12 Days of Anime Christmas, Day 9: Honey and Clover and Bringing the Joy

How could I forgot that Honey and Clover had a Christmas episode? I guess it’s been too long since I’ve watched this series (one of my favorites), but it is indeed hidden in there, only half of one episode really, and very early in season one (episode four). It was strange going back and watching it, too, because the dynamics set through the two seasons of the series aren’t all in place yet. For instance, the professor doesn’t even yet know who Ayumi is.

honey and clover episode 4
Who is this drunk girl?

Watching it out of context and after having not seen the series for so long, I think I was able to view this episode from a different perspective, a very different one—that of Shinobu. Never my favorite character (okay, he’s actually my least favorite of the mains), it’s always hard to get a dial on him. Even when some depth is added to Shinobu later, he still feels more like a caricature than a real person, more Robin Williams than Tom Hanks. But a little bit of his realness comes through in this episode, and I realized that it’s a realness that I want to see in me, too.

Honey and Clover is about struggling with the challenges of adulthood, and in this episode more than most, we get a taste of everyone’s struggles through the lens of the holiday season. Yuta, for instance, dislikes Christmas because it reminds him of spending holidays in the hospital with his mother, a single mom who was a nurse, and the neglect and sadness he experienced there.

The others are hurting, too. Hagu is crumbling under the expectations from classmates, people in the art industry, everyone it seems (except for Shu—how did I not see the end coming?!). Ayumi loves Takumi, and Takumi loves Rika. And Shinobu…well, Shinobu doesn’t seem to be struggling with anything, but he is privy to all the difficulties of his friends. And to aid them, he comes up with a solution: a Christmas party.

Of course, as soon as he was thinking about not liking Christmas, someone invites him to a Christmas party. I find this is the way with many social events, they come up especially when they’re unwanted.

Everyone comes and enjoys the party. It doesn’t solve anything, but if just for a day, troubles are forgotten, stress is relieved, and bitter memories are left behind. It was exactly what the group needed, and it was provided by the one who at this point in the series seems the least likely to have a pulse on what others need and how to help them. And yet, Shinobu comes through.

We’ve mentioned a few times already (here, here, and especially here) how the holidays can be hard for some folks. As with Yuta, we may have not-so-pleasant memories of the season (more on that in Day 11); or as with some of the others, this particular season, this 2018, may be full stress and strife. That’s been the case for me this year. I was in a car accident a couple of weeks ago, and that was this hammer what was a sensitive balance as we tried to hold everything together in our busiest and most expensive month of the year. But to be honest, other than a few days of heavy burden, I don’t feel that bad. I feel pretty good. And so, I’m trying to be Shinobu this season for others, to be one that loves on those who are hurting and to help them experience some joy during what should be the most joyous season of all.

And if you’re the same as me, able to give love more than you need to receive it right now, why not do the same? Be Shinobu. Be Santa. Be love.


8 thoughts on “12 Days of Anime Christmas, Day 9: Honey and Clover and Bringing the Joy

  1. Just finished Honey and Clover last week: it was truly awesome. It reminded me of Shirobako´s authentic, passionate portrayal of the first job, just in university, but it went further; the comedy was great and the drama was subtle and heartbreaking. There was art, vocation, work, love, sacrifice, life, adolescence, sadness, crisis, revenge, the impact of childhood in the adult… I´ll confess that at some points of the series I had my doubts (will this turn into a confused story about how the illusions of the young are beautiful but naïve and just fade away?), but the ending was luminous and made tied it all all together artfully, perfectly. Friendship in the distance and unrequited love are both signs of hope in Takemoto´s road to manhood.

    That aspect, Takemoto´s journey, was probably my favorite part of the show. But there was also the authentic universitary vibe of Morita and Shinobu (there are legends exactly like this, there are teachers exactly like this, the show truly nails it!) The issue of Morita´s brother and his father´s childhood friend (that of Katherine Paterson´s “Jacob I have loved”, the conflicted feelings of the seemingly unelected brother) was fascinating and well-resolved. I found Mayama (ahem, questionable as his methods were sometimes) truly inspiring: his effort to understand and heal was great, his motivation to earn money and the way he put it amazed me just as much as it amazed Takemoto, the friendship-rivalry with Carlos Marc was a telling, very interesting detail, and the way he cared about Ayu while being unable to reciprocate her feelings was very relatable too. But maybe his faithful, stubborn, authentic, sometimes dumb way of loving was the best of it all. The delicate, strong way in which Nomiya guided Ayu out of her maze and her cyclical feelings was wonderful too.

    I couldn´t help feeling the conclusion, brilliant as it was, was somehow sad for Shinobu and Hagu. I can understand a vocation to the arts so deep and imbricated it outweights a romance. Yet, I had this feeling that her childish personality had something to do with the way he behave towars her, and I welcomed she falling in love as a way to push her beyond that. In some ways, she went beyond, and her farewell words to Morita and Takemoto respectively prove it. But what she asked of Shinobu -to eternally be her custodian as she draws- meant she would always be shielded from the world, that the dynamic between the two would perpetuate. And the fact Morita´s words didn´t reach out to her means that she still depends on her art, that losing that hand would have still destroyed her reason for living. That´s not a place I would want a friend of mine to be at. And on a side note, I loved the Star Wars reference, and this is the first anime which not only mentions my country, but actually has some of the action take place there! Long live Valencia, and long live Carlos Marc!

    1. Thank you for the analysis and all the insight! I’m so glad you enjoyed the anime so much—it’s absolutely one of my favorites, and I hope to visit it again sometime soon. I’m right with you—the story arcs and the characters felt so very authentic, and the show was so fulfilling, even when it didn’t go the way my heart wanted it to. Such a brilliant series!

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