What They Say:
Can life’s answers be found where the road ends?
Shinobu has disappeared to America, leaving both Yuta and Hagumi with very mixed feelings. But talk about mixed up! If Takumi’s feelings are so tied up with Rika, why is he tied up in knots over his coworker Nomiya’s romantic pursuit of Ayumi? Plus, senior projects are getting everyone down, but none more than Yuta, who in a sudden burst of reckless abandon takes off on his bicycle on an epic journey of self-discovery… Ah, the enthusiasm of youth!
Honey and Clover has a bilingual presentation with the English language adaptation done by Salami Studios, who I believe we last saw working on Prince of Tennis. Both the English and Japanese mixes are done in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. The series has a very straightforward presentation to it with some minor directionality across the forward soundstage, but nothing that’s too noticeable. In some ways, it feels like an older show than it is because there isn’t all that much to it. A lot of the time there’s only one character talking on screen at a time so it doesn’t have a lot to work with. What it does do it does well though with a clean sounding mix for both language tracks that’s free of dropouts and distortions.
Originally airing throughout 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes here are split across four discs in a four/four/five format, though it’s worth noting that the title setup on the third disc is set for 69 minutes and a second title for 46 minutes, which makes you question the number of episodes on the disc at first. There’s plenty of space on each disc for a good looking presentation and we do get one, with smooth colors and a generally clean look. There are several night scenes where the skies show some blocking going on in the background, but they’re not regular and they don’t distract all that much unless you’re sensitive to it. Overall this is a good looking show, but it gets some seriously dropped points for the amount of hard subtitles used in it for background signs and on-screen thought-text from the characters. DVD has been around for twelve years as of this writing and hard subtitles are still being done by Viz which is simply boggling.
Honey and Clover has a rather good digipak release here with a slipcover style design to it. The slipcover has a manga illustration for its front cover with the core group of characters walking among the flowers as they all have smiles on their faces and enjoying each others company. The layout is simple with its design, with an appropriate light feeling, and it definitely showcases itself as a shoujo kind of show. The back of the slipcover has a number of shots from the show spread about with a very light and almost loving feeling to them. The summary is a bit short, but works well enough and there’s a clear listing of the shows features and episode count as well as the extras that are included. I do continue to wish that Viz would make proper technical grids so that everything could be found easily.
Inside the slipcover is a well designed digipak that doesn’t have multiple foldout pieces but rather just opens like a book. The front of the digipak uses the same front cover as the slipcover while the back cover is blank outside of a picture of the evil dog that shows up briefly in the show. Inside the digipak, it opens up to two disc holders, the one on the right holding two discs, while underneath there are numerous shots from the show that highlight the episode that they represent with the title and episode number below it. The overall design is good and the set has a bit more of a firm feeling to it than the sets like Naruto, so this set has left me feeling pretty pleased.
The menus for Honey and Clover play the name game a fair bit with several clovers spread around the otherwise generally static screen, though each disc plays it to a different color scheme for the background. It has a mildly upbeat tone to all of it and a clean navigation set which also includes the translation notes as a separate top level extras. Submenus load quickly and without any interstitial animation and the languages submenu does a nice job of actually showing what’s active for the selections. The discs did not read our players’ language presets though, unfortunately.
Spread across the three volumes are the cultural notes, though some have more than others, and they provide a mix of the obvious and some good cultural bits given in a simple form. On the third disc, there are more extras, which include the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. There’s also a round of production art which fleshes out the basics a bit more. Viz has included a fair bit of extras here in addition to all of this which is a bit surprising. There’s a three-minute screening tea party segment that has a room setup as a classroom where people could come and see all sorts of things related to the show. It’s a nice little media event that has a good feeling about it as people check out the series. A bigger extra is the eight-minute long video from the 2005 Tokyo Anime Fair in which they show off the series in a way that most fans never get to see. It’s a simple hawking of the show to potential buyers and other industry types which are amusingly cute. A fun little short, running around about four minutes, is when Kaba.chan does his foray into voice acting and talks about it and the way he gets into roles. Add in the English language production credits and a rundown of the original Japanese credits and you have a pretty decent selection of extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first season of Honey & Clover comes to a close with this set as it has the final twelve episodes plus the special Episode F which is all about the Fashion. That episode stands out nicely as a big bit of silliness in the midst of a show about relationships that are strung out to the point of malaise as you watch them waffle about things. Perhaps it’s a very Japanese thing to do, something we’ve seen in countless other shows, but here it feels like it’s a bit of overkill. And even worse is that this set of episodes keeps the focus pretty much on just a few characters from the larger cast, shuttling the rest to smaller roles or in the final few episodes as it focuses back on Yuta.
