>DVD Review – Art students learn about love and life

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The first part of “Honey and Clover” is a touching slice-of-life series contemplating on the changing relationships of art students in Japan.

The story of this anime centers around the relationships between five college artists–three young men and two young women. The main men of the series include the gray-haired sophomore Yuta Takemoto, the vivacious money-maker Shinobu Morita and the philosophical senior Takumi Mayama. They often hang out with the tall, pony-tailed girl Ayumi Yamada and their professor’s little niece, Hagumi Hanamoto.

Although the series literally holds back the main story until the sixth episode, the true heart of the series is focused on the changing lives of the protagonists as they graduate or move away. Two story arcs develop with more than enough lovesick passion to make anyone cry.

The first spotlight of the show is the conflicting relationship between Ayumi Yamada and Takumi Mayama. Ayumi Yamada always loves talking to Mayama, who is already in love with the person he works for, Rika Harada.

Of course, you could easily write this off as a love that will never last, but this series persistently pulls on your heartstrings. The two friends somehow pull off a balancing act of emotional confessions, without ever breaking off their relationship. Somehow, Yamada can’t stop loving Mayama.

The second story arc takes place near the halfway point of the series. At a certain point, Morita and Takemoto struggle with their strong feelings for Hagumi Hanamoto. All the pent-up emotion builds up to a heartbreaking end as Hagumi suffers an emotional breakdown and Morita looks for other jobs to make more money.

Despite the melancholy tone in the third disc of this box set, the soundtrack of acoustic guitars and pianos fills the anime with an unforgettable pop culture vibe, with music from Suga Shikao and the rock group SPITZ. The best song is the ending theme by Suneohair, “Waltz,” which fills the gaps between episodes with soothing vocals and a folk rock edge.

Plenty of riotous comedy sequences also lighten the tone of the story. Morita often dresses up little Hagu so he can photograph her like a paparazzi.

The fan-favorite joke, however, involves two of the students twisting themselves almost to death while playing Twister. The spectacle is littered with comical, bone-crunching sounds and grimacing faces.

“Honey and Clover” is one of the few pieces of animation that captures life as an experience of joy and sadness. This is one of the few shows that reaches above and beyond all expectations to portray the warm nostalgia of youth and the complications involved in long-distance relationships.

Dubs and special features

“Honey and Clover” features one of the best English voice-overs I’ve ever heard. The American dub somehow retains all the gentle romance and the hyper, comedic energy of the series without sounding awkward.

The box set also features a fascinating documentary on the series’ opening, by director Nagi Noto. In case you haven’t seen it, the intro sequence is a playful montage of plates with food sculptures and cute stop-motion animation. This special features covers everything from camera positioning to tasty food choreography.

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under honey and clover, romance, shoujo, shoujo beat

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