Honey and Clover, Vol. 4-5
Story and Art by Chica Umino
Rated T+ for Older Teen
Originally published in Japan in 2000
Serialized in US Shojo Beat in 2008-2009
Published by Viz in volume form 2008-2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-4215-1507-6 (vol. 4)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4215-2366-8 (vol. 5)
Ysabet gets to review most Viz Shojo Beat titles over at Manga Life, so I’ve decided to put my comments on some of those series over here. And this weekend I began catching up on Honey and Clover, thanks my order of a couple recent volumes from Amazon.
I’m really unreasonably fond of this series, so you should probably take my gushing here with a whole shakerful of salt. But I think these two volumes both show the series hitting its stride. Both highlight the way the series is interested in more than romantic love. Yes, love is certainly a central concern, but friendship is just as important. And beyond that, the series looks at what it means to grow up, to choose a career, to be an average person in world where there are geniuses.
(Some spoilers in the rest of my comments)
For example, early in volume 4, Takemoto asks Hagu if she wants Morita to come back from LA. Hagu surprises him by saying, “I don’t want him to come back. I think he should stay over there. At least until he’s done all the things he wanted to do. So I don’t want him to come back.” This is a great exchange because it tells us so much about both Takemoto and Hagu. The Takemoto-Hagu-Morita love triangle here is interesting precisely because there is so much more to the characters’ relationships than fleeting crushes. Takemoto is friends with Morita and Hagu, but also a bit jealous of their shared genius; Morita appears to have feelings for Hagu, but he’s driven by other priorities that make him run off to LA at a moment’s notice; Hagu is in love with Morita, but she is more in love with her art.
Honey and Clover is also unusually good at conveying the interior life of its characters. Umino’s techniques, such as multiple levels of narration and cinematic techniques in the paneling, aren’t revolutionary; you see them throughout manga, especially shoujo and josei manga. But here they are used especially well. The way Yamada’s narration (the story about her container garden) frames the episode about the fireworks festival adds a lot of depth to her experience of unrequited love, and the series of panels that show her reaction to Mayama’s offhand compliment makes her heartbreak feel very immediate. Poor Yamada.
I was especially pleased to get several chapters from Yamada’s point of view in these two volumes, as I complained about the relative lack of characterization for the women in my review of vol. 1. We still don’t see much from Hagu’s point of view, but I don’t think that’s a product of her gender. Rather, I suspect that is due to her genius. The characters who are distinguished by their talent–Hagu, Morita, Rika, and perhaps the late Harada–are all figures who we see primarily through the eyes of their less talented friends. They are supposed to be ciphers, a bit removed from the rest of the pack.
My comments on the Viz editions are generally the same as what I said about volume 1: the retention of honorifics and the cultural notes are very nice, but I really wish the translation and adaptation was less slangy. Every time I see “Oh my Gawd!” (it appears more than once, alas), I just cringe.
Volume 6 was due in stores last week–I really have to go pick up my copy!