Honey and Clover

Hachimitsu (2)While a lot of manga titles are set in high school, Honey and Clover takes a look at college/university life and the growth its characters experience there.

Manga Title: Hachimitsu to Clover (Honey and Clover)
Mangaka: Chica Umino
Genres: Comedy-drama, romance, slice-of-life
Demographic: Josei

The Storyboard:
Yuta Takemoto is an architectural student at a university in Tokyo, living in the same apartment complex as two of his fellow students and friends: Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita. Each of them are happily going about their student lives when they are introduced to a freshman girl called Hagumi Hanamoto (Hagu) who is related to their art professor Shuji Hanamoto.

Yuta and Shinobu fall in love with her at first sight. Shinobu is infatuated by her cute appearance, constantly taking photos of her and even creating a webpage of his pictures. His approach doesn’t endear him much to Hagu, who reacts to him mostly with aversion.

Yuta on the other hand befriends her, initially unaware of his own love for her. He gradually gains her trust and discovers that she has a sweet, childish temperament.
As the two are friendly with Shuji, Hagu slowly starts to draw closer to them through their interactions, although romance seems to be the last thing on her mind.

Honey and Clover

Yuta, Hagu and Shinobu

Later another member of their group is introduced, the so called ‘Iron Lady’ Ayumi Yamada, who warms to Hagu quickly. Ayumi is physically very strong, hence her title, and is in love with Takumi. The love is unrequited however, because Takumi has feelings for another woman despite caring a lot for Ayumi.

Honey and Clover focuses on the interactions between these five characters (and their professor) as they grow closer, sharing the experiences of their lives all the way.

Honey and Clover

Takumi and Ayumi

Pencil Sketch:
Honey and Clover has a character driven plot, going from the group’s minglings with one another to their own backgrounds. The main lead is Yuta, a meticulous, unassuming young man who’s more sensitive to other people than the rest of the characters. He often doesn’t say what he really feels, which is especially how he is towards Hagu. That being the case he still has an admirable ability to find the good qualities in those he meets, making him a likeable protagonist.

Next is Takumi, a fourth year art student; brooding and somewhat self-absorbed, Takumi nonetheless is always there for his friends, joining in their get togethers and romps enthusiastically. Takumi’s love life is complicated by his affection for another woman, Rika, whilst knowing that Ayumi loves him. Even though he cares for Ayumi, he’s doesn’t return her love and tells her to forget about him.

Ayumi is usually self-assured and fiery tempered, often depicted giving Taekwondo kicks to anyone that pisses her off. She loves attention and compliments, soaking it up whenever someone says a good word about her. She states her affections for Takumi early on, and though rejected by him continues trying to win his heart, despite his not returning her feelings.

Of the group Shinobu is by far the most carefree and derpy. From the onset we see him sleeping late and missing classes, doing odd jobs and returning days later, and making genius pieces of art effortlessly. He’s a seventh year student, having been held back for tardiness in his projects. His love for Hagu begins immediately in a bizarre way; he seems to view her more as a doll than a person. Due to this she avoids him, but through the party’s activities they spend more time together.

Honey and Clover

Shinobu’s buff self-sculpture

Although she’s eighteen, Hagu has a temperament similar to a small girl’s. Also an art prodigy, she’s shown to ‘absorb’ the things she wants to paint and then reproduces them later on canvas, creating beautiful sculptures too. Having been almost brought up by Professor Hanamoto, they have a close relationship, staying with each other all the time. Hagu seems oblivious to both Shinobu and Yuta’s advances – happily getting along with both of them whilst the two men’s love for her deepens.

Honey and Clover

Hagu’s masterpiece

Lastly is Professor Hanamoto, at once a helpful guardian and friend to the group, he’s very devoted and protective over Hagu – ready to jump on the guys if they try anything. Hanamoto’s past is also connected to the love triangle between Ayumi, Makumi and Rika, a connection that unfolds as the story progresses.

Inking:
Honey and Clover doesn’t attempt to express any profound messages or philosophy. It details the lives of friends on their journey through university and life. The difficulties they face, happiness they share, love that grows and bitterness they go through all blend into a sweet, touching story.

What I liked most about Honey and Clover are the moments of comedy scattered throughout and poignant reflections on life that come in controlled bursts. The humor is often generic, dealing with tropes frequently encountered in manga – but every now and then there are some genuinely comic moments. Due to this the poignant parts seem all the more deep and heart-tugging, being placed amidst the humor they seem to stand out even more.

Honey and Clover won’t make you sob, though tears may escape from your eyes – it won’t make you roll on the floor laughing, though it may make you let out a real, hearty chuckle. Genuine and visceral, I found myself smiling and feeling warm inside after putting it down.

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Cats Over Flowers – Nineteen, Twenty-One

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Manga Title: Nineteen, Twenty-One
Author/ Artist: Yu, Han/ Kim, Hye-Jin
Genres: Romance, slice of life
Demographic: Josei, Shoujo

Flowers hang from the sides of houses and hug the walls in a strange harmony. Narrow streets sprawl throughout a bright, well-kept neighborhood, showing signs of meticulous care. In this place of tidy order, there are creatures that exist in the small unnoticed spaces and that slink along pathways, keeping out of sight. Stray cats.

It’s here that we find Yun-lee, a 21 year old student who’s just started her life again after recovering from an accident for over a year, coming out to meet these unwelcome, ragged beasts. Though too cautious to actually touch them, she brings them food and tends to them whenever she can, showing a compassion that’s very much like the flowers about her, spilling their fragrances freely onto the wind for all.

Strays

Strays

One day a stranger comes leaping, like a cat himself, into her private world. He’s Dong-hwi – also a lover of cats, and the exact age Yun-lee was before she lost two years of her life: 19. They start getting together, feeding their beloved cats and nurturing the seedlings of their own feelings at the same time.

Leaping In

Leaping In

Both characters are at important points in their lives, standing in front of the same line. Yun-lee is starting shakily again after losing two years, and Dong-hwi is hesitant about entering into the adult world, with all its hang-ups and responsibilities. Amidst all of this, their budding romance for one another, as well as for cats – takes place.

 

A Love for Cats

A Love for Cats

Yun-Lee and Dong-hwi start to take care of a group of stray cats together, but encounter some difficulties in the community that tests their resolve.

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The challenge that faces them is something that’s posed to us all at some time or another: if you could do something worthwhile even though it only makes a small difference – would you still want to try? And so they make the choice to do what they can for their small clan of cats, despite the opposition and trials their own lives present them with.

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Every once in a while, you read a story that doesn’t get you psyched-up, but rather warms you up and leaves you feeling that way afterwards. Nineteen-twenty one is definitely that kind of story. The panels are big, with luxurious drawings of flowers, scenery, people, and of course – cats. The setting is within a small town, yet the art makes you feel like you’re inside a botanical garden.

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Nineteen, Twenty-One is a journey into an exotic wilderness, full of sights that remain behind your eyelids after closing them at night and thoughts that will keep you pondering, ever so gently, along with them.

What is your opinion of this manga? Can you recommend another manga in a similar genre that you enjoyed?