As a live-action film, this one is just as sweet as honey.
Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Viz Pictures
Running Time: 116 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: Available Now
“Oi,” I tell fellow staff member and fellow reviewer Clive Owen. “You going to bogart the movie version of ‘Honey and Clover’ all to yourself?”
Since he read the first volume of the Honey and Clover manga, our co-worker has embraced his inner shojo-fan and is the one who is anticipating the second volume of the manga as well as the anime Viz Media announced will be arriving on shores soon. When he heard about the live-action movie version of said manga, though, his face lit up like a Christmas tree. Much like fellow reviewer Faith McAdams, I didn’t blame him one bit.
You see, Honey and Clover is one of those movies that is faithful to the source material in question so the main characters feel much like the characters created by Chica Umino. Yet, like the “live-action” version of Death Note, the story is condensed to fit the movie’s running time. Still, much of what we experience in the film is not only great for fans of the manga but also those who aren’t manga readers at all as well.
The movie centers it’s attention on architecture student Takemoto who lives in a student housing apartment with other art students. It is through Takemoto that we meet Takumi Mayama who is literally stalking an older woman he is in love with despite the fact that a younger and cuter girl named Ayumi Yamada (Megumi Seki) is stalking him. Then there’s the mad genius that is Morita (played perfectly by Yusuke Iseya) who is on the verge of being discovered. Then there’s Hagu (wonderfully brought to life by Hula Girls actress Yu Aoi), a strange young gifted artist living with her uncle, Professor Hanamoto.
While Morita’s wood carving art catches the eyes of two art dealers, he becomes the talk of the school and the art community. The problem is that it also catches the attention of Hagu and this doesn’t sit well with Takemoto who instantly falls in love with Hagu the moment he is introduced to her by Hanamoto. “I witnessed somebody fall in love today,” Mayama thinks aloud and it’s a sight that both intrigues him and makes him reflect on his affection for the older woman he works for as an intern assistant.
One of the best moments in the movie come from Mayama who often comically imagines the interrogation he would receive if the authorities ever found out he was stalking the object of his affection. Yamada, who is in love with Mayama, follows Mayama so the stalker is being stalked himself. In one of the most endearing moments in the movie, Yamada encourages Mayama to tell the older woman how he feels even though it hurts Yamada so deeply. Do these two end up together at the end? I won’t tell but don’t expect things to come out the way other romantic comedies end up.
Fans of the manga will recognize a few moments taken from the pages of Chica Umino’s work including a road trip that ends with the group of students crashing in a hotel where Mayama makes a drawing using nothing but soy sauce. Hagu’s fascination with Morita is also a part of the manga and it plays a big role in the movie. Does she love this wacky genius or is she merely just an artist recognizing another artist’s work? Unlike the manga, Hagu is just an abstract painter and in one scene both her and Morita paint together in one scene that has Takemoto wondering if these two were meant to be together instead.
Just like the manga, you will find it very hard not to like all the characters and even more so thanks to the stellar acting from the impressive cast as well as the wonderful directing by Masahiro Takata. For me, J-pop star Sho Sakurai as Takemoto almost steals the movie. His interpretation of the character is not only likeable but also downright endearing that you won’t help but find yourself rooting for Takemoto all the way. I also loved Ryo Kase whose performance is akin to seeing Mayama spring from the pages of the manga and come to life right before your eyes.
The film version of Honey and Clover is one of those beautiful rarities that do justice to the comic, and aside from that, is a cleverly original love story that makes our Hollywood romantic comedy claptrap seem worthless in comparison. That’s right, I said it. This is what a romantic comedy should be like and believe me (and Clive) when I say that you will love every minute of this wonderfully directed and acted film.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
A beautiful interpretation of a wonderful shojo manga, the Honey and Clover movie is funny, sweet and wonderfully filmed. The acting is top notch, especially Yu Aoi as Hagu.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
The video quality is absolutely the best in Anamorphic Widescreen and the movie comes out crisp and clear.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The sound quality is awesome with a good sound system or without one. This is good news seeing as the score is brought to you by none other than the amazing Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex).
There are a few trailers from other Viz Picture movies and Director and Cast info. The only movie related extra is a feature called Hanamoto Study Group where the film’s cast turns the interview camera on themselves. Trust me, it offers no real insight.
Honey and Clover is one of those wonderfully original treats from Japan that lightly touches the good things about the source material. Fans of the manga will recognize a few scenes from the manga itself and it’s a blast to see the characters come to life. In short, if you’re a fan of the manga you will be a fan of the movie.