“We never did go to the beach. All that planning for nothing. But somehow, the fake memory of the six of us bathing in the sun burnt into the back of my eyelids, as if we were really there.”
Episodes: 36, divided into two seasons
Genres: slice of life, romance, comedy
Themes: college life, art, growing up
Not often do you come across something artsy and about art, and at the same time gives you a taste of cherries. Honey and Clover is a romantic comedy revolving around the lives of five art students going through their college life. This is definitely a benchmark anime for the slice-of-life genre, finding just the right balance between joy and sorrow.
There is no proper story-line; rather the entire plot is based solely on the characterization. The characters here are few of the most lovable ones ever to grace the screens of animated television. Each person is a three dimensional human being with reasonable flaws, having a unique perspective towards life. There is no stereotypical ‘dumb guy who makes you laugh’ or anything of that sort. Everyone is complex, having reasonable intelligence and emotions, and plans which stretch out further than the activities of next week. Sometimes few insignificant characters, who are mere cardboard cutouts having single purposes in life, do turn up, but they add to the flavor of the entire anime. A vague analogue would be Lestrade from the ever so great Sherlock Holmes.
You’ll find a lot of melodrama and energy, all for the sake of comedy, and trust me; it gets seriously funny at times. But Honey and Clover is not just another dramatic show. It ranges from belly-aching laughter to tearful insights. The transition between these happens smoothly and continuously throughout the series, leaving no phase completely sad or completely happy.
Like all college students, the air surrounding the five is scented with young love and dilemmas. Two love triangles pop up. But I guess that’s a gross over-simplified way of saying things. Don’t go on thinking that all the serious issues are related to love though, because there is just so much more. A heartfelt despair about lack of talent, for example.
The series has soft pastel shaded coloring throughout, unlike the typical bright tones you find in most anime. This compliments the steady flow of incidents to perfection. The expressions conjured with sudden changes in eye/face/body shapes often leave you mesmerized. I have a few complaints regarding the second season, in this respect. Though they maintained the same soft pastel shade, somehow the rough beauty of the expressions didn’t match up to those of the first.
In fact, the entire second season is a bit disappointing, thanks to the tremendous expectation set forth by the first. The proper balance between separate story-lines is somewhat lost, and you don’t get to see anything of Shinobu, Takemoto and Hagu for about six episodes or so. I won’t say it’s bad though (hell no!), it’s still awesome and makes up for all the aforementioned minor flaws with a fabulous ending sequence. What awes you most, is that in spite of being melodramatic throughout the season, no one gets any special hype towards the end, even though the precious characters might never see each other again.
The soundtrack is one of the best ever (in my opinion). The voice acting is good, but, as usual, the English dub is a bit disappointing. They managed to ruin some important scenes with change of tone and complete change of dialogues. Hence I’ll recommend Japanese audio with English subs. In case you are new to anime, you might as well stick to English dub.
I feel that this is best watched between the ages of 16 and 18, although there is no reason why older people won’t like it. This is a must watch for all anime and/or art lovers. If you want something rare and precious, Honey and Clover is one of the best there is.