Friday, June 8, 2007

Honey and Clover - Season 1

(Originally 27 December 2006)

It started out pretty good, but I thought it began to fade towards the end when everyone got confused, and the situation turned very soap-opera-ish. There were moments of enlightenment but it was frustrating to watch. Maybe that's reality. Maybe I just hate reality then. And stupid people. It wasn't so much uncomfortable to watch so much as it was outright boring.

Moments of comedy abound, some better (much better) than others. Typically it's over the top, which, if you like over the top humour, this series would be a good fit. Typically anything involving Morita's character was chuckle-worthy even if he is ridiculous. He's also frustrating when he's not being ridiculous. Most other attempts at exaggeration fell flat.

On the topic of exaggeration, I'm not much for the blank eyes, or signs and such written in bubbles or on shirts or on faces, etc. Facial distortion just gets old really fast for me. The circumstances that make it work, even make it necessary, in manga just aren't there in anime. You can do comedic situations without them, just look at Kanon 2006. Maybe I just hate exaggeration. For someone who's always for a good story, I have a disturbing disregard for most attempts at drama.

Hagu is a kid. A really talented kid. They don't even try and disguise it other than to say she's 18 when the series begins. She's short, she looks like a kid, she acts like a kid, she's pushed around like a kid. Seriously, it borders on demeaning to call her anything but. What's wrong with a talented kid who's skipped several grades and winds up at an arts school? Oh, I guess that would make one love triangle (or love rectangle) loli and therefore illegal. This could easily be remedied by making her taller, not look like a kid, thus becoming a talented anti-social nerd who happens to not be a loser. Such people do exist. I'm just not one of them.

Yuuta Takemoto develops nicely, but it wasn't until almost the end that I really noticed. Most of the time I was rolling my eyes at how much his thoughts and actions resemble a lot of people his age, except his character adds a healthy dose of teen angst that by now (everyone in the series enters their 20's in short order if they haven't at the beginning), most people learn to at least cover up. His situations are probably most relevant to people about to graduate. Have to submit thesis or project, need to look for a job and not doing well in interviews, etc. His family situation gets short shrift, though, and nothing would be amiss if most of it was cut out and replaced by brief flashbacks.

Ayumi is emo as hell past the midpoint of the series, and for some strange reason, it's irritating. I wonder why. Maybe I can't relate to the entirety of her situation. I relate to bits of it, but the rest just baffle me. For example, Takumi Yamada just wants to keep her as a friend and is kind to her in such a capacity, while Ayumi pines away and wants something more. Understandable. Ayumi gets really emo about it. Understandable. She is emo for over 4 years and is generally an ass for that duration. Not so understandable, but worthy of a swift kick in the butt.

For his part, Yamada was not very honest nor articulate about how he felt about the situation. His behaviour, in stark contrast to Ayumi, is extremely reasonable. He has someone he loves, and he acts pretty sane about the whole thing. Rika is to Yamada what Yamada is to Ayu. Both Rika and Yamada treat their suitors (for lack of a better word) similarly. Yamada realizes Rika's feelings about the matter and just accepts it. Ayu realizes much, much later, with the help of extreme amounts of booze and an emo car trip, and doesn't accept it. Cut.

Can't say much much about Yamada. He's a solid character and he's up there with Takemoto in terms of empathy. But I empathize with Yamada's behaviour, and Takemoto's situations.

Shuuji, also can't say much about him. His behaviour toward his niece is creepy, though. He seems more of a cog for the development of other characters. He's a professor. He does professor things and deals with professor problems. I don't want to be a professor. Next!

Shinobu Morita. Comedic relief. Also resident nerd, it seems, although what exactly his work demands of him is unknown. Initially I thought he might be a solid programmer, but later it's implied that he might be good at CG. It's never revealed what exactly he does, except for his CG gig. Maybe that's all he's done. The man seems rich, which sets up his contrasting leech-like behaviour around his friends. Most of his gags involve him mooching, or outright stealing other's people food, or electricity, or shelter. Apparently he's also a popular singer of questionable ability. With so much going for him, in the end he's like a cog as well. I admire his ability (and inability to actually leave school) and his behaviour for providing the best comedic value of the seres, but that's about it.

If you're a poor starving university student, you'll relate in some way. Its impact is spotty at best, though, unless you've experienced everything the characters have gone through if only indirectly. I like the short piano arrangement of the first ED song, but it's so over played. It's like, "a poignant moment omgwtf cue the piano!" Only a few moments were ever that deserving of the piano theme. I think there's like one Spitz (j-pop/rock band) song per episode, and most of the time I just ignored it because they don't contribute to the moment. It's awkward, and distracting, and reeks of product placement even if that's not the case.

Lastly, first OP sequence has nothing to do with the content of the series itself. Well, maybe the stop-motion animation for the broken heart and some others might be relevant. I skipped the OP each time, and the song wasn't that good (or well sung). Creepiest part is when the shrimp cocktail turns into a claw and jumps out at you. That one goes into the WTF moment hall of fame.


What I saw throughout most of the series were problems that left characters in some state of paralysis. Perhaps it is this paralysis that makes for high drama, but that tension is lost on me. The most satisfying episodes were ones that had problems that were acted on and resolved in short order, like the Christmas shopping district episode.

One of the traps that slice of life can fall into, is not getting on with the element that gives the genre its namesake. With Honey and Clover, I see unrequited love getting in the way of friendships, getting in the way of work, but without the consequences that would turn the story towards the tragic side. It's difficult to reconcile that with what little information I have on real life, but I do know that in real life there are consequences.

Knowing what I know now, having seen the second season, everyone does eventually get on with life, although it's taken an unreasonable amount of time to do so. The timeframe for the series is on the order of four, five years. Problems, things you want to say but can't seem to bring yourself to, and the like, result in cordial but distant relations given that length of time in the best case. In the worst case, there is nothing but awkward silence upon a chance encouter.

If there are lessons to be learned in Honey and Clover, most of them will be found in the second season.