Honey and Clover Volume 4
I enjoy this series by Chica Umino more when I keep two things in mind:
1. Read the chapters/stories one at a time, with pauses in-between. That allows for the differing moods of the various entries to seem less like abrupt changes and more like the author wants to explore different aspects of nostalgia for young adulthood.
2. You get out of this series what you put into it. Those who are predisposed to enjoy it will find more in it. That may be applicable to any series, but I can find no better way to explain why those whose opinions I respect think more highly of this title than I do.
(Oh, I almost forgot the special caveat: If you’re creeped out by college kids fighting for the love of what looks like an angelic six-year-old, this is not the series for you. I know the story says she’s as old as they are, but what’s the point in reading comics if you’re not going to look at the pictures?)
Some of the stories aren’t about what happens — which even the characters say, sometimes, is unbelievable — but about evoking a mood of the cherished past. The specific events don’t matter; the nostalgia for the safe time of memory is the point. No matter good or bad, memories are safer because they’ve already happened and you know how they turned out. Although at times, the writer seems to tease us that she knows and we don’t what will happen.
I was pleased to see elements in this volume that I hadn’t already seen in one of the adaptations, as Hagumi and Yamada try on yukata (cotton kimono-like garments) for a fireworks festival. That plays up Hagu’s weirdly elfin qualities in a way that I didn’t find so off-putting. The problem of finding the right outfit that looks as it should on you is something many women can relate to — as is her problem, that what she wants to look like isn’t possible for her, since she isn’t tall and shapely. The story demonstrates how clothes sometimes do make the person, or at least how others think of you.
That leads into more of a focus on Yamada and her romantic interests and choices, which I appreciate, since she’s my favorite character. Her practicality grounds the story for me. (The publisher provided a review copy.)