Honey and Clover, Box 1 – DVD Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: VIZ Media
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

Making sense of love is definitely an art form.

In an office filled with Honey and Clover fans, we have waited for the day that VIZ Media would release the anime version of the Shojo Beat Manga that has so captured the hearts of everyone here including all the boys that pretend not to like it but are equally obsessed. At last, the wait is over as Box 1 of Honey and Clover is here and the good news is that it’s good enough to do justice to Chica Umino’s funny and heartfelt manga series.

Box 1 covers the first 13 episodes of the series as we are introduced to Yuta Takemoto who attends an art school in Tokyo. He shares a cramped housing complex with architecture student Mayama and the over-the-top zany Morita and yes he feels a bit out of place in the school until Professor Hanamoto’s diminutive niece, Hagu, comes to the school. Despite her appearance, Hagu is an art prodigy whose work has been featured in art exhibits and the art world expects much from her. For Takemoto, as Mayama can plainly see, it’s love at first sight.

Then there’s Mayama himself who only has eyes for an older woman named Rika-san he is currently working for as an intern despite the fact that a lovely ceramics student named Yamada is so deeply in love with him. It’s a complex series of love triangles in Honey and Clover and while there are some deep moments in the series it is clear from the zany antics of Morita that this is a series that isn’t afraid to be wildly comical.

The 13 episodes follows the lives of these five students who become closer friends when Hagu becomes part of their life. In an instant, Morita becomes interested in Hagu mainly because she’s small, cute and gifted. Never mind the fact that Hagu is terrified by the school’s resident genius/slacker, she finds herself interested in the young man like in one episode where the group heads out to a resort and Morita draws a picture with nothing but soy sauce. Yet it is Takemoto that Hagu appears to be comfortable with like the time he stays the night with Hagu to build her a wardrobe for her doll collection.

Meanwhile, Mayama finds out more about Rika-san from the man who knows her best … Professor Hanamoto. He quickly comes to realize that Yamada’s insistence on pursuing something that isn’t there could only lead to disaster. If anything, this love triangle is quite possibly the highlight of the series seeing as the anime does include the scene where Mayama carries a very drunk Yamada back to her home only to hear the poor girl confess her love for him. This is definitely one of the more touching and memorable scenes that reminds you that Honey and Clover is based on a shoujo manga.

Then again, the comedy in the series is just as zany as it is in the manga if not more so thanks to the animation. Morita’s scenes are just more off-the-wall in the anime than in the pages of Chica Umino’s manga and that’s not necessarily a bad thing since he is funny even when he’s trying to be romantic. At one point, he makes a move for Hagu … a move that is hardly even slightly romantic. It’s clear that Takemoto has the upper hand in the romance department.

If you love the manga, you will find that the anime is actually faithful to the source material. You’ll instantly recognize many scenes and then there are the scenes that are just a tad more fleshed out on the anime such as more input on just who Takemoto’s stepfather is and how he came into his mother’s life. Then there’s Episode L that’s all about Lohmeyer-senpai and how much everyone loves him. Trust me, this is by far one of the most hilarious episodes on the box set.

As far as the voice acting is concerned, I almost always prefer the original Japanese and even more so for the Honey and Clover series. I just can’t seem to warm up to the English dub cast even with amazing talent like Yuri Lowenthal and Julie Ann Taylor. This is definitely a series worth watching in its original Japanese format.

Honey and Clover, Box 1, is just as clever, funny and brilliant as the manga and will surely delight those who love their romantic comedies to be both wonderfully romantic and utterly comedic. The 13 episodes tell a great story about youth, love and the complexities of what to make of life in general. In short, it’s undeniably charming and truly an anime worth checking out even if the genre never tickled your fancy. You will not regret it, believe me.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: B+
The arrival of a talented young art prodigy named Hagu to a Tokyo art school begins an interesting and funny love triangle between her, a young student trying to find his place in the school and a brilliant artist that just doesn’t seem to want to graduate. Then there’s Mayama who is in love with an older woman while a girl named Yamada is deeply in love with him.

VIDEO QUALITY: A
The animation is as close to Chica Umino’s art as possible and that’s a very good thing and yes Hagu looks just as cute in the anime as she is in the manga.

AUDIO QUALITY: B
Despite a stellar cast, the English dub isn’t as strong or as funny as the original Japanese voices that do a great job with the dialogue. The music is also excellent as is the opening and ending songs with “Waltz” performed by SUNEOHAIR being the best tune.

EXTRAS: C
There are a few trailers in the last disc but the real extras comes in the form of the Making of feature of the stop-motion animated opening. There’s also some production art for all the main characters in the series as well as the Cultural Terms Reference feature that is found in every volume of the manga.

OVERALL: B+
Not your typical shoujo anime fare, Box 1 of Honey and Clover will not fail to put a smile on your face or make you laugh. While it manages to capture the outrageous comedy as well as the brilliant love triangles, there are a few weak spots that keep this from being absolutely endearing. Still, you cannot go wrong with this series and those who love the manga will love this box set.

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