Holding a special place in my heart for stuff that’s natsukashii, Honey and Clover is one of my favorite series. It’s the timeless story of a group of college kids figuring out how life works. Basically, Honey and Clover makes me want to stay in college forever.
Based on the popular manga by Chica Umino which has sold over 10 million copies in Japan, HONEY AND CLOVER is a romantic comedy about a group of art school students who try to find their way. But when an innocent and talented 19-year-old girl enters their lives, things get a lot more complicated as love triangles result.
I really liked Honey and Clover as an anime because it covered a range of emotions. It was funny, wacky, serious, emo and reflective all in one series. The main characters were all great friends in addition to being in some complicated love triangles.
Takemoto is the new kid on the block, Hagu is the cute genius that everyone likes, Morita is weird and likable in his strange behaviors, Yamada is strong and loved by all guys except the object of her affection and Mayama is the “adult” of the group, taking care of Takemoto and basically acting like the glue of the group.
The movie does some interesting things with the characters both in terms of casting and in characterizations. The biggest difference I noticed was that Morita was incredibly unlikable. He retains none of the wackiness that makes him fun and just does whatever he wants (usually maliciously) to Hagu. While the Morita character grows during the film, he still kind of rubs me the wrong way. The casting for Morita seemed a little off. It’s like they picked a bike gang guy to play him.
There’s some other weirdness in casting, too. I can understand that there probably weren’t any dwarf blond girls to cast for the role of Hagu. But still, it really messes with my head to have a Japanese-looking Hagu. Japanese Hagu is still cute enough though, I guess. The actress for Yamada seems beautiful enough, but she ends up looking really scary shooting the evil eye, especially when she’s stalking Mayama.
Mayama is changed from being a fairly confident guy with some stalker issues to being a full fledged neurotic shut-in. This sucks since Mayama is probably my favorite character from the anime. In the anime he’s cool; in the movie he’s just kind of pitiful. Takemoto is probably the best actor to play his part. Actually, Hanamoto was my favorite character. It’s sad since he played a pretty small role.
Aside from casting issues, the movie also suffers from its running time. Everything feels really condensed. This might be one of the reasons that the group of friends don’t seem very friendly with each other. Given the number of scenes available, it’s uncommon to see them all together. I’m not sure if Morita and Mayama are even seen hanging out together until the art show scene halfway through the movie.
A lot of other things from the story are cut short as well. Instead of biking to Hokkaido, Takemoto just gets to a beach that the gang had visited before. It just takes him a night to get back. I can’t really remember everything that happened in the actual story, but the movie just feels so condensed that important relationships don’t feel significant at all. For example, the famous scene when Mayama is carrying Yamada and she confesses to him doesn’t seem as powerful. The movie makes it seem like Yamada has a crush when she’s really painfully in love with him.
So what’s good about the movie? It’s interesting seeing actual art being produced by people as opposed to characters in a manga or anime do it. The whole wood sculpting stuff by Morita and Hagu’s painting were really interesting to watch in action. That’s probably the only edge the movie has versus anime and manga iterations of Honey and Clover. It’s easier to portray the artistic process on film versus doing it in drawings.
As far as DVD stuff and extras go, there’s just the original audio track and subtitles. The DVD also has a few extras like a “Hanamoto Study Group” which is just the actors having a chat about filming the movie and some info about the director and cast fo the movie. Pretty barebones but that’s okay.
Overall, I’d say this film adaptation of Honey and Clover was a failure. I’m not sure if it’s even possible to condense the story into a two hour movie and keep the plot intact. The movie glosses over important details about the characters’ relationships and actually changes their behavior as well. Honey and Clover should be funny, nostalgic and heart wrenching all at once. The live action version just doesn’t stay true to the heart of the series.
Many thanks to Viz for sending me a review copy of Honey and Clover!