Honey and Clover II
Five college students and their teacher from an art school are best friends, rivals, and antagonists all at the same time. Impossible? They are art students, after all. All of the characters are extremely talented, and, like most tragic artists, all are slightly eccentric.
Takemoto Yuuta, Mayama Takumi, and Morita Shinobu started out as struggling roommates who, like normal male college students would, like to make each other's college experience just a little bit wild. Their teacher, Hanamoto Shuu, brings his adorable, petite relative Hanamoto Hagumi (Hagu-chan for short) to the school in order for her stunning talent to blossom. He is extremely protective of her (dangerously so), though he cannot stop Takemoto and Morita from falling in love with her.
Mayama apprentices for Hanamoto-sensei's college friend Harada Rika, a physically frail and scarred architecture designer who lost her husband in a car accident. Sadly (and there always is a "sadly") strong-willed but popular Yamada Ayumi, a classmate of Mayama, refuses to give up her long-suffering affections for Mayama, regardless of his blatant coldness and refusal of her feelings.
In spite of all their troubles, they can still set it all aside and be tight-knit friends, enjoying the less glamourous, less rushed life of urban Tokyo.
The trials and tribulations of five art students and their loved ones continue in this direct-sequel series, which brings to television the final volumes of Umino Chika's stunning debut series.
With the series finally at its end, Honey and Clover has become what I believe will be a permanent fixture on this reviewer's "Top Ten Anime of All Time" list. It joins the ranks of Maison Ikkoku and Princess Tutu, and will always be one of those series that will tug at my heartstrings and bring back that nostalgic feeling in the years to come.
Something that viewers don't recognize in the first season of Honey and Clover is the impending sense that, like life, old chapters close and new stages in your life open for whole new adventures. One of the most striking characteristics of this series is how real it is. The characters, while sometimes a little zany (Ayu), disturbing (Mayama) or eccentric (Morita, of course), we all know someone like them.
The writing of Honey and Clover is steady, but not slow...and so realistic that we can't really say where one story ends and the other begins. Several years pass over the course of this relatively short series, and we have seen the characters grow ever-so-subtlely, and we have grown to love them as though we were right there with them the whole way.
So when the time comes for the students to graduate and move on, just like real life, their paths diverge and their relationships change. And unlike the typical "happy ending" you would get from any American show remotely similar to this, Chika does not tie up loose ends, and there is no dramatic group send-off for anyone. Like the seasons of change, it just sneaks up on you, although you know it's inevitable, and once it's there, you don't experience any fanfare or anything like that. The old season just dissolves, leaving the new season to continue in its place.
That bittersweet sadness is definitely the overtone for Honey and Clover II. You know that this is it. It's possible that these wonderful, darling characters will never see each other again...but they have their memories, they had their feelings. And for both the characters and the viewers, everything was worth it.
So why, you ask, do I hold back that final fifth star? It is probably simply because of how, in the light of the first season, I found this one to be slightly lacking in what made the first season so wonderful.
Rather than easing the viewer back into that "HachiKuro trance," we are plunged head-first into the drama of the characters. The comedy is there, but there is at least a 50% reduction straight from the beginning. This is largely due to the fact that the primary plotline doesn't get very much screen time until six episodes in. The first episode, sadly, serves as a recap of the first season (and as someone who stayed up until 12:35am to see it when it aired, I was sorely disappointed) and the next four episodes after that focus a great deal on the Mayama-Yamada-Rika-Nomiya love polygon. Did I say "great deal?" I meant "entirely." Morita, Takemoto, and Hagu are no where in sight. Whatever happened to the balance between the plots in the first season? As much as I loved the Yamada-angst, I got sick of it real fast, asking every five minutes or so "where's Morita?!"
The artwork also became a lot cuter, it seems. It was still pastel and pretty and girly, but it lacked the unkempt, messy, artistic and fragile feel that he first season had. The theme songs are new, but loyal to the feeling of the first season. YUKI loans her screeching for the opening theme, and Suga Shikao brings us a new, much easier-listening song for the ending theme.
Another tiny complaint is related to the last episode. For those that didn't know, Takemoto's voice actor was in a car accident and slipped into a coma before he was able to record the final episode. (Don't worry fans, he's out now.) While I am not by any means against finding a substitute, but the person who stood in for the original voice actor did not cut it for me. The voice was so noticeably different, it was hard to "get into" the episode, which is a pity, because it is one of the most poignant, heartbreaking but romantic finales I have seen in the past ten years.
This series is still better than nearly anything I have reviewed yet. Honey and Clover II is what I personally deem a new classic. It's a pity that while I consider this series to be incredible and unforgettable, it's still shy of the phenominal...and dare I say...perfect precessor from the year before.
A must-see series, though I think most die-hard HachiKuro fans would agree that the first season was a better adaptation of the manga. The directing of the series had a bit of room for improvement. If the episodes were organized a little better, then perhaps this series would have gotten the final fifth star from me. — Melissa Sternenberg
Recommended Audience: There are implications of sexual behavior in the second series. Otherwise, your typical college fare. Or maybe not so typical, depending on how you look at it. Recommended for adults and college students above all, but forward-looking teenagers might appreciate it too. Might be too tame for angsty drama-queen teenagers who want severe melodrama.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Honey and Clover II © 2006 Chika Umino / Shueisha / HachiKuro Committee
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