(This post is part of a series of posts covering Christmas-themed anime episodes. For more posts like these, check out the 12 Days of Anime tag.)
Marow’s post got me to start watching Honey and Clover. It’s an anime I hear a lot about from other anime bloggers. Most of the praise centers around the true to life depictions of college and early working life. So I expected the show to feel somber and mature in tone compared to the usual anime set in high school.
As it turns out, though, the beginning of Honey and Clover is really sweet and innocent. Besides Mayama’s subplot, this is a story that feels like it could happen in middle school. It feels a little bit strange to watch.
Part of this is because of the silly characters and comedy, which take up the main focus of the first four episodes. So far, the story is just a light-hearted slice of life story with the occasional melancholy moment. The relationships themselves also feel very innocent and innocuous in nature.
Takemoto and Morita both like Hagu. Takemoto befriends Hagu and blushes constantly in her company, not telling her about his crush on her. Morita follows Hagu around and gets her to dress up in strange outfits and calling her “Mousey”. They both remind me of puppies with their puppy love. And Hagu herself is just really cute and petite – you wouldn’t peg her for a university-age student at all.
The soft colours and filtering in the visuals also contribute to an atmosphere of innocence and wistful nostalgia, like someone is looking back on their university days with rose-tinted glasses. As a university student, Honey and Clover doesn’t feel reflective of what it feels like to be in university. This is a totally idealised depiction.
Actually, it reminds me of something I’ve said about J.C. Staff shows in general, that they “reflect the kind of friendship we inwardly long for so strongly that it takes only a slight nudging for us to accept it as true.” Honey and Clover is really vintage J.C. Staff in that sense. Hell, even the cut-in to the ED every episode is just perfect and utterly memorable.
A part of me is a little bothered by how idealised the anime is, but there’s something strangely engrossing about the atmosphere anyway. These characters are all really endearing. I especially love Morita and his utter dorkiness. He looks and acts an awful lot like Akira from Eden of the East – not a surprise since they’re both designed by Chika Umino. He also makes for a good Santa Claus!
Episode 4 is the Christmas episode. Morita invites his friends to a Christmas party, where a number of things about the characters are revealed. Mayama finds out that the older woman he is pining for is not only a widow but is dating his teacher, so by all means he should not be having a good Christmas. Takemoto mentions that he doesn’t like Christmas because as a child he had to spend his Christmases at the hospital. Yet the two of them still end up having fun at the party, and so the night ends well.
What I’m impressed with is how deftly the emotions are depicted throughout this episode (and the show in general, I might add). The focus doesn’t linger too long on any one character. The insert song is very well timed. We see a establishing few shots of all the characters caught up in different things, from Rika visiting her husband’s grave to a drunk Yamada sleeping serenely in the back of Hanemoto’s car. This montage conveys perfectly that every single character had a different impression of Christmas. This is tied to one of the big themes of Honey and Clover – that everyone has a different way of seeing the world and that bonds are formed through empathy and the sincere desire to understand another person’s perspective.
The episode itself ends with a sweet moment. In the end, it’s just Mayama, Morita and Takemoto. But Takemoto is asleep, dreaming of something pleasant. Mayama and Morita drink to celebrate the night, and as they look at Takemoto’s face, they wonder what he might be thinking.
As it turns out, Takemoto too is dreaming of a nostalgic past that never happened, but feels like it almost could.