The lives and loves of five art college students unfold in the smile inducing Honey and Clover theatrical film.
What They Say
Based on the bestselling manga by Chica Umino, HONEY AND CLOVER is a romantic comedy about a group of art school students who try to scrape by, barely earning enough money buy food and pay their rent. But as soon as an innocent and talented 19-year-old girl enters their lives, things get a lot more complicated as love triangles result. Starring Yu Aoi (HULA GIRLS) and J-pop star Sho Sakurai. Directed by Masahiro Takada.
Honey and Clover isn’t dubbed but we do get two audio tracks on this release. The feature includes a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix at 192kbps as well as a half rate DTS 5.1 mix at 744kbps. The DTS mix comes across as louder and more full sounding overall, though there isn’t much activity to the rear channels in general. The film is very strongly centered around dialogue and it’s generally a forward soundstage affair but it’s clean and has some good placement at times when it’s needed. The requirement for any serious depth isn’t needed here either but the DTS mix does a good job of keeping it warmer than it would otherwise, at least in comparison to the meager Dolby mix that’s included. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the DTS mix.
Originally in theaters back in the summer of 2006, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The film is very much a real world piece with no computer generated affects to it so it has a very natural feel to it. There isn’t a whole lot of grain here, but it does come across as a film-like presentation. It’s not overly soft or smoothed over which helps. While Honey and Clover isn’t a standout film, it doesn’t come across as wooden and unnatural as a lot of Japanese live action films tend to feel to me, nor does it come across as something shot on video on the cheap. While this won’t win awards for its visual design, it’s a solid and appealing release that gets the job done.
The cover design for the film is pretty standard as it has a good cast shot of the group sitting along a bench, everyone smiling and looking happy. There aren’t many times like that in the film but it’s a nice enough draw here to get you to look a little closer. The tagline above the title is cute and would certainly work on those who enjoy romances and they make a good push on the show based on its manga origins as well as the director. The back cover runs through a simple idea of the premise as well as how big the property is and those involved. It also provides a good rundown of the discs extra features and a nice visual collage ofimages from the film. Standard production credits breakdowns ensue as well as a small but decent technical grid. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t list the DTS aspect of the release at all nor that there’s a 5.1 mix in here either. No feature related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
Generally, Viz’s menu designs leave me feeling a little dry and annoyed by Viz Pictures has a better “Hollywood” feel to it than the Viz Media releases. The main menu uses the same material as the front cover but sets it on top of various artist devices, brushes and the like, with a simple but effective navigation. Submenus have a brief bit of interstitial animation to it as it segues from one to the other but it comes across as very appropriate and it all flows very smoothly which keeps the annoyance level very low.
There aren’t all that many extras on this release and what we do get is mildly amusing at best. The main extra is a nine minute video piece in which the main actors are all sitting down together on the set and talking with each other about how they’ve viewed the film from when they started to when they ended. That’s at least the idea, but it kind of devolves into a bit of nothingness and little smiles and corniness among them which does show that they’ve become friends. It’s cute and inoffensive and showcases the stars in a positive light which is what most want. In addition to that, there’s a small set of bios for the main actors and the director as well as the original teaser trailer and full length trailer.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Chika Umino, Honey and Clover is the second adaptation of that property. After ten complete volumes of the manga, Honey and Clover has seen a number of adaptations. The anime ran for two seasons totaling thirty eight episodes and there was both a Japanese live action TV drama as well as a Taiwaneese one. After the anime series, a theatrical film was done which is what this release encompasses. Having not seen or read any of the other pieces, I was able to go into this feature pretty much blind and came away pleased if somewhat underwhelmed.
The story of Honey and Clover revolves around a group of five art students in college and their lives and loves. As with most things, there’s one event that triggers the rest into action and that’s the return of Morita to the campus after spending some time away getting closer to his craft. His return to the college has him hooking up with his next door neighbor, the polite and nice young man named Takemoto. Takemoto is the opposite of Morita in a number of ways. While Morita is more free form and unstructured as well as quite a bit more creative, Takemoto is unsure of what it is he really wants to do and is rather behind in submitting his projects. The two get along pretty well but there’s about to be some mild below the surface conflict going on that Morita is completely unaware of.
That conflict comes in the form of a recent new transfer to the school, a genius named Hagumi. A cousin of one of the instructors at the college who holds informal parties with a number of the students, Hagumi is quite gifted but pays for it by being incredibly shy and generally not part of the social structure of school life. When Takemoto first sees her, he’s entranced by her and finds himself in all sorts of situations that cause him to be close to her. Of course, some of this is mildly engineered by her cousin who wants to help her out, but also because he sees Takemoto as the best person for her in the long run. The three eventually end up in a situation where everything is revealed and all of them find conflict within themselves about the situation and how it should be handled.
Thrown into the mix is another triangle of sorts that plays out as a subplot for all of this. Fellow students Mayama and Yamada aren’t involved but there are issues to be had here. For Mayama, he’s been working part time for a company where he’s become one of the best employees there. Unfortunately, he’s fallen in love with his boss, the attractive older woman Rika, and it’s becoming a problem since he’s acting a little stalkerish at times. Yamada finds herself rather attracted to Mayama but he’s simply not interested in anything more than being friends. His hopes rest on Rika coming to terms with his interest and giving in to him. Both sets of relationships play out against each other as they all go through their normal lives as students at the college.
Honey and Clover has a rather relaxed feel to it as it plays out. There’s a good bit of focus on the art world at times, such as seeing Morita’s work end up in a gallery show where a piece he finds to be terrible ends up bringing him in something like five million yen. Hagumi is being told to stop working on abstracts if she wants to get into a particular school while Mayama deals with finding his work becoming uninteresting after things change. There’s some really beautiful moments with the artwork, usually as we watch Hagumi work with her headphones on, and the colors really work well as does the sort of free flowing nature of it all. That’s reflected in the story as well as we watch these people live their lives, uncertain of themselves in ways and unsure of expressing how the feel, until they can’t hold back any longer.
In a way, there aren’t any real surprises here as the relationships play out in a rather standard Japanese way. It’s not that there isn’t a happy ending but rather there’s a realistic and cautiously optimistic ending. The characters are all pleasant and it has that sort of reserved nature to the performances which doesn’t come across as surprising. This isn’t a movie that would get made like this in the US simply because it wouldn’t ring authentic. I’m not sure how authentic it rings in Japanese real life, but from the anime series I’ve seen and the numerous manga I’ve read, it certainly follows a trend that’s apparent there. All in all, Honey and Clover is a pleasant diversion but one that has me wanting to see the source material more than anything else.
Japanese 2.0 Languge, Japanese 5.1 DTS Language, English Subtitles, Hanamoto Study Group, Director and Cast Bios, Original Japanese Trailers
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.