25 July 2007

Honey and Clover II

I was first introduced with this anime when it was shown on Astro channel 25 but unfortunately I was not able to follow the series.

I bought the DVD last week (both season 1 and 2) and once I started I could not stop. Nevermind if I have to be awake at 4am in the morning as long as I finish it. It was addicted and with every chapter I fall in love more and more with the characters. This is the first anime that I do not have any antipathy towards at least one of the character. Imagine that!

I can assure you that even viewers outside the target demographic attest to its greatness, pointing out its heartfelt storytelling and unique visual style. It was supposed to be just good enough for sophisticated female viewers—and it ended up being good enough for everyone. Funnier than most comedies and more touching than most dramas (even the live-action ones), Honey and Clover has emerged as one of the best anime I had ever watched, and I've watched plenty.

The story begins right in the middle of things—Takemoto in his second year of college, Mayama nearing graduation, and Morita stuck in seventh-year hell. Then Hagu-chan came into the picture. She simply joins the cast, and the drama-go-round begins. There is no epic quest to fulfill, no convoluted conspiracy to unlock, no childhood friend to win over—it's just a bunch of college kids figuring out what to do with their lives, and it is fascinating. Every character gets a moment in the spotlight, with story arcs transiting flawlessly between each other. Even Takemoto, who spends most of the series as a neutral observer, closes things out with an inspiring personal triumph. The mood of the show switches effortlessly from madcap comedy to utter heartbreak and everything in between, yet nothing feels out of place. Within a single episode, a game of Art School Twister takes humor to new heights, and yet minutes later, Takemoto muses upon the meaning of friendship.

Honey and Clover succeeds because of its characters' complex personalities. Morita emerges as a quick fan favorite with his bizarre antics and affinity for money, but to focus on him is to miss out on the intricate relationships between everyone else. I can see myself dating him in real life. My heart reach out for Takemoto as well in his struggle to wins Hagu-chan love. In particular, Ayumi's unrequited attachment to Mayama is sure to arouse plenty of indignation about the portrayal of women in Japanese entertainment. But maybe that anger is because Ayumi openly reveals everything we hate about themselves: weakness, insecurity, and the tendency to do really stupid things in the name of love. She is the most human character in a cast of incredibly human characters.

If Honey and Clover has any faults, it's that you want it to keep going after it's over. It ends just like it begins—right in the middle of things, with so much more yet to be experienced. Without realizing it, you've become part of that circle of friends: you've shared their heartbreaks and triumphs, walked alongside them as they poured out their feelings, and watched each one of them learn a little bit more about themselves. Whether in school or not, who hasn't asked themselves at some point: "What do I want to do? Who do I want to be?" Honey and Clover may not have the answers, but it's all about trying to find them.

The other thing I realize when I had finished this anime is this: people do drifted apart as we get older...


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