A Thematic Analysis of Honey and Clover

by eternal on July 28, 2009

honey and clover analysis 4 A Thematic Analysis of Honey and Clover

Shinobu Morita
If there’s one thing we can all agree on about Morita, it’s that he does a superb job of inserting his signature comic relief wherever he goes. However, he also serves as an important part of the glue that holds the group together, simultaneously taking on the role of the overenergetic “idiot” type and the mature perceptive type. He jokes around with Takemoto, forcibly giving him a haircut that grows with him throughout the series, but he also sees through much of Mayama’s pain, and he spends enough time with Ayumi that I was almost rooting for a relationship between them when I first watched the show. He’s a bit like Mayama in the sense that he helps the other characters out – usually the younger and less mature ones – but he also has a distinct story arc of his own. In fact, he has two.

His first (and probably main) story is the one that centers around his family, which is largely disconnected from the rest of the characters. It’s also largely self-explanatory. However, I found it to be a moving little side-arc because it dealt with something that, once more, I’ve always wondered about but have never seen portrayed in fiction: the danger of talents. It must be excruciatingly painful to have something that you’re passionate about but to be unable to excel in it because you weren’t born with the right abilities, but the situation becomes even more awkward when the one with the talents has no desire to use them. Morita looked like he enjoyed his father’s work, but he was never passionate, never ambitious. It was his brother who wanted to succeed, and just like their father’s friend, Kaoru was unable to grasp the goal that Shinobu was born with his hand clasped onto. It’s a bittersweet story with no winner or loser, keeping with the tone of the rest of the show, and it explores the dark side of talent and ability that most would fear to examine too closely.

The second part of his story almost felt minor in comparison, but his feelings for Hagu were ultimately an important part of the big picture. Aside from the fact that his existence greatly influenced Takemoto’s decisions, we can see that Morita himself was outgoing, and that he wanted her to return his feelings. We don’t know what kind of experiences he had in his past, but he looked like he knew what he was doing, and he was making brooches before his rival even realized that he was in the middle of a war-zone. His outgoing nature led him closer to Hagu’s heart than Takemoto could have gotten, and perhaps it was their conflicting personalities that led her to develop feelings for him, but as we already know, those feelings could never be returned for a very unique reason.

Looking back, Morita is the only of the five main characters whose experience with love was not expounded upon in detail. If anything, it was the concern for his friends, hidden behind a facade of buzz cuts and Hollywood trips, that made up the crux of his character. Love, for him, was something that he desired beyond question – he seemed to have as few doubts and hesitations as Ayumi – but it was also not a priority; the difficulties in his life, and his obligations toward his brother, his friends, and even the object of his affection, eventually overrode his desire to be with Hagu. He was not defeated by a rival or by the person herself, but rather, he lost to the practical difficulties of the real world.

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{ 17 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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