Nomiya loves Yamada. Yamada loves Mayama. Mayama loves Rika. Rika has a history with Hanamoto-sensei. Hanamoto’s cousin Hagu has just moved into town. Takemoto loves Hagu. Hagu loves Morita. Morita loves money. Welcome to Honey and Clover.
Although a love story at first glance, Hachimitsu to Kurobaa—Hachikuro for short—is both more and less than such a simple description. Taking place in an art college attended by the main characters, the series is less soap-opera than its romantic-flow chart would suggest and more poignant than simple relationship issues. Primarily narrated from the perspective of Yuuta Takemoto, a peacemaking underachiever who lives in an apartment complex with Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita, Hachikuro is a story about the transition from childhood to adulthood and all of the everyday issues that come with it. Though centering somewhat around a love triangle between Takemoto, Morita, and prodigy artist Hagumi Hanamoto, not once does the series break into the cynical, darker mind of jealousy and cheating and truly centers around the friendships these characters make and how they rely on each other to make it through life.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the series is its dime turns between romantic drama and perfect comic timing primarily at the hands of Morita (voiced by Yuji Ueda of Love Hina fame), though the snark of Mayama (voiced by Tomokazu Sugita of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) and deadpan victimization of Takemoto (voiced by Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei’s Hiroshi Kamiya) is not far behind. Much like Ouran High School Host Club, the show’s self-deprecating humor serves to bring the audience’s guard down before hitting them with the deeper, emotional heart of the show. Unlike Ouran, the points about love, careers, and the general difficulties of life are a little more apparent and identifiable with the average person in any given school setting, though sneakily, unlike the high school themed shows like Azumanga Daioh or Haruhi, none of the show actually takes place inside a classroom.
Part of the show’s charm can also be attributed to the animation. Befitting a show centering around an art college and a girl that paints as such, the show has a washed color feeling that evokes watercolor paintings and chalk outlining. Animation is fluid and renderings hardly change episode to episode, unlike many other shows. Indeed, the look of the show feels as if the character of Hagu might in fact be painting it out of her memories gone by, while Takemoto stands off nearby and narrates.
Music is another point; purposefully, the show has utilized the songs of the band Spitz and Shikao Suga, which were inspirational to original creator Chika Umino when creating the series. The background music surrounding the show often has a nostalgic, melancholy feel, extremely suitable for the mood of the show which often delves into the thoughts and memories of the characters.
The only real complaint about the show is its snail-like pace. Placated somewhat by the comedy turns, the first season has an emphasis on the “status quo” being maintained and nothing being resolved. As a show centered around romance, it takes main character Takemoto the entire twenty-four episodes to simply admit one thing, much less have anything happen. While this issue is attacked with vigor in the second season, first-time watchers may have an issue with the pacing.
Another complaint, albiet a belated one: the translation and quality check efforts made by the American licensors is sub-par. I had the extreme pleasure of watching this show prior to its licensing and localization, and have the misfortune of loving it enough to support its official release and purchasing it. To call the subtitles terrible would be an understatement. Characters inexplicably are using each other's given names when in Japanese they are not, and in some cases the editors made blatant errors in mixing up who they are referencing (one character shouts, "Shu!" in reference to Shuuji Hanamoto, but is supposed to say "Shinobu" Morita). They also keep the use of Takumi Nomiya's surname, possibly because his given name is identical to Takumi Mayama, his coworker. It is enough of a gaff to be seriously agitating when watching the DVDs.
Ultimately, however, the show is a great example of melodrama bereft of unconvincing angst, comedy with a dramatic payoff, and themes that are universally understood to any college student. While slow, the series is basically recommended to anybody and everybody, even beyond its josei adult-women target demographic.