The bulk of this half of the first season revolves around the quasi-triangle that builds up between Ayumi and Takumi with Nomiya from the design company adding a lot of uncertainty to it. The whole set of relationships is quite odd, but it takes on greater strangeness when Ayumi begins to provide pottery work for the company’s various projects and she gets to know Nomiya some. Nomiya, ever the light playboy, starts to show some mild interest in her and that sets off all sorts of alarms for Takumi. While Takumi is completely blissfully seemingly unaware of the interest that Ayumi has in him, he can’t allow someone else to have her. Though when Nomiya points out the situation clearly in that he cannot lay backup claim to her while hoping for something with Rika, Takumi is unsure of how to proceed but still does everything he can to keep Nomiya at a distance from her.
It’s hard to discern just how interested Nomiya is in Ayumi as he plays it fairly casually and just entertains her from time to time and teases Takumi at the office on a regular basis. There are times when Nomiya and Ayumi are together, and there are hints of possibilities to be had there, but by and large, it feels very tame and friendly. Ayumi’s interest is hard to discern as well because she seemingly focuses mostly on Takumi and doesn’t really register that Nomiya is interested in her. She shows glimmers of it at times, but she’s very much like Takumi in the way he’s interested in just Rika. There’s a very amusing sequence later on in these episodes where Ayumi ends up in the same room as Rika and there’s a certain hesitancy to the way she acts that’s utterly charming and cute.
What’s most frustrating about this set of relationships which dominates this set is that there isn’t any sense of finality to it, a conclusion of some sort. In may be a bit like life, but the lack of any sort of resolution during all of this feels quite off-putting and almost as if it’s being stretched out too far. The will they or won’t they aspect certainly has an appeal across many series, but in a show like this, it doesn’t sit well for it to go through all these motions, explorations and exposition moments and to end up coming up with nothing. And that they push off the rest of the cast for so long only makes it all the more apparent.
As much time as this story does take up, there are other elements dealt with as well. Shinobu’s leaving in the previous set for America is dealt with, though I found his character to be dealt with in a way that really didn’t work for me, mostly because my first true introduction to him was through the live action movie. There’s too much of a comedic effect with him and a lack of dealing with the way Hagu is interested in him but he’s not even aware of it and just ends up using her. They do give him a very amusing turn when he wins a Mocademy award for special effects while in Los Angeles and ends up with more money than he knows what to do with upon his return to Japan. But mostly it feels like the writers (working from the manga obviously) really don’t know what to do with this character.
The best part of this set that feels somewhat self-contained deals with Yuta. He’s got a moment early on where he has to rely on others for financial aid so he can spend one more year in the school for different reasons. Where his main focus comes is towards the end though as the last few episodes focus on his suddenly deciding to ride his bike as far as he can after an event goes wrong. It’s not necessarily a trip to discover himself, as he doesn’t do that, but he does discover things about himself which help put him on the right path. It’s actually a good small arc that allows Yuta to have the screen to himself for awhile and lets his inner monologue run well so we can connect and sympathize with him. But what is really pointed out is that Yuta is something of a shell of a character that doesn’t have a clear goal or vision and seems more to be going through the motions in school and pining for Hagu while she isn’t aware of it. And without much depth to him, it’s hard to really root for him in general.
Something about Honey & Clover really didn’t click all that well for me. I can envision this as a very wispy and relaxed manga series but over the course of twenty-six episodes the anime adaptation left me disconnected from the characters. There wasn’t any real sort of resolution, though perhaps that’s more for the second season, but what we get here doesn’t leave you with a feeling of connection or sympathy for anyone. There wasn’t all that much progress made either to give you hope of some sort of resolution to be had as well. Viz does their usual level of quality here, which means hard subtitles and a poor credit sequence, but it doesn’t overly impact the show for most people. In the end, the first season of Honey and Clover offers interesting situations and relationship potentials but it doesn’t exploit it and dallies far too long with some characters while ignoring others completely.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Screening Tea Party, Tokyo Anime Fair, KABA.chan Tries Voice Acting
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 15th, 2009
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Rec