Honey and Clover
Grade: A- (upgraded based on season 2)
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance
Episodes: 24 episodes plus 2 eps issued later, then 13 ep second season
Notes: Also called "Hachimitsu to Clover "
Five college art students' lives, friendships, and love are explored over four years. Hagumi, the new student, is an artist with remarkable talent. Friends Takemoto and Morita are in love with her but neither are able to express their feelings clearly. Yamada, called the "iron lady" because of her sudden fits of temper and acts of violence, is in love with Mayama who sees her only as a friend and loves someone else.
The animation is fluid and done in lovely soft pastels. Character designs are semi-realistic and different enough that it's easy to identify each character. The opening and ending pop themes are pretty good and the emotional score was excellent.
This is a lovely light hearted comedy-drama with genuine human emotions. This series is mostly episodic, but the latter half should be seen in order as the romance elements are developed. There's not much of an overall plot; it's mostly a character driven series. The pacing is slow at first, with lame comic attempts, which are more silly than funny. There's too much use of exaggerated expressions and for much of the series Hagu looks strangely drawn and out of place. But the series picks up after the first half and the romance is worth waiting for.
The principle characters are Takemoto Yuta and Mayama Takumi who are architect students, Yamada Ayumi who studies pottery, and Morita Shinobu and Hanamoto Hagumi who are genius level artists. Takemoto, Mayama and Morita live in the same building. One day, a teacher, Hanamoto Shuji introduces them to his ward Hagumi, a very petite, cute, and childlike first year student. Takemoto and Morita fall in love with her at first sight, which is romantic but not terribly realistic since she looks so childlike, it's almost pedophilia. Neither can express their emotions in words. Though Morita tries via his actions, they are too weird and incomprehensible. Takemoto is the typical weak good guy who waits patiently for his friend to make the move on the girl they both like. He's basically the main character of the series and provides the initial voiceover you hear. Morita is just weird and mysterious, not a realistic character, though there are people out there who may be similarly socially challenged. Hagu starts out as an unrealistic strange comic character but later her character is developed nicely as her genius causes excessive pressure by the art world.
The other love triangle involves unrequited love rather than unexpressed love. Mayama is the most level-headed of the bunch but is in love with a woman (Rika) who hangs onto the memory of her dead husband. Though he knows his friend Yamada loves him, he only cares for her as a friend, yet he can't let her go either. Yamada starts out as a typical anime heroine (feisty, bad tempered, beats up on guys), who is in love with Mayama, but her personality develops and we see her acknowledge her faults. Watching her desperate attempts at getting close to Mayama is very realistic and heartbreaking, especially for those of you who have been in similar situations.
The characters are all genuinely likeable and serious discussions might arise when watching this with others, as to who should be with whom. All characters except Morita, who is only there as comic relief, are given serious consideration and get to tell their own story, thoughts and feelings. This series shows how love can be complicated and irrational, selfish and selfless.
It also addresses the time in our lives when we don't really know who we are or want we want in life. There's a deep philosophical feel throughout the show with some beautiful poetic monologues similar to those found in "Fruits Basket" but not quite as heavy handed and the characters are not annoying.
This series has a wonderful heartwarming, nostalgic feel with true emotions and is best as a philosophical, romantic light drama rather than comedy, which feels too forced and silly. Unfortunately, only one of the love triangles is resolved and it may not be the one you expect. The manga is still ongoing and it would be nice to see a part two resolve the relationships.
Rated PG - Recommended for romantics, couples, and college students. Too slow paced for children and those with short attention spans.