A Thematic Analysis of Honey and Clover

by eternal on July 28, 2009

honey and clover analysis 1 A Thematic Analysis of Honey and Clover

Takumi Mayama
Mayama is easily one of the most interesting members of the cast, playing the role of the cool, intelligent type that seems to enjoy stealing all of the dramatic quotes. He noticed Takemoto’s infatuation for Hagu right off the bat, and he’s always shown smoking and looking off into the distance, like some sort of modern city-dwelling monk; it doesn’t take long for the viewer to build up some respect for him. His one weakness, of course, is Rika, and jokes are made throughout the series about his stalker-like means of pursuing her affection. He’s effectively a bit of both: on one hand, a calm and collected upperclassman, but on the other hand, obsessive, overprotective, and unable to make a move.

Mayama balances his life out quite well, so much so that it’s easy to incorrectly think of him as a side character. He gives advice to his friends, particularly Takemoto, he presumably has a comfortable career awaiting him – we learn later that this is more or less true – and he has, on the outside, a casual love/hate relationship with Ayumi. A quick glance at his character, within the universe of the show or out of it, would make him seem quite ordinary.

However, Mayama’s character, and the theme of hesitant, unrequited love, doesn’t get highlighted and brought to attention until a bit later. Early on, we see hints of it – Morita notices his pain as he gazes out at the snow, smoking, and certainly not pondering the nature of the universe – and as the truth behind Rika is revealed, it becomes obvious that any story connected to hers will be a somber one. The gray sky on the day of his tearful confession later on was oddly fitting. In the fourth episode, Mayama thought something to this effect while listening to Rika hum a familiar song, keeping with his penchant for the dramatic…

It was a song from an old movie that I’d seen on video before. I held my breath and listened to that voice, which seemed like it would fade away if she moved even a little bit.

A simple line that defines his relationship with Rika and the fragile nature of her existence. A wounded person, distanced by more than just a broken heart, he couldn’t approach her directly – and at the same time, his feelings for her were burning. As Ayumi later questioned, what kind of feelings does he restrain when he’s working with her late at night, with no sound but the clicking of a keyboard? His socially unacceptable uncanny actions are a direct result of the strength of his feelings, and it’s his intense yet unreturned affection that leads him to quietly gaze out the window on Christmas Eve. He’s a mature, logical person, and he knows that troubling her already difficult life with his own petty feelings would be a childish thing to do, but as a result, he suffers under the weight of his own feelings.

The fact that Mayama’s arc concludes positively more or less proves the point that he thought things through. He still had trouble dealing with his emotions, he still had to hit the ball into Rika’s court and desperately wait – half naked, as it were – for a response, but he worked his way up to that point while treading carefully around her scars. His story has little effect at first, save for the occasional thought-provoking soliloquy, but the trapped, unspoken emotions build up throughout the series, until they finally climax as he comes clean and confesses. It deals with unrequited love from an interested angle: words that should have been spoken but couldn’t be, two hearts that are separated by something more real and powerful than society’s expectations, and the self-destructing “right thing to do” decision that results in unspoken pain for both parties.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Dop July 28, 2009 at 7:55 am

Thanks for that, I thought it was a very well written look at what is still my favourite anime series.

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IcyStorm July 28, 2009 at 8:12 am

I love you for writing this.

And I’m going to go rewatch Honey and Clover.

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ghostlightning July 28, 2009 at 8:21 am

But what does it mean “It’s right there in my heart?”

Does this statement establish existence vs. non-existence? What difference does that make, in the context of the narrative?

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ETERNAL August 1, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I meant it more figuratively than philosophically. You’ve seen the show, so as you know, Takemoto’s final dilemma is about whether or not his painful experiences were worth anything. That can also be applied to the other characters: did Ayumi gain anything from waiting for Mayama to return her feelings? Did Morita’s efforts pay off, even though Hagu would never be interested? And the answer, according to the show, is that there is a difference, but it’s something only you can feel. It changes something inside of you: you grow based on your experiences, and they remain in your heart as bittersweet memories, even if everything didn’t go as planned. We don’t know if Takemoto is a better person because of his unrequited love for Hagu, but we do know that he’s a different person because of it; we know that there’s a difference between something that didn’t work out and something that never happened at all.

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zzeroparticle July 28, 2009 at 11:50 am

An excellent post to start my morning.

I’ve always seen Takemoto as sort of the everyman character, which is why a lot of people are able to identify with his struggles so much. Taking a journey like what he did is something that’s looking really good right now based on where I am in life at the moment.

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Mike July 28, 2009 at 11:57 am

Stunning. Absolutely stunning, insightful, and spot on article. You nailed the central dilemmas of the main characters right on the head and really brought out why this is one of anime’s best written series ever.

This was pretty much the article I always wanted to write about the show; now I don’t need to. It’s bittersweet for me to realize that fact (just as it was for so many of the characters in H&C!), but like Takemoto I am glad to have experienced it and I am a better person for it. Bravo, bravo.

