There are some series where you immediately start to think that something was off. This is one of them and most of it all boils down to the art. Right from the beginning you can tell that it’s an unconventional art style and one that you automatically associate with a grittier title. It lets you know that this series will probably make some big mistakes and you wouldn’t be wrong. More on the art later.
The series has quite a few characters and plot lines. The general plot though is that there are a group of characters in a town. They all know each other through other people or directly and as such bonds have started to form. Takemoto is known as an average guy all the way through. He’s not bad at anything, but not good at anything either. One day an art prodigy known as Hagu shows up and Takemoto decides that he will be a better man. Then we are introduced to a ton of love triangles which all intersect to the point where everyone has a rival. Can they all end up as friends despite this or will their bonds be shattered?
So lets address the biggest problem right off the bat. Hagu is one of the main characters of interest as Takemoto, Morita, and Shuji all like her. The thing is, the manga always draws her to look like a little girl while everyone else is basically an adult. Takemoto was 19 and the others were older than him I believe. Hagu is around their age as well but never seems like it. I forgot in the series if it was ever stated that there is a reason why she doesn’t grow or if that’s just the art style but then the series goes a step further by making her act like a kid as well. Either way, it makes the romance hard to endure and every time it pops up you’ll end up cringing. Lets face it, it’s hard to do a good roamance at times, but even so it’s possible. This series just absolutely could not pull it off and the art destroyed any chance that it had. Hagu’s design just seems like a mistake and if the author wanted to go with this look, then she should have at least acted more mature.
I also can’t say that I liked Hagu as she made the wrong calls. So, this series also deals quite a lot with romance and the rebounds. Hagu actually does like one of the 3 characters, but she goes with a different one because he gives her the best chance at recovering her career. It’s portrayed as a good option, but that just seems fake then. She’s basically using the guy. We have several characters in the series who are totally fine with that, but it’s still not a quality romance. Even though drawing is her life, Hagu also has many different moments where she is unsure if that’s what she wants to do so I wonder if she has what it takes for the long haul.
Then another bad character is Mayama and his entire subplot. So, he has always liked Rika and has been stalking her for years. He looks through her browser history when she is gone and does a lot of crazy things inside her apartment when she’s not around. It’s all played off for humor, but the series does portray him as a rather warped individual who should be considered as more of an antagonist. Rika does lead him on and gives him one night stands to keep him entertained, but that’s no good either. Rika has a tragic past and just can’t cope with it at times. While she is still to blame, Mayama is just as guilty for ignoring this to his convenience. This was another romance that I could certainly not get behind and the guy was just a terrible character.
Then we have Takemoto who is also annoying. At one point he bails on everyone to drive around the country and re discover himself. Kind of a selfish thing to do if you think about it since he didn’t tell anyone where he was going and is gone for a very long time. When he comes back the first thing he does is confess to someone when he knows that she doesn’t like him. Fortunately she rejects him instead of playing along for a while like some other characters, but it didn’t help Takemoto’s case. Even by the end once she has made her decision he has a tough time letting her go.
The same thing is true for Yamada. She likes Mayama, but he has chosen Rika over her. So, Yamada decides to rebound with Nomiya, but even at the end of the series she can’t get over Mayama. Nomiya is fine with that, but that still means that he will just be the rebound. It’s not a very fun role and even if he doesn’t mind it, once again I can’t call this a quality romance. By the end of the series it felt like every character had to settle for the backup or being forever alone. Takemoto wanted Hagu and ended up with no one. Morita wanted Hagu and got no one. Hagu wanted Takemoto but got Shuji. Yamada wanted Mayama but got Nomiya. I guess Mayama and Shuji got their picks though.
Morita is another bad character. At least he is rather quirky and eccentric as he runs around doing his best to annoy everyone while getting rich. He actually is a genius and knows how to succeed which is good, but then he goes around causing trouble for everyone. Rather then talk to Hagu openly he runs around calling her a creature and doesn’t get serious until the final volume. It’s way too late by then if you think about it. As mentioned earlier Yamada is basically using Nomiya which doesn’t help her case. It’s fine if she can’t get over Mayama, but then just staying by yourself until the feeling has passed is the right choice.
Nomiya’s no good as he approaches Yamada once she is in a vurlnable state which basically just seems like it will help his odds. That’s not the heroic sacrifice play that I would have liked to have seen. At leas stay in the friend zone or something. Rika’s no good since she can’t make up her mind. She clearly likes Shuji more than Mayama, but ultimately needs Mayama for work so she makes compromises. She should have kicked him out once she found out about the shady stuff he was doing. Shuji’s also no good because his romance comes out of nowhere and he seems way too old to be honest. The guy’s been a teacher for a while so no matter how you slice it there is an age gap here.
Going back to the romance themes, one of the issues that the characters keep struggling with is the fact that they can’t get over their initial pick. At the end Takemoto gives a monologue wondering if it was all pointless or if it was a good thing. At the end he decides it was a good thing and finally moves on. He’s the only one who made the sensible choice in the end. See, if you fall for someone who’s taken or who simply doesn’t feel the same way, you don’t just keep pestering the person until they finally give a half hearted okay and get together with you as a last resort. You also don’t just use someone as a rebound while mentally picturing that you’re with the other person. No, the best thing to do is get over it as soon as possible and if that’s not working then create some distance. Eventually you’ll be over it and until then just bluff for a while and put on a tough face. Not letting the other person find out is the right thing to do because that will just put that person in an awkward position. The thing is, most of the cast is too selfish to go along with any of that and they all end up doing their own thing.
As mentioned, one of the reasons why this manga scored so low is due to the art. It just looks utterly terrible and is one of the worst art that I have ever seen for a manga. It’s not dead last, but it’s probably bottom 5. The art looks unfinished and everyone appears to be constantly blushing. That’s something you’d expect more from an anime which also doesn’t work. I’ve already mentioned the Hagu thing to death, but changing that would have certainly helped the score as well. The humor doesn’t work either since the characters are so unlikable. Even though the series is 10 volumes it definitely does drag for quite a bit. The commentary on romance in general was ambitious so I’ll give the series some props there, but it was just incorrect the whole time.
Overall, Honey and Clover is a series that I highly advise staying away from. It’s just not a good series but you could probably guess that based off of the synopsis. If you like a lot of drama and romance then you may enjoy it, but if you don’t then you’ll know to stay away. I’m not a big fan of those two genres mixing myself so it’s not really a surprise that I didn’t like it. Still, I can certainly say that the series was a little worse than expected. It certainly would have been better as a romance comedy than a drama in this case as it takes itself way too seriously with all of the wrong choices. There is a lot of dialogue, but often times it is about nothing in particular. It’s just characters hanging out, but they aren’t saying anything exciting.