Review – Honey and Clover (2005)

Honey and Clover has an extremely unique art style that can be seen immediately from the shows opening. Studio J.C. Staff from works like Revolutionary Girl Utena and Slayers at this point never tackled an anime of such maturity before. This show was directed by the amazing Kenichi Kasai (Major), so hopes were scattered going in. Could a studio that has never really handled this kind of show before pull out a winner? Could a good director save the show and make the audience fall in love with each character?

Yuuta Takemoto is an art major trying to find his motivation in life, but seems to go about his daily routine in a lull. He lives a simple life and is joined by: a serious guy by the name of Takumi, a dude that is like a living energy drink called Shinobu, a small petite 18 year old art talent named Hagumi, and Hagumi’s beautiful friend Ayu. All of these characters go through important and interesting trials in their college lives ranging from falling in love, moving on from tough times, and discovering one’s self.

To make this show into something great it is very clear how important the direction of specific voice acting, aesthetics, following a tight script, and making it all believable simultaneously. Honey and Clover’s best success comes from the characters. The chemistry between each of the main cast never over exaggerates, but instead creates an environment that the audience can relate to. Due to the fact there is not a distinct plot, these same characters must push the show through each and every episode. Never is there a trope or cliché to detach from reality, but each person is intelligent, has their own individuality, their own emotions never to be wasted at any point or in any scene. Speaking of emotions, when there is a heart wrenching moment or fear be it longing for love or acceptance, the audience can’t help but feel the same emotions as that particular character which creates real personalities. It is like we, the audience, can hear those character’s screams for love they will never have returned to them. Honey and Clover is very powerful in that sense.

There are light-hearted moments and comedy that brings elements of fun into an anime with so much drama. The character Shinobu is the supplier of most of the comedy such as wanting to dress up and take pictures of Hagumi when she is a reserved person. Comedy seen throughout the show avoids the usual protagonist being clumsy and falling in certain places, but are rather more subtle and scene driven such as a scene where the group plays a game called Twister. This is to the shows advantage and gives the viewer time to relax from the more dramatic moments the series has to offer.

Even the supporting cast has a place in the show. Each person has their purpose and some development so the audience knows where each of them is coming from. It is truly rare for an anime to not have a single weak character main or supportive. For characters that could arguably be “perfect,” the audience is slowly showed through the progression of the anime that even those characters have weaknesses and flaws. It is remarkable how well developed the cast is. Yuuta is probably the character most people would relate to, but even the more outgoing Shinobu has moments of drama that people can relate to as well. The interaction and reaction of characters are shown outward at times that could be a bit “over-the-top,” but Honey and Clover does this in a way to create a lighter sense of atmosphere or moments needed to transition into scenes that are more serious.

Light piano music with various J-pop molds well within the drama unfolding. The music even creates a nice transition between events and scenes never feeling forced. Animation is in a pastel art which can deter some from the show along with a slower pace, but this actually helps the show. Slower movement of scenes creates active tension for the characters, and gives the audience time to slowly realize that single emotion a characters is feeling. Along with that soft piano, a sense of calmness after all of the emotional trials comes over the atmosphere that isn’t really experienced in many anime. Almost everything about Honey and Clover is unique.

This anime does a fantastic job making what could seem like a generic college romance story on the surface turn into something more with unforgettable characters going about their daily lives without being dull. Unfortunately, this leads to an ending without a real conclusion much like real life. Very few events are totally resolved, but by the end of Honey and Clover, it would be hard to not relate to at least one character.

TL;DR: Honey and Clover is an anime with real-life elements taking place in a college environment. It focuses on a group of art students and their struggles in life ranging from unrequited love to finding one’s self. The drama and slice of life is top notch, but the pastel art style and slow pace could be tough to handle. However, what could be downsides work in favor for the anime and how it is portrayed.

Recommended Audience: Anyone looking for something more mature and more down to Earth should look no further. This is widely regarded as possibly the best slice of life show ever, and it is easy to see why. If you like any slice of life then instantly add this anime.

Honey and Clover almost perfectly clay molds a 4/5

Studio: J.C. Staff
Director: Kenichi Kasai
Premiered: Spring 2005
Episode Count: 24
Rating: PG 13 Real Slice of Life
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy, Romance
Streaming: None (used to be on Hulu)
Price: Amazon $120, $60 at Viz.com for each set, currently not in print
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JD

I currently reside in Toronto, ON, Canada. Growing up in Houston, TX, I started out as an anime fan with the old 90's Saturday morning cartoon shows (Dragon Ball, Ranma 1/2). When Toonami starting airing, it was a show like Gundam Wing that officially cemented me as a true anime enthusiast. Any questions or comments, don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter @BowlingJD or check out my Youtube channel: Moosen Spiel.
I am also a big gamer from the retro NES days to modern PS4 greatness. More fun facts about myself include: Job as an engineer with a degree in Geological Engineering, speak fluent German as a second language, ex-Pro current Amateur level Bowler.
JD
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About the author

JD

I currently reside in Toronto, ON, Canada. Growing up in Houston, TX, I started out as an anime fan with the old 90's Saturday morning cartoon shows (Dragon Ball, Ranma 1/2). When Toonami starting airing, it was a show like Gundam Wing that officially cemented me as a true anime enthusiast. Any questions or comments, don't hesitate to contact me via Twitter @BowlingJD or check out my Youtube channel: Moosen Spiel. I am also a big gamer from the retro NES days to modern PS4 greatness. More fun facts about myself include: Job as an engineer with a degree in Geological Engineering, speak fluent German as a second language, ex-Pro current Amateur level Bowler.

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