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honey and clover Vol. 1 by Chica Umino (a J!-ENT Manga Review)

December 29, 2008 by  



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“A fun manga about five college students attending art school.  They have parties, they have fun, they find love and everything in between.  A lot of humor, beautiful artwork and an all out fun, award-winning manga by Chica Umino.”

(C) Image courtesy of Chica Umino.  All Rights Reserved.

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MANGA TITLE: honey and clover vol. 1

STORY AND ART BY: Chica Umino (羽海野 チカ)

FIRST PUBLISHED IN JAPAN: SHUEISHA, Inc.

PUBLISHED IN USA BY: VIZ Media, LLC/Shojo Beat Manga

RATED: T for Older Teen

Takemoto, a sophmore 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.

Beautiful, fun… Definitely a lot of positive things you can say about this Kodansha Award winning manga series by Chika Umino.

Having spawned an anime series, a live drama and film, it’s no surprise that many men and women have enjoyed “honey and clover” and now available from Viz Media via their Shojo Beat imprint is “honey and clover”.

Part of my interest in wanting to read the manga is that I enjoyed the film but I felt that there were much back story of the characters that I figured, if I really want to enjoy this series, start with the manga.  And so, after reading volume 1, I was surprised how different the manga series and the live film were.

In the manga series, the story revolves around three guys who live in an apartment complex and attend an art school.  They are:

Yuta Takemoto: One of the primary characters, Takemoto is the youngest of the guys and majoring in architectural design.  He seems to have a ho-hum life but is the normal guy of the group who has taken a liking to the gifted artist Hagumi.

Shinobu Morita: A carefree, does whatever he wants type of guy.  Very cool but very strange.  A gifted sculptor who has attended the University for years, has not graduated but tends to make money doing freelance work and constantly on the move.  He is drawn to Hagumi because she reminds him of a Koropokkur (a leprechaun or fairy) that he actually takes pictures of her in situations and puts it on the Internet and promoting her as one.

Takumi Mayama: Mayama is the quiet type.  A senpai for Takemoto and works at a design firm in which he likes the owner Rika.  Although he knows that he’ll never get that close to Rika, he somewhat does what he can for her.  He is also the guy that Morita turned to when he needed help but now Mayama has passed the duty on to Takemoto.

Characters also featured are:

Hagumi: A shy, gifted  sculptor who is being taken care of by her uncle, Professor Hanamoto.  She is not very talkative and very, very short.  She is almost like a little girl but she’s actually 18 and her cuteness makes everyone in a good mood.  She does have a hard time knowing that so many people expect a lot of things from her because of her talent but also knows that because of dedicating her life to that talent, she doesn’t live a normal life like the other girls in school.

Ayumi Yamada: Yamada aka “Iron Man” is another gifted student at the art school who is madly in love with Mayama.  She knows that he is not interested in her but she takes it hard and sometimes can’t tolerate his attitude but she does because she’s so in love with him.  She’s very blunt, very beautiful, very athletic but also can get very violent (ala her karate moves).

What I found quite charming about this storyline is that it’s life of a college student.  Trying to do your best at school, not knowing your own future after school, not having enough money and just the fun that people have amongst friends.

Chapter 1 is more like an introduction to the characters but you can’t help but laugh when you see Morita making Hagu pose as a Koropokkur.

Chapter 2 features a guy coming to the University to see if the Koropokkur is real and the guys learn that Morita is making money off his popular website but Hagu is not to thrilled about what Morita is doing that he does something nice for her.

Chapter 3 is how the guys can’t understand why all the girls give him so much attention.  Especially since he’s lazy, oversleeps and uses the public faucet to shower and you get an idea of how far out Morita really is.  In one point, Morita needs clothes, so he grabs the curtains from Professor Hanamoto’s class and wears the clothes like Moses from the “Ten Commandments” with no shame.

Chapter 4 features the guys really hungry and haven’t eaten any meat for a long while because they are broke.  They survive by the noodles brought home by one of the guys who live in the apartment but things change when Lohmeyer-san returns back on campus from the family farm and brings so much ham, sausage and vegetables for the guys that Takemoto learns why everyone loves him.

Chapter 5 features the guys and Hagu going out for some fun and light some fireworks and Takemoto gets to see a kind side of Hagu.

Chapter 6 features Mayama getting a phone call from someone and Takemoto suspects that he may have a girlfriend.  Meanwhile, Morita is contacted to do a high paying job and Takemoto tries to make himself look great in front of Hagu and tells her that he’ll create something for her, since he is an architectural major.

Chapter 7 introduces Ayumi Yamada and how she is in love with Mayama.  Meanwhile, Takemoto finds out who the girl that called Mayama is.  Her name is Rika, a colleague of Professor Hanamoto and Mayama’s boss and that Mayama was just doing a lot of work for her.  But Mayama does like her and Yamada takes it very hard.

Chapter 8 focuses on Hagu and how the pressures of being a talented sculptor and not having a normal life like the other young women on campus starts to make her depressed.  The pressures of life start to drain her emotionally.

Chapter 9 is about Christmas and Morita invites everyone to Hanamoto-san’s office for a Christmas party.

The final pages feature a bonus manga diary titled “Life of Umino” and a glossary of terms used in the manga such as words like what is “Koropokkur” or what is a “system 6” operating system.

I really enjoyed this first volume.  Similar to young novels or manga (or even dramas) such as “Asunaro Hakusho”, “Wakamono no Subete” or “Hakusen Nagashi”, I really enjoy stories that cover young adult life.  From the parties to just hanging out with friends, meeting new people, career choices to finding love (or not finding love),  “honey and clover” is one of those series that is realistic in the sense that many people can related to these characters.  So, you really take an interest towards the characters and I really liked the overall development of the characters through the course of the nine chapters.

Umino’s artwork and her storytelling is enjoyable, beautiful and has a good balance of entertainment through humor and that occasional love triangle drama that pulls you in.

So, I was very surprised of the differences between the life film and the manga.  With the film, there’s so much that can’t be done in a film under two hours from a manga series that has many chapters of storyline and character development.  I can see why so many people were entertained by this manga series.  It’s very entertaining and artwork that is just beautiful look at.

This is one of those stories that appeals appeals to both men and women and overall, the first volume is quite entertaining thus far.  Definitely check it out!

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