Manga-ka: Chica Umino
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: March 2008
“Takamoto, a sophomore 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 this, life never going to be that tame. Love triangles – Who says you don’t learn math in art school?”
Honey and Clover follows the lives and trials of numerous college students. The main cast of characters consists of Takamoto and fellow art students living together in a cheap housing unit. Their yearn for a break from their everyday noodle dinners and deal with lots of believable problems that many readers can no doubt relate to.
Enter Hagumi, fellow art student, and a girl who is supposedly eighteen but looks no more than ten. Despite this obvious physical issue, two of the boys instantly fall in love with her. Very few questions were even asked about her appearance, nor even questioned, which felt out of place to me. Throughout the story Hagumi is continued to be shown more as a child than a woman, playing with dolls, bubbling cheerfully over things and acting (and looking) eerily spacey the rest of the time. This combined with her appearance made the affections of the college boys rub me the wrong way and lost much of the innocence I think the artist was trying to portray here. When I read she was eighteen in the book, it reminded me of other mangas where the English adaptation merely states the clearly underage child is 18 to avoid any legal problems with they try to sell underage sexual material. Not a good train of thought.
Aside from the drama, there are also lots of opportunities for giggles in this book. The characters are always good for a laugh, either with them or at them. I really enjoyed the character Morita, whose thus unexplainable personality and what-I-want-when-I-want attitude made him a lot of fun to read about.
Chica Umino has some nice artwork that works really well with the tone of the story and the subject matter it deals with. I liked how the art was solid but maintained a certain sketch-like feel. My biggest complaint would be that sometimes the eyes look too lifeless, especially in Hagumi’s case.
In the end, the two boys falling instantly in love with Hagumi, whom I can see as nothing but a child, felt more creepy than fluffy and I thought her numerous involvements took away from the story instead of enhancing it. I liked the interactions between many of the characters and did have my curiosity piqued as to what will become of this interesting cast of college students, but, while I did overall enjoy my reading of this first volume of Honey and Clover, I wouldn’t call it anything exceptional and don’t feel any dire need to read volume two.