Honey and Clover fans would be familiar with the ubiquitous Ferris Wheel and weathervane symbols from the anime adaptation, but there are several less explicit symbols that aren’t telegraphed in the OP/ED videos. I noticed while reading the manga that the sweet osmanthus–apparently a common flower in East Asia–features prominently in Yamada’s narration. (The flower’s orange colour and Ayumi’s hair colour is probably a coincidence, but it’s a fun coincidence at any rate).
I’ll start with a quote:
The faint scent of sweet osmanthus outside and the orange lights glowing inside… up through last year, Mayama was around somewhere among those lights. I’d make up errands just so I could pass by places he might be to get a glimpse of him, even for just a moment, or to hear his voice… (vol 3)
That’s Ayumi’s recollection of the Hamabi school festival when both her and Mayama were still students. The sweet osmanthus are also mentioned in passing elsewhere in the series, subtly reminding the reader of this declaration of her hopelessness.
This little window into Ayumi’s heart summarizes her relationship with Mayama. A sense of longing permeates her speech (though to be fair, this feeling applies to most of the series). What’s more notable for her character is that nowhere in the line is there any mention of hope. Wishing to be with him and to receive his feelings always takes a back seat to simply being in his presence, to “catch a glimpse” for just one moment. It’s one of many instances in which Umino uses icons and symbols to represent intangible feelings. Ayumi’s statement of feelings is magnified by its association with a sensory memory: the scent of the flowers. Much like in real life, memories become vivid as scattered sensory experiences, not as a chronological series of events.
When a similar line pops up again in volume 8, it carries a different meaning. At first the school festival memory was used to establish Yamada’s hopeless longing and to create sympathy–but now, with the confession long past and Mayama growing closer to Rika, it instead feels nostalgic. The same memory is seen in a new light.
So the scent of the osmanthus is brought up first to show us how hopelessly in love Ayumi is, and it returns in the end to remind us of how strong her love once was. Heartbreakingly poetic, as always. It’s fitting that the next chapter begins with Yamada cleaning her shoes to get rid of the sand from her trip to Tottori with Nomiya, remarking on how it stays with her. Of course sand would stay with her, and of course the memory would too. One story ends, and another begins. A lot is said with short lines of introspection.