Review for Honey and Clover: Box Set 3
It doesn’t take much to get me procrastinating, but sometimes there is a little voice trying to tell me something that gets lost in the laziness. One of the problems with clearance sales is that there is no recourse when things go wrong. When Madman Entertainment were clearing out old stock some eight years ago, I pounced on a box full of anime goodness. Honey and Clover was the pick of that particular bunch, and I loved it when I watched it. But I also found a fault in one of the second season discs. You don’t contact a retailer looking for a replacement disc in a clearance sale, especially when you probably picked up the last copy. So I actually turned my attention westwards and paid above the odds for a Region 1 copy of Season 2 from Viz Media. So much for the clearance sale! The thing is with faulty discs, when I get a replacement, I will watch them straight away, to check again for faults. I haven’t watched these discs at all since the parcel arrived eight years ago. I’ve been recently re-watching the Madman Honey and Clover set, and now that I’m at Season 2, I’ve switched to this Viz boxset. But with my re-watch experience of Season 1, it seems there might be a deeper reason behind my procrastination...
We’re often told that going to university is meant to be the best time of your life, but the reality can be a lot more challenging. That’s what Yuta Takemoto found when he went to art college, and the only accommodation he could afford was a room in a dilapidated apartment building, along with similarly straitened students. But alongside senior Takumi Mayama, and eternal student Shinobu Morita they make the best of it, finding pleasure in the small things. Of course things get complicated when relationships get involved, and Takumi’s got a crush on an older woman, while he’s being pursued by fellow student Ayumi Yamada. And when a shy art prodigy named Hagumi Hanamoto starts at the college, both Yuta and Shinobu fall for her. Season 2 catches up with the characters after they finish university, and embark on adult life.
This release collects all the episodes of season 2 across 3 discs from Viz Media (note these episode titles are from the subtitled Japanese next episode previews, not the episode listing on the discs).
1. And So We Go Around, Yet Again
2. I Couldn’t Even Say it if I Wanted To
3. I Don’t Want to See Your Tears
4. I Won’t Let You Go Anywhere
5. Happy, Yet in Pain
6. We Never Did Make It to the Beach
7. Going Forward... Towards the Light
8. We Didn’t Know
9. I Feel Powerless
10. When I Was Younger, I Saw God
11. Please Give Me Your Life
12. Honey and Clover, and...
Honey and Clover gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer in NTSC format. Compared to the Australian release, it’s nice to get the show in its native broadcast format, and the animation is smooth, clear and sharp without issue. Spreading the twelve episodes across three discs instead of two allows for better compression, but this isn’t a show that relies on fine detail and complex visuals. It looks better than the Madman release, but it’s a fine distinction. This is a show aimed more at a female demographic, and that tells in the art style, the more elegant character designs, the pastel colour palette, and the softer feel to the animation. Just like in shows such as Ristorante Paradiso and House of the Five Leaves, the character designs are a little more angular, while mouths are larger, facial proportions a little more realistic. The animation is smooth, although more of the effort goes into the overall look of things, rather than specific moments of animation. Honey and Clover is a very pleasing show to look at.
You have the choice between DD 2.0 English and Japanese, with optional translated English subtitles. Plot specific on screen text has burnt in English translated captions, overlaid in a font and at an angle in keeping with the style of the original text. I went with the original language version, and was happy enough with the experience, although I did sample the dub and found it to be pretty nicely judged when it came to character and emotion. One great thing about Honey and Clover is the incidental music, with quite a few songs from Suga Shikao used in the soundtrack. Thankfully, there is none of the issues with PAL speedup that blighted the music on the Australian release. Just native frame rate here. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.
You get 3 discs in a foldout digipack, two discs overlapping on one face, and one on the other, which slides inside a thin card slipcase. The discs boot to static menus.
The extras are on disc 3.
The Cultural Terms offer a glossary for some of the terms used in the selected episodes in this collection.
The big extra here is the Voice Acting Karaoke, which lets you dub your own voice over a character in certain scenes. This was a featurette on the Japanese release, but Viz Media have localised it for the English market, offering two versions, one with English dialogue, and one with Japanese dialogue (with convenient romanji text to help you sound out the words). Bit runs to 8:06.
You get the textless credits for the second season, a Production Art click through gallery with 9 categories, the English Production Credits running to 19 seconds, and 6½ minutes of Japanese Production Credits translated to English for all of the episodes.
There are a few pages of ads for Viz Manga, and trailers for the Nana, and the Honey and Clover live action movies.
Usually, I’m happy enough with an anime if it gives a repeat performance the second time around; it’s a pure joy if an anime bears up under multiple viewings. If I’m really lucky, there is the rare anime which gets better the second time around. I wish the third type of anime was just as rare, but alas, it’s a more significant minority of shows that don’t bear up when watched again. Honey and Clover is one such show, which had me go back to my original review, and then had me scratching my head, wondering why I was so effusive with my praise the first time. The thing of it is, it seems that those very aspects that drew me to the show, are what turned me off this time around, at least when it comes to the first season. These 12 episodes comprise the second season, and I didn’t find it quite as problematic, at least when it comes to the story conclusion.
When I first saw Honey and Clover, what impressed me was just how different it was to the anime we normally get in the UK. Its blend of comedy, drama and romance was sufficiently removed from the usual brand of comedy romance anime that we get in the UK (usually harem), that Honey and Clover struck me as comparatively mature. With this second viewing, it turns out that ‘comparatively’ is a fine distinction indeed, and the blend of comedy, drama and romance doesn’t work quite as well once the novelty value has worn off. Now the various love triangles feel trite, with the characters going through the same emotions and experiences again and again, and failing to learn and grow from them for far too long. Just how long can love remain unrequited without resentment setting in? The characters also seem far too goofy for some of the dramatic events they experience; Shinobu may have seemed endearingly unexpected the first time around, but now he seems almost abusive. And now I can only see Hagumi presented as a porcelain doll of infinite cuteness, whose obliviousness to the male attention she receives is no longer charming, only eyeroll inducing.
That’s most of the first season described, and it continues on into the second. But here, in these twelve episodes, the balance between comedy and drama shifts as the story plays out, with the drama becoming more prominent, the goofiness toned down. My attention stopped drifting away from the screen, and I was interested in what happened to the characters once more. Some of the drama does feel contrived, but it no longer feels as if it will be just washed away with a sight-gag, or throwaway line. Finally the consequences set in, and the story feels a little more real.
Maybe I let my attention drift a little too much, but Honey and Clover’s charm has faded enough for me to not regret missing out on the Viz Media Region 1 releases of Parts 1 and 2 to complement this Part 3 release that I got to replace that dodgy disc in the Madman collection. Because technically, when it comes to DVD this US release is the one that you want, not so much in term of image, but audio, as you don’t have to deal with the warble of pitch correction distorting the show’s music. Also the packaging is really nice.