It's Christmas time, and that can mean only one thing.... turkey! Wait a second, it's Christmas time, and that can only mean two things... turkey, and the Reverse Thieves Secret Santa project! For the third year running I've taken part in this marvel of modernity, and having been presented with three potential series to watch by my particular secret Santa I found myself watching... Honey and Clover, a series that I've been meaning to watch for years, and we all know that there's no time like the present!
For anyone who complains about the relentless output of the anime industry focusing upon high school hijinks and the misadventures of young teenagers, Honey and Clover is one of those rare but important shows which pushes its focus back a little, instead taking us onwards to college life for a handful of students as they go about their studies and everything that comes with college lifestyle. Needless to say, that involves some complicated relationships and love triangles, and also the terrors of figuring out what you want to do with your life as well as who to do it with.
If this all sounds like standard stuff, where Honey and Clover stands out is in its characters and in the treatments they receive, blending some relatively normal young men and women with decidedly larger and life characters, and occasionally throwing them some equally larger than life scenarios to suit. Along these lines, it's the versatile yet bonkers Morita that steals that particular show as he lunges from tomfoolery to Hollywood, but the diminutive genius Hagu and the rest of the cast also have their moments.
At times, this reliance on the surreal or crazy threatens to devalue the deeper facets of the show, as cases of unrequited love or struggling to find your own place in the world find themselves walking against a torrent of slapstick gags and general insanity. Somehow, the series just about manages to pull off this dangerous balancing act - at times it can prick your eyes with tears, and at others those tears come from laughter at the most terrifying game of Twister ever committed to screen for example. Not that Honey and Clover is a perfect series - sometimes its attempt to be soul-searching feels empty in its attempts to foster a feeling of contemplative depth, and at other points in the series its particular brand of humour can become decidedly tiresome or simply miss the mark completely.
This leaves me of the opinion that Honey and Clover doesn't quite live up to the rather fearsome reputation it has built up in the years since its broadcast - its uneven and arguably even runs for too long when it could resolve (or at least move on from) some of its plot points far quicker. That said, it's still a decidedly good series that takes strong characters and puts them into situations that take those characters out of their comfort zones while entertaining (or just plain amusing) the viewer. It's a romantic drama that wears it heart on its sleeve and manages to get its hooks into some issues that we'll all recognise from our own lives and pasts, be it unrequited love or the age-old question of "what the Hell do I do with my life next?!", and it's the ability to do that above all that makes Honey and Clover a series well worth watching, even if it isn't the classic in my book that others may wish to argue the case for.