Anyone whose read more than a few posts on this site will notice that I bring up Honey and Clover a lot, particularly when evaluating how good an anime is. Why do I like Honey and Clover so much? On a basic level, the plot (the lives of a collection of young adults) doesn’t seem very different from some other anime out there. Other shows deal with friendship. Other shows deal with growing up and transitioning from teenagers to full-fledged adults. Other shows deal with unrequited love. What is it that makes a small but vocal minority rave about the brilliance of Honey and Clover?
The answer is in the characters. Honey and Clover has some of the most well conceived and sympathetic characters ever to grace our television screens, whether in animated or non-animated form. These are three-dimensional people with realistic flaws – yet all of whom are fundamentally admirable and likeable people, which separates them from the relatively thin characters that often star in anime for this type. The characters of Honey and Clover satisfy our need for people who are complex while also being respectable (See my post on realism and Honey and Clover). Their relationships are about more than mere superficialities. Their dreams and goals stretch further than their plans for the next week. All of the characters are intelligent people. All of them have real, complex personalities and emotions. There are no dumb pinheads thrown in for cheap laughs. There are no familiar anime archetypes to latch onto.
But Honey and Clover isn’t just a dramatic show. It goes from hilarious comedy to heartbreaking introspection without it ever feeling sudden or jarring. Many fans will bring up a game of Twister as one of the most amusing comedic anime scenes ever, while I can just easily point to episode 7 of the second season, which I wrote a blog post about, as one of the most emotionally moving episodes of anime I’ve ever seen, and one that is completely unrelated to the “romantic” aspect that is frequent claimed to be Honey and Clover’s main genre. To think of Honey and Clover as just a “romance” show is wrong, in my opinion, because it deals with so much more. The most valuable aspect of the series, in my opinion, is actually the development of the central character, Takemoto, as he slowly transitions towards the responsibilities of full-fledged adulthood.
Of course, to focus solely on the characters would undermine the fact that nearly every aspect of this show, including all technical details, have been done extremely well. The music is fantastic, the opening and ending themes all have plenty of character unlike the traditionally forgettable songs pasted on as OP tunes. Piano solos make up a significant portion of the background music, but they are very melodious and avoid the pointless tinkling that many other piano BGMs succumb to (See my catch-all post of Honey and Clover piano videos and sheet music). The art and animation is distinctive and unique. The direction and pacing is fantastic – never does a scene feel too long or out of place. Honey and Clover is the result of great skill in every department coming together to produce something extraordinary.
Now, despite the fact that Honey and Clover is among my favourite series, there are faults to be discussed. The second season, at times, lost the delicate balance of comedy and drama that the first season did so effortlessly. It also began to creep into soap-opera territory with regards to certain subplots. Many people were also disappointed with the ending.
But considering the lofty heights to which this anime soared in the first season, topping many people’s lists as their favourite anime, you’ll forgive me for ignoring whatever faults it may have. This is truly a one-of-a-kind story, an accomplishment that all but set up the Noitamina programming block as a viable timeslot for anime aimed at a non-traditional anime audience.
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