Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Author: Chica Umino
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Release Date: Available Now
This is the reason we love manga so much.
Fellow reviewer Clive Owen is getting on my nerves.
I know this is a strange way to start a manga review but since I laid out my copy of Honey and Clover, Volume 1, it has been in his possession and he won’t give it back. This is a guy who would much rather dive into anything shonen and leave the shojo to “the office babes.” Yet when he started scanning through the pages, he was so captivated by what he was reading that he dropped everything just to concentrate on reading the volume. Having read it myself, I just don’t blame him.
Honey and Clover is one of those rare gems one finds very rarely. It’s the type of work that transcends gender to make it a work of art any loyal manga addict (like myself) could really sink their teeth into and enjoy. It’s a manga that is ripe with excellent writing, expressive artwork and characters that will remain in your mind long after you stopped reading. In short, it’s perfect in ever way. This, if anything, is the reason I recommended it as an Editor’s Award.
The first volume in this deeply involving manga revolves around a young art student named Yuta Takemoto who lives in an apartment building filled with other art students attending a local Tokyo university. Through his eyes we meet his flat mates such as architecture student Takumi Mayama and the seemingly brilliant-yet-completely-bonkers Shinobu Morita.
Takemoto, a freshman really, experiences life in the apartment is not easy and oftentimes these students go days without the savory taste of meat. Fortunately, Morita comes home at odd hours like a living zombie loaded with cash and meat that he bought at reduced prices. What he does to get said money is a mystery and, to Takemoto, Morita is a riddle that’s hard to piece together. Why is it that girls want to pamper him yet not date him? Why has he been on campus for way too long? These are questions that pop up but are hardly answered. Well, in this volume, anyway.
Then there’s Mayama, a seemingly put-together young architecture student who is good enough that he might already have offers for employment. He was the target of Morita’s craziness until Takemoto stepped in to fill the role but is still swept away by his friend’s antics. Mayama, while a stable young man, might have a crush on an older woman who is friends with their sensei named Professor Hanamoto even though there’s a younger girl named Ayumi Yamada with the world’s biggest crush on him. Hilariously, Yamada (unfortunately nicknamed “Ironman”) takes to physically kicking around Mayama just to get his attention.
The true highlight of the manga, however, is the introduction of the lovely yet pixie-like Hagumi “Hagu” Hanamoto who is the cousin of Professor Hanamoto. Hagu is eighteen years old but looks like a grade school student instead. While short and childlike, Hagu is an artistic genius that creates work of art that the art community recognizes to the point that her work is featured in museums. It is her spark of creativity that catches the attention of Takemoto who suddenly comes to realize that he might just be falling in love with this prodigy who very rarely even talks to anybody on campus.
Chica Umino’s storytelling is also ripe with truly funny moments that will make you laugh out loud. Taking one glance at Hagu, Morita quickly grabs a huge leaf from the campus garden and snaps photos of Hagu while calling her a “Koropokkur” (a type of fairy). In another chapter, we meet Lohmeyer, a student that arrives with enough ham and meat that the boys form an almost embarrassing boy-crush on to the point that his absence has them on the verge of tears. Even Umino’s artwork is a stroke of brilliance and is different from every other shojo manga out there.
The brilliance of Honey and Clover is in its well-rounded and appealing characters but also the chapters that paint an even bigger picture. Its love story (whether you follow Mayama and Yamada’s relationship or the love triangle that is Hagu, Takemoto and Mayma) is handled superbly. It’s one of those manga that will make you glad you love manga. Really, you will find it hard to put it down.
Now, if only I can get my copy back away from Clive.
Falling in love has rarely seemed this amusing, gratifying and absolutely hysterical in other shojo and Chica Umino does it with her brand of wit and intelligence. By the end of the manga you will be so captivated by the characters that you will find yourself savoring every panel. Yes, it’s that good.
At first glance, the art might seem unusual and at other times the characters look like zany caricatures. In short, Chica Umino’s artistic style is her own and it works beautifully to the point that its originality stands out perfectly. Kudos to you, Umino, for your interesting art. I mean, just look at that gorgeous front cover.
Without a doubt, Honey and Clover is an entrancing, funny and downright brilliant piece of work that will make you glad you picked it up in the first place. It’s a completely original and unique manga that throws conventional shojo trappings for something entirely refreshing and real. If you don’t believe me, pick up a copy and see if you can put it down.