Honey & Clover II – First and fleeting impressions

Honey & Clover is said to epitomise the ambiguous “slice of life” genre – a typically slow, ambling style of story telling with no true narrative direction. Indeed, Takemoto’s impulsive journey around Japan is all about finding a definitive meaning to his existence only to discover that ultimately, there is no set path for us all to follow; that life and youth is random and fleeting; about searching and wondering, rather than knowing it all.
If Honey & Clover was thick with such philosophical commentary but lacking in conclusive fulfilment for the viewer, then it’s sequel is the opposite; Honey & Clover II has almost done away this cloud glazing ponderment and locked in on the various love triangles that make up its cast. Now it is very much a case of wondering who will end up with whom and sometimes (and even Mayama admits this) suffers from being bogged down with hammy dialogue and a sickly sweet sentiment.
The truth though is that Honey & Clover (I & II) is surely the essential anime for our generation. In being made now, it has captured and expressed every young adult’s profound worries and nostalgic thoughts about life and love in such a contemporary, trail blazing style. The wistful animation is ultra expressive, fluid and engaging while the longing soundtrack is raging with a burning emotion. This is a great series, that should become one of the greats.

8 replies on “Honey & Clover II – First and fleeting impressions”

I recently watched the first season in a couple days and I have mixed feelings about it. For one thing, I thought it had a slow start. It took me a while to get past the first couple of episodes. There were some really great episodes, but also a good number of fillers. The ending seemed lacking. I’d put it in my top 10 but definately not my top 5. It would have been a much better series at 12-14 episodes. Then again I could say the same for many anime series.

I really think now that season 2 is airing, we can fully appreciate how good season 1 was. Both were (and are) spectular for different reasons really; however, the common thread is the way the characters and story grab you emotionally.
The only thing that I think takes away from Honey & Clover is that some people who are too young or had vastly different life experiences just won’t get it. It takes at least some college and being faced with the reality of the world and the uncertainty of future endeavors. Nonetheless, if one has experienced emerging adulthood, Honey & Clover hits homes just like Mom’s cooking after months away.

"I recently watched the first season in a couple days and I have mixed feelings about it."
I don’t think it’s a series that stands up well to marathon viewing sessions. Almost every episode is emotionally draining, thought provoking and adds something new to the characters. Taking all of this in 5 episodes at a time would be too much, and probably skew attention away from the subtle elements of the show onto the more consistent but until now unfulfiled narrative (i.e. the romances etc).
"The only thing that I think takes away from Honey & Clover is that some people who are too young or had vastly different life experiences just won’t get it."
I agree; and I think that’s probably why it’s more of a generational landmark. In a few years time, we’ll be looking back on this show so favourably but others will scratch their heads wondering why. H&C is a product of its time, for people of a certain age group in certain situations. It’s success relies on the viewers empathy for (and connection to) the characters.
There is a lot of great anime out there; Mushishi and MONSTER being two at the forefront of the fansub scene- but Honey & Clover is probably my favourite fansubbed series of all time because it connects on such an emotional level, yet every other element is perfect too. The animation (or more specifically, art direction) for one is breath taking.

I just can’t see HC living up to series like Planetes or 12 Kingdoms. The character in HC didn’t seem as real. They seemed too perfect – and if you ever watched Planetes – you’ll know what I’m talking about. Real people aren’t perfect – but end up idealized in anime. There wasn’t really any conflict in HC. I’d expect there to be some problems between Mayama/Shuchan, Rika/Yamata, Takamoto/Morita.
I think of the anime as having two types of episodes. Fillers episodes that are akin to the HCspecial about that really tall sempai who brings "meat." And what I consider the real story – which is much more serious and thoughtful. The problem is you have to watch stupid fillers even in the middle of decent episodes. I don’t remember Planetes ever having such fillers – even the ninja episode served a purpose. I’m pretty sure 12 Kingdoms also lacked any fillers – which is insane considering how long the series was.

