A Thematic Analysis of Honey and Clover

by eternal on July 28, 2009

honey and clover analysis 6 A Thematic Analysis of Honey and Clover

Conclusion

The refrigerator in my room is still empty as usual, but I can’t hear that sound any more. I feel that I can keep believing…that even the thing all of us were looking for but never found on that day…someday, surely….

…We will find it.

If Takemoto epitomizes the overall themes and messages in the story, then the other characters contribute to that message and reveal it from different perspectives. We see it in the show, no analysis needed: how Ayumi used to wander unconsciously during the school festival just to catch a glimpse of Mayama, how he in turn sat silently at night and listened to Rika’s broken voice, afraid to touch her yet even more afraid of losing her. Each character experiences those telltale signs of love, and each of them, aside from Mayama, reaches a wildly different conclusion from the one they hoped for. We see love from five different angles – unrequited love, because the show deals with emotions, not relationships, and what better way to explore an emotion than to remove its physical hindrances? – and each angle represents a different situation with a similar undesirable result. Love that is restrained in the name of maturity and practicality; love that is open and free, but ultimately unreturned; love that is undesired, that is a hindrance in itself; love that is crushed under the weight of society and one’s moral obligations; and finally, love that is simple and true in every sense of the word, and that goes unresolved for the most innocent of reasons. All of these things can happen – have happened – and they allow the viewer to see the same central theme from different perspectives.

Needless to say, the show is a bit more complicated than that. It makes use of a lot of things to tell its story – monologues and narration, nuances in dialogue, symbolism – and it weaves everything together so that the drama is there, but not jarring. The symbols were exceptionally well done, the most notable ones being the recurring theme of “revolving” – the flow of time, constantly moving – and the four leafed clover, representing the one “thing” that they were all searching for. In this case, that thing was something more important than a clover, like love, or happiness, but it was equally distant.

However, Honey and Clover doesn’t strike me as the kind of show that requires a critical review. It would be helpful to explore the intricacies in more detail, digging into the insert songs and metaphors, but it isn’t necessary. At its heart, the show is about its storyline, its central theme and message; the narrative techniques are just icing on the bittersweet cake.

So, if the five main characters show us different sides of a central theme, then the final question is obvious: what is the central theme? And the answer to that is explained in the final episode, but it’s justified and expounded upon with every minute of screen time throughout the two seasons. It is about life and its many tribulations, most of which deal with love in a general sense, and it’s about the lifelong quest for that elusive thing known as happiness – in this case, it’s symbolized as the impossible-to-find four-leafed clover – but it deals with those things ten times more honesty than most shows of its kind. It’s about the hard questions that fiction never asks, the questions that people have to live through in the real world, knowing that they won’t be freed by a deus ex machina at the end of the season. What happens after your feelings go unreturned? What happens after you’re forcibly separated from the object of your affection? What happens when you look yourself in the mirror and see a healthy young man or woman, but the moment you search inside your heart, you find a gaping hole? The show follows the lives of the characters as they encounter these different scenarios, as they struggle with the world around them to find their own unique form of happiness. But at the end of the day, beyond the joy and pain, after the Ferris Wheel ride and at the end of the bike path, there is only one message.

Is there a difference between something that will disappear and something that never existed?

There is a difference. A simple, fundamental difference. It’s right there in your heart.

~ ETERNAL
つづく

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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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