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slpless July 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm

You know I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading Honey and Clover analysis and this is certainly one of the best I’ve read. However, what really sticks out for me is how you mentioned that Honey and Clover isn’t something that really needs critical review to be enjoyed. This is something I feel many people forget about as to what make Honey and Clover so great, the blending of an excellent narrative, comedy, etc in addition to its themes. This is also why I feel the sequel isn’t as good as the first, as there was too much focus on the themes and its introspective nature.

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ETERNAL August 1, 2009 at 4:50 pm

True; if the story were more carelessly put together, we wouldn’t be talking about it. The minute details definitely add to it and make it a masterpiece, but I don’t think it’s a necessity to look too closely. It would be interesting, but it would also add a few thousand more words :P

As for the sequel, I liked it since the themes were my favourite part of the show, but focusing on the story is a double-edged sword. For lack of a better example, you could compare it to the ending of Kannagi: most people didn’t like the plot, so the focus on the serious side of it broke the balance between comedy and story. If you liked H&C as a typical slice-of-life/comedy/romance, then yes, I can see how focusing on the themes would hurt your enjoyment, in the same way that the second half of Toradora could be seen as too melodramatic. But, like I said, the risk paid off in my experience because the introspective nature is exactly what sets it apart.

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kadian1364 July 28, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Damn. This post is like Hercules’ 12 labors, but more flowery and meaningful. Applause.

I’ll say more when I’m done reading.

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kadian1364 July 29, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Wow.

What can I say? My words fail to convey how tremendously moved I am. With absolutely no exaggeration, reading that was like the sky just opened up, the sun giving way to a brighter and more sparkling light, angels’ voices sang and heaven’s own gaze looked down upon me, and I could only stand in awe of the sheer brilliance of it all.

It’s the definitive piece on Honey and Clover, yet stands on its own quality of masterful writing and considerate craftsmanship. Bravo! T_T

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ETERNAL August 1, 2009 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I know it sounds cliche, but I honestly think that the show itself wrote this blog post. There are times when a writer must look deeper and discuss things that are only implicit in the work of fiction, but sometimes, it all pours out naturally. This was one of those times. Honey and Clover really is a beautiful story, easily my favourite anime – favourite work of fiction, even – and I’m glad to have written something on it that has impacted even one of you.

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Alastor August 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Hi ETERNAL,

(and welcome back!)

This anime has been on my “To-Watch List” for some time; this tempting post doesn’t make it any easier! I’ve been searching it out but haven’t had any luck, but there is one place left that should have it ;-)

I began your H&C post but then realized that it might contain spoilers. Figured that I’d ask first and if so, then redouble my efforts to find it, and then read this ;-)

How safe is it to read? Since we seem to share a lot of common tastes I’m sure that the show will be thoroughly involving and enjoyable :-D

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ETERNAL August 6, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Oh, it’s definitely spoiler-ridden. A lot of what I write contains spoiler unless I say otherwise, but I guess you must have noticed that by now. Anyway, it’s a bit different from the other stuff I like (being a shoujo series and all), but it’s still romance, and it’s the exact opposite of the soap-opera styled love stories like KimiNozo and School Days. If you like romance anime outside of the general moe category, then you should definitely at least try it.

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Alastor August 6, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Funny you should mention… I’m in the midst of mini-marathonning it right now and *just* finished a Blog post recommending it LOL And of course I had to link to your article for those Visitors who are curious enough! Hope you don’t mind ;-)

Since I suspect that a lot of my Visitors aren’t hard-core, I steered them toward ANN’s encyclopedia entry where there’s a link to their streaming H&C eps. Since they’re only streaming 1-12 though, I kind of suggested that they might look into “other ways” to watch the rest should the become addicted. Heh.

After reading just your enticing Intro, I searched and searched and finally found the Solar subs in .avi plus the two OVAs. After just a few episodes I was hooked and realized that This Was Something Special :-D It’s really the “perfect” slice-of-life. I like very much how the focus is on those realistic movements of love, from those aching pangs of first love, to certain inevitable realizations about “the other”, to the realities of getting what you wish for and the consequences thereof. In a word, BRILLIANT.

I’m up through 16 now and expect to finish tonight. Watching as many eps as possible in a run is (for me anyway) the best possible way to keep the most intense and continual “feel” of an anime intact, rather than waiting between episodes. And “feeling” is what we’re all about, as human beings, human souls, and yes, beings with Heart…

So, once I’m finished I’ll be back to read the rest of these chapters; I’m anxious to see what you’ve written about what is sure to be a most memorable show, and what will become one of my favorites!

And then there’s the sequel…

Cheers :-)

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ayame May 17, 2010 at 2:26 pm

WOW! big applause!

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clover rollover July 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Completely and perfectly stunning anime ever seen!

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Vitolha January 21, 2011 at 2:17 am

Great review.
H&C was the most beautiful history i’ve ever seen…I think it’s because it’s so much like our lives! Masterpiece!

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