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Honey and Clover: Box, Vol. 1

VIZ // Unrated // September 22, 2009
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted October 29, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Show:
Honey and Clover started out as an award-winning manga which was made into an anime series and even a live action film.  The buzz for the anime show was very positive, so I was looking forward to this slice-of-life romantic comedy.  Unfortunately the show didn't live up to my expectations.  I had a hard time relating to any of the characters and the situations they found themselves in.  Because of that I found the show rather emotionless and dull.
Yūta Takemoto is a poor college student going to art school.  He's in his second year and lives in a cheap apartment building with several other art students.  These include his one of his best friends, Takumi Mayama, a handsome fourth year student who has an internship at an architecture firm and Shinobu Morita, a mysterious, unkept youth.  Shinobu has been going to college for six years, mainly because he's perpetually missing class.  He also disappears for up to weeks at a time, only to return in a ragged state, very tired, with his back pocket full of cash and bearing odd gifts for the rest of the building.
Things change significantly when one of the teachers at the school introduces a new student, his cousin's daughter, Hanamoto Hagumi.  Hanamoto is 18 years old, but she looks like she's about 10.  She's short and small, likes to play with dolls, and is fairly quite and doesn't talk that much.  She's also a very talented sculptor, and Yuta and Shinobu instantly fall in love with her.  The former just acts awkward when she's around, but Shinobu pesters her by taking pictures of her after he dresses her like a leprechaun.
The love triangles don't stop there however.  Takumi is in love with an older woman who is disabled, while an attractive student named Ayumi Yamada really loves him.  She's so into the attractive student that whenever she hears his name she gets distracted and accidently ruins the art project that she happens to be working on.
This is a slice-of-life show that examines the loves and losses of these diverse college students.  While I normally enjoy this sort of show, (I liked Nana and Welcome to the NHK quite a lot) there were a few aspect of this anime that kept me from enjoying it.  First and foremost was the fact that I couldn't stand the main character.  Yuta was constantly whining and the smallest problem seemed like an insurmountable tragedy to him.  Asked to wake up a friend in the morning, he panics before he goes to sleep, wondering if he's up to the task and is ready for the responsibility.  When his friend doesn't wake up, he panics and screams.  Geeze dude, take a chill pill.  He really, really got on my nerves.
Another problem I had with the show was that I couldn't see why Yuta and Shinobu would fall in love with Hanamoto.  Yeah, they mention that they both have feelings for her, but they never show why.  I can understand that the two artists respect her talent and ability, but she looks like a pre-pubescent child and worse she acts like one.  Does either of these guys really want to hang out and play dolls with her?  Honestly?  What would they have to talk about, especially since the girl doesn't carry on conversations?
Oddly enough the only person who was nearly as irritating as Yuta was Ayumi.  Throughout this first half of the first season a fair amount of time passes, but Ayumi just can't get over the fact that Takumi doesn't love him.  She has a lot of inner conversations about how she's the right girl for him and how the woman he loves is all wrong, but she never grows up.  Though she's a talented artist she comes across as a woman who needs a man to be complete, an idea that's pretty archaic today.
Being the type of program it is, not a lot happens.  That's not necessarily a bad thing if you like the characters.  If you can't connect with the people in the show on some level however, then the program is pretty boring.  That's how I found it. 
The DVD:

The first 12 episodes along with the first special "L" are presented on three DVDs that come in a custom book that's about the same width as a regular DVD case. 
 Viewers have the choice of the original Japanese soundtrack or an English dub, both in stereo.  I screened a couple of episodes in English before settling on the Japanese track for most of the series.  The English cast does a good job with their roles, nothing exceptional but it's a solid dub track.  The only real complaint I had was with Hanamoto's voice which was a bit too high pitched for my tastes.  Both tracks were free from distortion and dropouts.  There are optional English subtitles but translations for the signs are burned in.  (That takes the audio rating down half a notch.)
The 1.78:1 widescreen image looks very good.  The colors that were used are more realistic and not exceptionally vivid or bright and this was reproduced accurately on the discs.  The blacks where nice and solid and the lines were tight.  There was a bit of banding in some scenes and some occasional aliasing, but nothing major.
The set includes a short featurette on the making of the opening credits, which is great.  Though I wasn't a huge fan of the show itself, this is one of the best openings that I've seen.  It consists of a series of images of very artistic food on plates and concludes with a nice twist.
There's also a text piece on every disc explaining some of the cultural references in the series, a production art gallery, and clean opening and closing animations.
Final Thoughts:
This isn't a bad show.  A lot of time and effort went into both the story and the animation and I'm sure I would have enjoyed it if I could have related to the characters on some level.  Unfortunately I didn't.  I found the main character to be whiny and spineless and I couldn't relate to the main love triangle.  Viewers who enjoy slice-of-life romantic comedies should rent this set.  They may find that it's just what they're looking for.
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