Honey and Clover Book 3

As the book opens, young artist Hagumi is stressing out while preparing for an upcoming art show when the gang of students unite around a late-night snack break. In other stories, the group goes on a ferry and a Ferris wheel, welcomes the professor back from Mongolia, and talks a lot to and about each other.

Honey and Clover Book 3 cover
Honey and Clover Book 3
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I had such high hopes for enjoying this series, after hearing great praise for it, but it’s still not quite clicking for me. Part of that is my fault. First, there’s the overinflated expectations I had, which weren’t possible to live up to. Then, at this point, I’ve seen the TV show and the movie, as well as reading the previous book, and as a result, these characters are too familiar to me. They seem to be doing the same things over and over. Part of that is their character — “aimless” is a kind way to put what bedevils most of them — but part is due to seeing the story three different ways.

It doesn’t help that the main plotlines are “Takemoto likes Hagumi but she may be in love with Morita so Takemoto never says anything to her” and “Yamada likes Mayama but he likes someone else so she suffers in silence”. I want to see someone do something to break these fragile impasses. They’re bound to end soon anyway, because students only have so long to live that lifestyle before moving on. Take action! Make a choice! Have courage!

I can see what others appreciate in it intellectually, but it’s just not hitting me emotionally. It feels to me like an older person wallowing in nostalgia for their schooldays as a way of living in the golden past instead of the challenging present. That impression is influenced by the way Takemoto wraps each section up with his melancholy moral and moment of reflection. (It doesn’t work for me in Grey’s Anatomy, either.)

Plus, the scratchy art style isn’t growing on me. In the beginning, Hagu looks like a Japanese clown take on Mickey Mouse, with two big poofs of hair for ears and simple wide circle eyes. The artist uses multiple lines on cheeks to show emotion, but they look to me like the pen got out of control. Then there’s Hagu’s elfin-like size, which still seems creepy when two college students are both infatuated with her. Having the others make fun of the same confusion, calling her 20-year-old birthday photo that of a 7-year-old, doesn’t help.

I did like the “let’s all pitch in” attitude of the Christmas chapter, though, as the shopping street workers try to compete against the nearby new supermarket. (Even if it was a sitcom plot.) As the book went on, I found myself warming to it, until I actually enjoyed the last, bonus story where Yamada and Hagu make overstuffed tea cozies. That was realism I could relate to, the enjoyment of simple craft.

14 Comments

  1. [...] Johanna Draper Carlson on the third volume of Chica Umino’s collegiate soap opera, Honey and [...]

  2. [...] Julie reads vol. 2 of Kiss All the Boys at the Manga Maniac Cafe. Johanna Draper Carlson reviews vol. 3 of Honey and Clover and vol. 1 of Kasumi at Comics Worth Reading. Connie posts a stack of reviews at Slightly Biased [...]

  3. I only read only the first issue, and didn’t go any farther, for the same reason – it just didn’t click for me… at least I’ve still got Nana.

  4. [...] up my week of covering Viz high school shojo manga titles (well, Honey and Clover is art college, but same difference), here’s [...]

  5. I sort of agree with you on the overall mood of this manga. I think it fails in that it’s not NOW enough. The best way I can explain it is to compare it with Nana.

    Okay, that might seem like a stretch, but here’s my thinking. They are common in that at the end, there’s a little reflection and ideas of the future. Both are nostalgic and wistful.

    However, though Nana and HC both has that nostalgic feeling, Nana ALSO wraps us up in the story of youth. The characters LIVE in the moment, the emotions raw. They breath and cry and laugh and live, and in that way, the nostalgic feeling hits stronger because that kind of life feels to be really worth missing. I’m both happy for the moment and sad for the future.

    HC, on the other hand, seems to be crying over the eventual loss of life as a student, instead of ENJOYING life as a student. I never feel as sad that such moments will come to pass. I do like it to a certain extent (it’s very calming), but sometimes it feels too wallowing for me. If only there were more good moments, like that Christmas episode.

    I think I’d love HC more if it struck the same chord. It doesn’t have to be as melodramatic, as its calmness works for it, but if only it was more…living and less looking back.

  6. That’s a wonderful comparison, thank you for sharing it with us. I agree that HC sometimes seems like it’s so busy reminiscing that it doesn’t have anything to reminisce about.

  7. The problem I have with NANA (and the reason why I prefer HC) is that it’s too melodramtic focused on finding boyfriends- Heck, it’s like your watching a soap opera!

  8. Then maybe you’re looking at it a different way from me. I think of NANA as exploring relationships. Both of them talk a lot about love, but Nana and Hachi have other worries as well. Career, money, friendship… For me, it is not their love lives but their friendship, and the little moments in each relationship that builds on each other, that makes the series. And no matter how melodramatic, the decisions are grounded in reality, and the emotions are real. I feel for these girls. And in between the big events are the smaller -but just as significant- events.

    HC might be really intelligent and it seems like it wants to do the same thing, but I don’t feel as invested as I am in HC’s characters as I am in NANA’s. Johanna said it right when she said it’s not hitting her emotionally.

  9. unrelatedwaffle

    I’m watching the H&C drama right now, and after four episodes of heart-wrenching pain, I’ve had about enough. I tried reading the manga and wasn’t grabbed. I tried watching the anime TWICE and couldn’t get over how deeply I disliked Hagumi. Characters should have flaws, but these characters just need to get over themselves. Ayumi is the only one I feel I really connect with, but she’s not enough to keep me reading.

    I was reading some of the other comments, and there’s just something about Nana that makes you want to KILL yourself. I guess it doesn’t help that I read it at a time when I was feeling very vulnerable, so now I’ve got some bad associations I’ll have to get over.

    Give me Kimi wa Pet any day.

  10. [...] enjoy this series more when I keep two things in [...]

  11. [...] readers praise the sense of nostalgia demonstrated in Honey and Clover, but I find the sense of time’s passage and loss in this series much more affecting. The [...]

  12. [...] Honey and Clover, for not living up to all of its praise. That’s not the fault of the series — it’s a fairly good story with characters that I’d really like if some of them weren’t so aggressively wacky — but I feel bad for not liking it as much as I feel I’m supposed to. [...]

  13. [...] Honey & Clover Book 7 — art school students search for purpose and happiness [...]

  14. [...] I still dislike Hagumi, the elfin artist whom most of the guys are in love with, which creeps me out, since she [...]

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