On the positive side, the experiences are very different, so I wasn’t bored with repetition. For one thing, the movie opens with a large group of people instead of just a few. This continues through the film, with there being lots more people around in the background, whether at school or in the neighborhood. You’re tossed in amongst this gang just like you’re a new student. It’s more faithful to the manga in that way, and in other scenes.
On the negative side, everyone here, even the professor, is much scruffier and down-at-heels looking. I didn’t enjoy watching them nearly as much as the prettier people, and because so much overwhelmed me, I didn’t care much about what happened to any of them. The whole affair seems low-budget. Yet everything, the people and setting, looks more realistic, which ironically makes me less interested.
Much of what happens is overplayed and exaggerated. The characters keep telling us how talented some of the artists here are, but I didn’t see it when their work was shown. Hagumi struck me in the series as innocent and sheltered; here, she seems freakish, almost autistic. And her pictures aren’t nearly as striking. In the series, they’re beautiful, emotive sweeps of color; here, they resemble second-rate Pollack. (She’s played by a girl with no consonants in her name, Yu Aoi.)
Morita comes off as a jerk instead of someone with a lot of deserved self-esteem. Mayama seems a stalker, instead of someone confused about being deeply in love with someone who’s been hurt. Yamada is a dippy masochist (a risk with her situation if not portrayed carefully). The gay brothers, Mario and Luigi (yes), new to this version, made me uncomfortable in their stereotypes.
The relationships also feel shallower. But then, that’s understandable for a two-hour movie compared to a 10-hour series. The best part of this movie is the soundtrack, which has some great mood-setting pop songs (and some that sound like K’Tel’s Best of the 70s Soft Rock compilation). The score is by Yoko Kanno, who did Cowboy Bebop and Kamikaze Girls.
What’s with the freaky pixellated cat? It shows up three times, vibrating against the movie. It’s clearly been treated with some kind of visual filter effect, but I have no idea why.
DVD extras include eight minutes of the cast sitting around interviewing each other. This starts out with great, in-depth questions but quickly descends into random chatter, much like the characters. There are also short cast bios, two trailers, and ads for other Viz Pictures DVDs. The official website is www.honeyandclover.us.