First Impressions 4: Honey and Clover, and Swan
Here are two more first volumes, these two from popular series that I found I didn’t like as much as their popularity suggested I should.
Honey and Clover centers around a group of poor eclectic students at an art college that live in the same tiny, rundown apartment building. There’s a large cast of characters but these are the main ones: Morita is a weirdo genius slob who’s been in college for many years, and who leaves for weeks at a time and comes back exhausted and loaded with money. Mayama is a fairly normal architecture student about to graduate, but with hints of a mysterious past. And the last is a very average guy, the hero, Takemoto, who doesn’t have any real aim in life except he’s studying architecture as well.
One day they meet a tiny relative of a professor who enters the school as a Freshman. She’s Hanamoto Hagumi and both Takemoto and Morita instantly fall in love with her cuteness. They fall for her but she’s never anything but a doll, even in the drawings. It’s a bit disturbing. She’s not much interested in them though; she’s a genius as sculpture and lives for that. And shiny pink mules. And meat. She isn’t your typical heroine. But then, this isn’t exactly a romance.
The story goes on, with little slices of life, some more interesting than others. Takemoto tries to find common ground with Hagumi and ends up trying to design a rococco warddrobe for her caveman-inspired doll clothes. A tenant returns from the country with meat and vegetables, and they feel better for eating until he leaves again.
You know, what this manga reminds me of is Seinfeld. It’s really not about anything. It’s just episodes about their lives, revealing their characters and friendships, but not really taking you any place. It’s kind of interesting. It’s kind of funny. It’s good at revealing who the guys are. I’m assuming the love story goes somewhere, maybe. But all in all, it seems something to relax with when you don’t want to think about anything yourself. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. B.
This is one of the toughest reviews I’ve had to write. I’m just not sure what to make of this rather famous shoujo series.
On the one hand, it’s a serious story about ballet, and the rise of a ballerina from being someone who has a lot to learn, to the top of her form. The art used to tell the story is gorgeous, albeit a little dated since it’s from the 70s. The heroine isn’t a genius who rockets to the top, but someone at the bottom of her class who keeps screwing up. Because of that, both she and the reader learn a lot about what it takes to be a successful ballet dancer. This is a story about the sweat and the work and the sacrifices and the pain of being a great dancer.
But on the other hand, it’s so freaking melodramatic, tears and wailing and gushing over everything. I’ve never seen so many exclamation points. This her revelation over ballet after she’s lost a big contest and had her bubble burst, when she sees the winning performance by the people she met. Her thoughts surround her jumping through the clouds, tears overflowing:
“I get it now!
I can feel it exploding in my heart… Like I’m going to burst! Because of them, in just that short time!
Everything they told me… Everything they did…It was all about the discipline of ballet!
Now I want the harsh world of ballet! I want it more than ever!
I want a teacher who will mold me into something beautiful! I want it now, more than ever!
I want to dance!
I want to be with the others, those brilliant, beautiful dancers.
I want to take this passion and pour my heart and soul into training!”
Good thoughts really, but the way they’re expressed… I want to read it, and yet don’t.
I will recommend this with caveats. If you are an aspiring ballet dancer, or even if you just love ballet this might well be a great series for you to buy. And those with youngsters should note that this is the first series I’ve reviewed here with a general rating, acceptable for everyone, so those with children 8-12 who are thinking about ballet could buy it for them. It would be the perfect introduction to the real world of dance, I think. But I recommend buying the first volume or reading it in the library so you or they get a feel for what it’s like.
Many people have loved this series through the years. I do not love this first book, but I don’t want to discourage others from trying it if they’re interested in the subject and think they can get past the melodrama. B-.