I wonder why on T.V. or in magazines, love seems fun and colored with happiness. But why is my love so sad and despicable?
There is an honest, slow, and painful truth in Honey and Clover.
I’ve had my share of love stories for most of my life. The first music I listened to was Bollywood music – the first movies, Bollywood movies. Girl falls in love with a guy, guy falls in love with another girl, problems are created through some form of miscommunication, but things manage to work out and suddenly, everyone lives happily ever after. Rinse, lather, repeat. For 14 years of my life, it was pretty fun and monotonous, but then, I simply grew out of it, and fell into shojo instead. What I saw there was the same – more artistic, equally dramatic, less ridiculous. And so by the time I was 19, I thought I knew everything there was to know about love. It was like a cheap trick that happened to you and then it was done. Just like that. All you had to do was express yourself properly, and love would fall squarely into your lap.
But then it happened to me, and I found out that love isn’t so neat and formulaic after all.
Perhaps it’s the fact that when we’re introduced to the cast of Honey and Clover, we’re already well aware of the things that are going to happen. The minute Hagu sets foot into the campus that Ayumi, Mayama, Morita, and Takemoto all live in, things change. The second Takemoto and Morita lay their eyes on her, we know that there’s going to be a sort of love triangle going on. And by the third episode, Ayumi has already confessed to the audience about her feelings regarding Mayama, whereas Mayama is already too deep in love with a woman who has lost her husband. There is no long arc where the character slowly realize they’re in love and that their friends are in love too, and spend their time grasping for the right words to say. We’re already past that point by episode 6.
What Honey and Clover does understand is that unrequited love leads to a more honest form of communication and understanding instead of the other way around – people become more honest and express themselves through a lost love, in all forms. Whereas most love stories spend their time with the protagonists running in circles around each other, guessing what the other is trying to say and stumbling towards each other with realization, Honey and Clover chooses to do instead is to focus on the painful intimacy of living with a person you can never be with, but love deeply, and the relationships and meanings that come out of that. The difficulty of love isn’t trying to say it, but it’s to live with it in your heart, using it as an engine to become more honest with yourself. Mayama already knows Ayumi is in love with him, just like how Rika understands that Mayama is in love with her. Takemoto and Morita know that they both love Hagu, and that Hagu is a little in love with Morita, but don’t push each other for it.
We would think that unrequited love leads to stagnancy – characters at crossroads, choosing to stay behind rather than move on. But because the characters of Honey and Clover are friends with one another, they progress and move on in different ways. Morita, in a sudden impulse of honesty, kisses Hagu and out of fear of what will happen to both him and his friends, runs for his life and chooses to spend an entire year in America. Ironically, the distance is what the two need to realize that not only do they love one another but they also want to improve and mature themselves. Hagu, in realizing that she is in love, decides to cast away her own fear with the help of Ayumi and Takemoto, and works hard at making her own art as a way to express her passion and perception of the world. Takemoto, in a fit of despair, isolates himself from the world after realizing that his love is unrequited, but also understands that he is lost, and uses the power of his feelings to make a decision about delaying his graduate thesis for another year so he can understand more about himself and confess to the girl he likes. Mayama selfishly decides to quit his job after spending time thinking about how much he is in love with Rika to the point where his own hesitation was interfering with his work and his relationship with others. And Ayumi realizes that while she may never get Mayama to fall in love with her, she is selfish in wanting to still be around him to the point where she would wish that he would never work with Rika at his new job.
The journey to each of these points is messy and fraught with complex feelings and decisions. And even then, the end result is not necessarily a happy one. The love that each character shares for the one they want is still unfulfilled, leading us to wonder if any of them will find what they truly desire in the end. At episode 19, the answer is still unclear. But one thing is for certain: the people of Honey and Clover have changed, for better or for worse, and through their feelings, have learned to be more honest about themselves and realize what they want in life.
Unrequited love is frightening, new, wonderful, kind, and selfish, but not just because you will never have a person look at you – it’s because it’s an expression of something you don’t know about yourself, and the path to getting over it is filled with self discovery and painful truths. We all of this explored and more in the world of Honey and Clover, and while I have yet to see how things end, I’m already thankful for it showing the other side of love that is a well kept secret, but passionately known amongst those who have felt it the most.