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Honey and Clover
Japanese: ハチミツとクローバー
The gang of Honey and Clover
Year: 2006
Director: Masahiro Takasa

Sho Sakurai, Yu Aoi, Yusuke Iseya, Ryo Kase, Megumi Seki

  The Skinny: Possessing of some charming performances and the occasional odd humor, this comic book adaptation is a serviceable teen flick that relies too much on familiarity to attract newcomers, but changes too much from the source to please fans.
Kevin Ma:

Based on the hit Japanese comic by Chika Umino, Honey and Clover is the latest entry in a long line of Japanese manga adaptations. More in the vein of Nana than Death Note, Honey and Clover is far easier to adapt because of its down-to-earth subject matter: the lives of five art university students and their romantic complications. Directed by anime veteran Masahiro Takada in his feature debut, Honey and Clover features a charming cast and an oddly amusing screenplay, but does it have enough to draw newcomers such as myself?

As far as I know (I've never read the comic nor watched the anime), the basic story of the Honey and Clover film adaptation has been slightly changed. Takemoto (Sho Sakurai of boy band Arashi) is an art student under the tutelage of Professor Hanamoto, whose parties brings him and art students Mayama (Ryo Kase) and Yamada (Megumi Seki) together. At a party in the opening scene, Takemoto is introduced to Hagu (Yu Aoi), Hanamoto's cousin's daughter, who recently entered the school on a scholarship, whereupon Takemoto falls instantly in love.

However, trouble occurs in the form of Takemoto's neighbor Morita, a popular, talented, and temperamental older student who has just returned from a long trip. Morita is instantly impressed by Hagu's abstract paintings, and Hagu, in turn, begins to admire Morita's sculpting skills. Meanwhile, Yamada has become infatuated with Mayama. However, Mayama himself is hopelessly in love with his boss Rika, even to the point of stalking her and collecting objects of hers. Even when Mayama outright rejects Yamada, she remains head-over-heels in love with him for some inexplicable reason. The five come together for Morita's gallery opening, but an impulsive trip to the beach threatens to change a few things about their lives...

Much like its source material, Honey and Clover is more concerned with romance than it is with satire of its art school setting, and that's OK for some. Takada obviously cares about the source material enough to make changes that allow the adaptation to stand on its own. But without the potential bite that the film might have possessed as a satire, it's hard to see what the appeal of the film is those who aren't already fans of the original comic. Considering Mayama's creepier aspects, it's never quite apparent what Yamada sees in him. Despite Takemoto's role as the protagonist, he's the weakest character in the film. Honey and Clover sometimes seems like it could be a character piece, but there's not much character development in the script (which Takada also co-wrote), nor is there much of a plot to drive the characters themselves.

Nevertheless, there are things to like about Honey and Clover - even for an outsider like me. The occasional humor may seem jarring even for a dramedy, but much of it works and adds amusing moments to the overlong script. Yu Aoi rightfully earns her Best Actress award (for her performances in both Honey and Clover and Hula Girls) at the Blue Ribbon awards, giving the best performance out of the five main actors as the shy and talented Hagu. Unlike Aoi's previous role in Hana and Alice, Hagu is a more difficult character to play, and Aoi injects just the right amount of shyness and cuteness to create a character that is likable instead of eccentric to an annoying degree.

From what I've read about Honey and Clover, it's really a story about the passing days of youth - and I've even read that the story has been life-changing for some people. Unfortunately, Takada sticks mostly to the romance aspect of the story. While the love triangles in Honey and Clover can be affecting, I wonder if that's what college life is all about. Romance seems to have a real impact on these characters' lives, as it can affect their careers and even their art. This may be how Takada handles the film's manga origins, but it clashes with the film's down-to-earth stylistic approach. Honey and Clover is a serviceable teen romance flick with satisfying performances and enough humor to keep the proceedings interesting. However, underneath it all, it's also a little empty. (Kevin Ma 2007)

Availability: Availability
DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
2-disc set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 2.0 / Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable Japanese and English Subtitles
Commentaries, Making-of featurettes, interviews, etc.
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen