Mania Grade: A
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- Art Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Text/Translatin Rating: A-
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 8.99
- Pages: 184
- ISBN: 1-4215-1504-0
- Size: B6
- Orientation: Right to Left
- Series: Honey and Clover
Honey and Clover Vol. #01
By Greg Hackmann
March 12, 2008
Release Date: March 04, 2008
Honey and Clover Vol.#01
© Viz Media
Translated by:Akemi Wegmuller
Adapted by:Akemi WegmullerWhat They Say
Takemoto, a sophomore art student in Tokyo, thinks his greatest worries in life are finding ways to eat more meat and getting to class on time. But with friends like his, life is never going to be that tame.The Review
Sometimes, you just need manga like these to remind you why you're in this hobby in the first place.Packaging:
The front and back cover feature attractive, watercolor-style portraits of Hagu and Takamoto, respectively. The warm pastel colors in these drawings combined with the distinctive art style (for manga covers, anyway) work really well, and I appreciate Viz scaling back on the gaudy back-cover Shojo Beat logo for this release.
The print quality is a small notch above what I've come to expect from manga in the $9-$10 price range: the line art is as sharp as always, but the black levels are a lot more consistent than in most other mass-market releases. For extras, we get a short biography of author Chica Umino; a two-page bonus comic about the things that keep her up at night; and two pages of translator's notes.Artwork:
After being enticed with the inviting and colorful cover artwork, the interior artwork comes as kind of a let-down. Umino's character artwork is excessively crude and unrefined in places, especially the simplified design used for Hagu when she's the target of the manga's gags: her vacant facial expressions tend to be more creepy than funny, giving off an impression that she's either undead or possessed by the devil. Other characters (Takemoto especially) go off-model fairly frequently in the earlier chapters, though Umino seems to get a better grip on proportions by the time the book ends.
Overall, it's far from the worst artwork I've seen even recently; but the edges are just rough enough to be noticeable, particularly when compared to the high standard set by the cover artwork.Text/SFX:
Viz's English lettering uses a conventional, highly legible bold comic font for most of the dialog, while relying on a smaller and harder-to-read script for asides. SFX and signs are translated inline using all sorts of typefaces, presumably to mimic the original Japanese lettering.
The English translation preserves honorifics throughout. Decently extensive cultural notes are provided in the two-page "Study Guide" section (groan) in the book's backmatter.Contents:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In an attempt to survive in Tokyo on a student's budget, 19-year-old art student Takemoto has taken up residence in a cramped and decrepit apartment along with a number of his classmates. Among these other students are Mayama, a reasonably down-to-earth architecture student; and Morita, a professional student who's notorious for disappearing for entire weeks without explanation. While hanging out with Professor Hanamoto -- who from their conversations seems to be Mayama's academic advisor -- he introduces the trio to his petite 18-year-old niece Hagumi ("Hagu") Hanamoto. Though Hanamoto discreetly threatens Mayama with academic and legal consequences should he get any funny ideas about Hagu, his over-protection is aimed at the wrong target: Takemoto falls in love with Hagu almost immediately after meeting her.
For his part, Morita seems to take his own kind of interest in Hagu, though his intentions aren't exactly pure. Within seconds of meeting Hagu, Morita begins snapping photos of her posing as a koropokkur (the Japanese equivalent to a leprechaun); Takemoto and Mayama find out a few days later that Morita is using the photos to drive traffic to his new, advertising-infested Web site. This seemingly one-sided business relationship gets more complicated when Morita uses some of the proceeds to buy Hagu an expensive pair of shoes, suggesting to Takemoto that there might be a new rival for Hagu's affection.
As if one potential love triangle weren't enough, Umino cranks the angst knob up a notch or two with the introduction of Yamada, an aggressive and short-tempered female art student. Mayama is the first to face Yamada's wrath, since he was recently seen in the company of Rika, a colleague and business partner of Hanamoto's. It's common knowledge among the students that Mayama is in love with Rika, and Yamada with Mayama; and, more importantly, that Yamada's feelings for Mayama are completely one-sided. (Props to Umino for the refreshingly practical conversation that follows, where Yamada recommends that Mayama grow a spine and Mayama counters by telling Yamada to move on with her life.) Comments
Umino has gone for an interesting mix of genres here, combining broad, gag-driven comedy with more-subtle, character-driven drama. While the shoujo manga world is hardly a stranger to romantic comedy hybrid, the comedic and dramatic elements of Umino's storyline are almost at polar opposites to each other. Whole chapters portray Takemoto and his classmates as prototypical starving college students, dumping them into ridiculous slice-of-life situations and playing up broad personality quirks for yuks; but between these fits of silliness, Umino takes the time to fill in the outlines a little bit. Morita is the most obvious example of this phenomenon, as he frequently slips out of his stingy and manipulative rut to play a more nuanced role in the other cast members' complicated interpersonal relationships. He's far from the only example here, with essentially all of the story's major players starting as near-total stereotypes and gradually picking up subtle personality traits throughout the story.
The upshot of this approach is that the episodic comedy in this volume is very effective, but at the same time Umino's clearly leaving a lot of room for the long-term dramatic storyline to grow. The only place where these two elements seem to be at odds is in Umino's characterization of Hagu, who reveals the least character development here out of the story's major players. Instead, she's basically content throughout the entire volume to act as a prop (sometimes literally so) in the other characters' interactions. Her extreme pushover tendencies make for some funny moments; but at the same time, I dislike spineless major characters as a matter of personal taste, especially since Hagu's one-note personality comes at such a sharp contrast to the other characters. That said, Umino drops a couple of hints of character growth to come, so hopefully I'll be able to re-evaluate my opinion of Hagu in the near future.
Even with this flaw, the first volume of Honey and Clover definitely left me wanting more. When I sat down to crack open the book's covers for the first time, I only planned to sample the first couple of chapters. What actually happened was that I ended up plowing ahead, repeatedly telling myself "just one more chapter" until I eventually ended up consuming the entire thing in one sitting. I can't really think of much higher praise to give to a manga, and I'm anxious to see what Umino has in store for Volume 2.