The entirety of Honey and Clover can be summed up as this: Guy A loves Girl B who loves Guy C who loves Girl D who loves Guy E who loves Girl F and so on.
We know love triangles. Some of us love them. But when the triangle becomes a dodecahedron it become unfeasible.
Honey and Clover follows a small group of artists as they go through college and a little beyond. In many ways it is a coming-of-age / slice-of-life with a more melancholy note. All of the characters love someone and are loved by someone, but no two people seem to love each other. It’s a developed study on unrequited love, and it romanticizes the notion as an ideal.
One of the true problems with this is that the show spans many years in the character’s lives, and during that time there is little to no change or development in their feelings. Personally, I would rather accept a rejection and look for someone else to love. But these characters all devote years of their young adult lives to their one-sided feelings. I find this to be entirely unrealistic, as eventually 18 -24 year olds in an art school would find someone to date, and the ones who didn’t would be the exception and not the norm. The story has other side plots and twists, and it tries to lighten the mood with standard anime shenanigans and silliness. But at its core this anime is about unrequited love, and all the different ways it can make us miserable.
I do have to give it a nod in one sense, the dialogue is written quite well. Even though the plot is weak, repetitive and unbelievable, the presentation is eloquent. I even found my sappy-self tear up once or twice when scenes were particularly poignant. It’s an odd contradiction, but it happens. Many a great plot has been destroyed by cheesy dialogue, and many a great script has been ruined for lack of plot. Honey and Clover is the latter.
On a basic, general level, the animation can be seen as quite pretty. Certain effects, especially when we’re focusing on the student’s art, are downright shiny. But when it comes to emotional expressions, I feel like the show steps significantly backwards. Characters blush, A LOT, and when they do it’s shown as a red scribble line across their cheeks. We also get a lot of your standard flowery backdrop scenes with characters drawn in extreme emotions of some sort, and for some reason when that happens they lose a lot of their face. Seriously, whenever they are angry, sad or euphoric, the characters no longer have a nose or shading, and their mouth becomes a simple shape reminiscent of cartoons from 40 years back. I know a lot of anime go for a style similar to this, but in Honey and Clover it is over-done and lazy.
Have you ever seen Excel Saga? Do you remember the scenes when Excel would run down the street singing some inane optimistic gibberish in a grating and obnoxious voice? I found the opening theme for this show to be a lot like that. Needless to say, I fast forwarded through every opening.
The ending theme is much more tolerable, but it’s nothing above and beyond the standard sentimental music you come to expect from such things. I’m pretty sure the soundtrack used as background was the same, but I honestly can’t remember anything distinctive about it.
The characters are the plot. So really, everything I said in the story section applies here.
I will add this though; there were characters I really really wanted to like, but couldn’t. When a character keeps shamelessly throwing themselves at one person in all the humiliating fashions these characters do, it’s hard to feel empathetic. In some cases, I felt like the character should have been above that, but was being demeaned for the sake of the plot.
Whatever. My dead horse is now glue.
Really, I just didn’t like it. It wasn’t the worst anime ever. It wasn’t the worst anything. I just didn’t find it to be as compelling or romantic as other people have. I wrote this review mainly to provide another perspective, since I know that this is a popular series and it does appeal to certain people. But if you, like me, feel that unproductive and blind devotion is NOT a romantic ideal, then hopefully I have succeeded in warning you.