spends time with them through their sorrows and happiness and at times you might even forget that he is the teacher! Yamada is the next main character, she is the talented girl who also studies in the university making pottery. She is good friends with Takemoto and the group and really likes Mayama- she gets very agitated in his presence. Normally, Yamada is a nice, genial person but she is also prone to occasional lapses in thought leading her to do stupid things from time to time- often just to add to the comedy, and as the show progresses to help unearth the more serious nature of the show.
The final main character is Hagumi, she is an 18-year old student brought into the university by Kazuo-Sensei, who acts as her guardian. If I did not specify that Hagumi, often referred to as Hagu, was 18 years old, you would have no idea just by looking at her. Her character design makes her look more at home in a kindergarten than a full-fledged university. While her character is interesting and it develops rather refreshingly over the course of the show, it is somewhat of a drawback that she constantly looks like a 5 year old for the majority of the show. By the end of the show you sort of understand why they do this, but I feel it detracts a little just how young she looks. Other than that minor gripe, the main characters and the rest of the side characters all help to drive forwards this show to good effect.
Now, the plot is mainly about romance. There are many relationships you have to keep track off and it can all get a little complicated at times. Let me try and put it as simply as I can:
Yamada likes Mayama, who knows she likes him but tries to keep his distance in this matter as he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship. Both Morita and Takemoto like Hagu and both Morita and Takemoto both know about each other yet this does not cause friction between them, although it leaves Hagu confused with herself. Mayama actually likes one of the side-characters, Rika, whose husband had died in the past. There are few other minor relationships in the show but these are the main ones around which the story develops.
Now, this isn’t a really happy kind of romance. In fact, literally all of the romance in this anime actually causes frustrations and problems for the individuals involved but very rarely does this affect the group dynamic. What is really interesting is to see what sort of problems come up in the lives of each of the characters and just how they deal with it- it shows how in real life, there isn’t always a happy ending.
Apart from the romance in this show, it also deals with the idea of being lost in life and feeling as if you don’t really know where you are headed. This can be a problem for people as they grow up, not knowing what you will do in life and having to deal with all the uncertainties can always drive one over the edge. This is conveyed really effectively through the character of Takemoto- who does watches as his friends are all slowly finding their way in life while he feels as if bit by bit, he is being left behind.
What this show does really well is not sugar coating things. Yes, the group dynamic and comedy help to lighten the mood, however come to think of it, there is always a sombre tone to everything. The show conveys loads of small things that people have to deal with in life and does a good job of conveying that things don’t come easy and sometimes things just don’t come at all. When you mix this in with the romance, it’s all rather well done. This show does not rigidly stick to the drama, the comedy or the romance but instead floats about from place to place, making in my opinion, a wonderful slice of life show.
Something I would like to stress about the show at this point is that you must stick to it even though the first three or four episodes do very little to capture your attention- maybe it was just my feeling at the time but the first few episodes did not leave any sort of lasting impression on me to come back for more and things felt as if they had started off far too quickly. Some of the sequences were confusing and made little sense while some were plain boring. After this lull, the show really does pick up a lot and becomes so much more engrossing once you are able to understand everything a bit more and the pace slows down.
For a show made in 2005, the animation I thought was absolutely fine. One thing to note is that the art-style is not definite and bold. Instead, a water-colour palette and sketchy designs are used to make the characters- which may or may not be to most people’s tastes. However, given the vibe the whole show gave me, this sat just fine with me and I came to like the art style more and more over the course of the show.
The sound-track in this show grew on me a lot too, as I started to understand its significance. It has a bright feeling to it as well often being very dark and sad in tone. As far as sound tracks go, this definitely gets a nod from me. The OP was quite nice and is something I would listen to again and the ED was okay. There was one massively irritating point I must make about the OP though, which has nothing to do with the audio itself, instead it is to do with the video. The video for the OP in the first half of the season was the worst opening video I have ever seen in all my time and almost put me off the show completely before I had even got to the start of the anime. It has no relevance really to the show and did a great job of dissuading me from the show itself. This terrible video is removed and replaced by something that should have been there from the start of the show itself and thank god for it. After all, this show is more of an experience and journey for the viewer and that opening just about ruins the build up to each episode, skip it if you can.
Overall, the show takes you on a journey of ups and downs where you really feel as if you can relate to every character. There is no overarching plot and the story and the feelings the show gives up really comes from what you make of it. However, there is no denying that this is a show that will stick with you for a long time and once you get past the lacklustre start, it starts to bloom into something great.
Final Score: 8.1