So we just finished watching Honey and Clover today, and I must say, I really love this show, and I can't say that about many shows. I mean, I *like* many series, but this was just good. The last time I seriously loved a show.... Ima Soko, I loved. Rose of Versailles, I loved. (In the very much like category: Utena, Giant Robo).
Not really spoiler-ful, since this anime has to be watched. But for the un-initiated, it's a 24-episode anime about art school college students.
Basic stats, as presented in 1st epsiode:
Morita: 6th year, sculpture major, Insane and talented
Mayama: 3rd year, architecture major. Serious
Yamada: 3rd year, pottery major, has crushed on Mayama since forever.
Takemoto: 2nd year, architecture major. Naive and good-willed.
Hagu: 1st year, everything major. Small and cute.
Shuu: teacher and cousin (?) of Hagu.
- It took the best elements of recent trends in anime, and *actually used them*. As in, it kept the shininess without losing the plot. In that, I'm referring to the recent ability to:
--> attention to wardrobe and character design. We have completely moved past the DBZ/Kenshin days where everyone had the same clothes. Starting in the 2000s, we see more and more, oh, I dunno, clothing that matches the character. In H+C, people grow in height, change their hairstyles and their wardrobe as they mature. And it's not superfluous, either. It actually reflects that character's psychological state, except not that in-your-face. You get to know Mayama's shirts almost as well as Yamada. Riku is always stylish, but wears the same shoes for sentimental reasons. Hagu wears cute froofy things, but grows out of them, and also gets a more mature hairstyle. Takemoto is ever the boy, but he grows into his clothes. At the end, his hairstyle becomes more like Morita's, since they've become equals.
--> attention to background. Ah yes, the rise in the production budget means that they can actually afford backgrounds now. Realistic backgrounds that capture Japan. And it becomes more than a setting. I really loved seeing them in the park, in the zoo, Mayama standing outside Riku's apartment building, Takemoto on his bike trip. In each place the characters interact with the environment and draws something from it. Instead of, y'know, "This can take place in practically any large city, especially since we'll be destroying it in about 2 minutes". It can even be small things, like, Sakura-watching parties. OMG there's multiple groups camped out under the trees, which means that characters have multiple obligations. Complexity! Mayama's cell phone has "Moon River" set to a specific person, and only to her, and it's different otherwise.
- Pacing. I think this is where it *really* works. They've found the right pacing to tell the story, with the right blend of comedy and angst so that neither seems excessive.
--> What I found especially innovative was the half-episode pacing. Even though they are shown in full episodes, each episode in fact contains what is essentially two episodes about 12 minutes in length. There is generally some internal cohesion within each 24 minute episode, in that one half-episode would reference the other, so each big episode would tend to have general themes.
--> This subdivision enables them to advance the plot by allowing 47 time/space/theme jumps in 24 episodes. Four years pass in 24 episodes.
--> At the same time, half-episodes are just the right length to show small scenes of group interaction without being boring or contrived. Yay for vignettes of character development!
--> Also, this swift passing of time allows for repetition, such as Christmas, Sakura-watching, summer festivals, etc, which brings out the changes in each year
- Complexity of characters and relationships. Well, duh, you say. But I especially appreciated...
--> complex range of age and experience. As in, not everyone is at the same age and the same point in their life. Everyone's dealing with different things, and so no matter what stage on the relationship/growing up cycle you're on, you find someone to resonate with. Thus, *very* high re-watch value. For example, if I crushed on someone and watched it, and then watched it a month later after giving up, and then watched it another month later as I was beginning to get over it, and then again as I have settled into a happy life of singledom, there's always something there. And despite everyone going to art school, they go in different directions. Mayama and Yamada started in the same place... a one-sided crush that will never come to fruition. And yet, they end up in such different places... A cool thing that this does is that people's experience influence one another. Mayama influences Yamada. Shuu's influence on Hagu based on his experience with Riku, etc.
--> realistic peripheral characters
The peripheral characters. They have lives! The little old lady near Sapporo went to LA. The shopping district boys have their own dynamics and wants. We actually learn about Hagu's grandmother, Yamada's father, Takemoto's stepfather, Shuu's sensei, etc.
--> complex relationships that don't magically resolve themselves. Yes, characters in fact *have to deal.* With the stupid (or perhaps not-so-stupid) persistence of hope, with the awkwardness of a step-father, with work relationships and idols... There isn't some magical relationship deus ex machina thing that conveniently resolves everything. At the same time, characters to grow and learn and deal.
--> true comraderie
Takemoto, Morita, and Mayama are not only fully developed characters with their individual personalities, but they share a comraderie that is un-adulterated by the typical anime stuff. (Sidekick, rival, homoerotic tension, etc.) Takemoto and Morita are friends before they are rivals. Like when Morita comes back and Takemoto realizes that ... it's better to have Morita back than to have Hagu all to himself. And later, Morita waits for Takemoto.
Maybe I should launch a section of the wiki that allows people to rant and discuss. For example, I'd love to have a page dediated to Morita.