Honey and Clover Box Set 3 (VIZ Media, T+ for older teens and adults)

That’s one of the things I love about this series: it honors the characters’ sometimes obsessive self-reflection and doesn’t take refuge in wish fulfillment conclusions to their problems and concerns.

 

Things take a turn for the darker in the third box set of the popular anime Honey and Clover, as the characters near the end of their studies and are motivated both to reflect on the past and to make decisions about their future. And that’s one of the things I love about this series: it honors the characters’ sometimes obsessive self-reflection and doesn’t take refuge in wish fulfillment conclusions to their problems and concerns.

American films about college students usually end with everyone getting the hot guy or girl of their choice as well as an improbably glamorous job which pays for an enormous apartment in the hippest possible neighborhood. In Honey and Clover, the message is more like this: life is unfair and we don’t always get what we want, but a sensible person can make a good life out of the options available to them. You don’t have to be a superstar to be happy (most people make do with friends, family and honest work) and even if you are the hottest thing going today, tomorrow it could all be different. Or as they say on Mad Men, one day you’re on top of the world and the next a secretary is running over your foot with a lawn mower.
 
I don’t want to spoil the fun but I can say a few things about the plot developments in these episodes which bring the series to a conclusion. We see quite a bit of Shinobu’s brother Kaoru as they explore their shared past (which is a good example of life is unfair: dad favored one kid more than the other and it is also clear that one kid got a lot more talent than the other), Hagu has become a beautiful young woman rather than a little girl and grows in emotional maturity as well, there’s a trip to Spain and they don’t call it “winds of change” for nothing. The various arcs are concluded satisfactorily and (thank goodness) not always in the most obvious manner. If you enjoyed the first two sets, you’ll probably like this one as well.
 
There are 12 episodes in this box set and the first is a recap of previous episodes, so you may feel a bit shorted (the first two sets had 13 episodes each). The art is high quality for a series, frequently painterly and realistic by anime standards except when the characters are experiencing strong emotions or reverting to childhood. The opening and closing sequences mix animation, silhouettes and photography (or photorealistic animation) to very nice effect and the music is also quite good.  I must admit I have no idea what’s going on with the opening sequence—a statue of a duck standing on a poodle standing on a lion standing on a unicorn which changes its “skin” from grey to dollar bills to silver to flowers to gold before melting down to syrup on a pancake, I kid you not—but it’s really cool.
 
Extras on the DVD set include definitions of some cultural terms, production art, a clean version of the opening and closing, and a “voice acting karaoke” segment which lets you practice dubbing lines (with prompts in English or Romaji). For the episodes, you have a choice of Japanese or English voice tracks and English subtitles or not. My preference is to listen to the Japanese track (more expressive than the dub) with the subtitles (otherwise I wouldn’t have a clue what is happening) but if you don’t like reading you can always go straight to the dub. | Sarah Boslaugh

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