"There wasn’t really any conflict in HC. I’d expect there to be some problems between Mayama/Shuchan, Rika/Yamata, Takamoto/Morita."
Actually, there -was- conflict there between Morita/Takemoto, albeit on a low level… one not worth talking about; namely, Takemoto and Morita both dancing around the issue of Hagu. Notice how Takemoto and Morita never ‘made a move’ on Hagu while the other wasn’t around – they both acknowledged the other liked Hagu, but because they were fairly good friends seemed to go the ‘honorable’ route and avoided taking advantage of the other’s absence. With Yamada/Rika, there wasn’t any opportunity for conflict because Yamada obviously liked Mayama… but Rika didn’t feel threatened by Yamada because Mayama never saw her in a romantic fashion and she herself was fending off Mayama because of her memories of Harada drowning out any possibility for future happiness. And on Yamada’s side – why should she get upset at Rika? She’s ultimately too gentle to be the type that kicks puppies (or people) while they’re down.
Again, why should there be conflict between Shuuji and Mayama? Shuuji referred Mayama to Rika after realizing he couldn’t stay with her without keeping the wound both bore open, and while he loved Rika… he knew fully that he and Rika were friends because of Harada, who was their bond. With his death, the bond had dissolved… and given their emotional scars, anything more than occasional contact was something akin to tearing at the scab that their shared love of Harada left. Yes, real people get jealous and snipe at one another… but they did provide enough justification in H&C as to why this didn’t happen.
As far as fillers go, I’d have to say they were used appropriately – to keep the series from getting too heavy or angsty. Heck, real life often has ‘fillers’ of its own, in my experience – people can and do take breaks from the serious stuff in order to keep their sanity intact. I’d have to say that H&C’s a bit like Haruhi Suzimiya in a way – you’ll get people who really liked or really hated the series, but it’s a bit less polarized in H&C’s case than it is in the latter.
Incidentally, the manga does get pretty heavy in recent chapters. I’m wondering if they’ll get that far…

Takamoto/Morita: There was some obvious jealously on Takamoto’s part on s1, but typically two guys after one girl = huge mess. Then again this is western thought / culture – and HC is clearly eastern.
Rika/Yamada: I would say this is one sided. I’m pretty sure Yamada isn’t too happy about Rika. I mean that’d really suck if the male you were pursuing went after some older / crippled female. I don’t think Rika cares, but Yamada sure does.
Shuji / Mayama: If you recall earlier in the series like around ep 5+-a couple eps. Mayama is somewhat suspicious of Shuji and why he’s around Rika. He also asks about their history and why they lived together. Mayama is a total pyscho stalker. This actually got cleared up before the conflict heppened since Shuji claims he has nothing for Rika. I actually find that hard to believe though. But that’s just me personally. I think it would be more realistic if Shuji / Rika had something going.

Honey and clover2 is my fav anime of this summer. But there arnt that many other good anime this season anyway. Im glad they continued in the same pace as the first season ended.

asdf said: " But that’s just me personally. I think it would be more realistic if Shuji / Rika had something going."
Since when? As Shuuji noted, Harada adopted him and Rika, way back when, and even in Ep 4 he noted it was ultimately him watching them as a couple and standing on the sidelines, cheering them on. His ‘thing’ for her was… well, through Harada. They both loved Harada, who acted as both a benefactor for both as well as an inspiration – he kept Rika going even though she’d been disowned by her family and she found joy in life with Harada’s easygoing approach to it. For Shuuji, Harada represented both the talent and skill that Shuuji aspired to obtain and enjoyed life in a way that infected both him and Rika. You do realize you can love friends without feeling romantic towards them, right? Or do you.. ah… carnally desire both your male and female friends?
In the end, the loss of Harada tore those two apart as surely as if Shuuji had gone out and shot Rika’s dog, killed her neighbors, broken her hands, and murdered Harada in cold blood all in front of her eyes – they were friends, still.. but their relationship (which was facilitated by Harada) was effectively over because the catalyst was gone. In fact, his loss created an emotional wound in both which meant that being together even as friends meant being constantly reliving of memories… which in the end would’ve driven Rika to suicide faster, even if Shuuji hadn’t been tempted to ‘help her along’ – which is why he got himself the heck out of there ASAP.
And ultimately, Yamada’s too nice to really take out her angst on Rika – she does it on Mayama often enough, or drinks herself into a stupor… but she’s too kind-hearted and meek to really go that route. Physical violence is about her only real outlet, and she seems too ethical to go that route on Rika. Notice also that she only uses physical violence on Mayama – emotional blackmail isn’t a tool she’s used to, and seemed pretty useless on Mayama given that he understands what she’s trying to do (somewhat) but isn’t moved by it as deeply as Yamada was hoping. Nomiya further disabused her of this notion at the end of Ep 19, pointing out that making Mayama try to pursue her by using the ‘Jealousy through Nomiya’ gambit wasn’t going to change how Mayama felt about Rika.

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