Honey and Clover : 4 of 5

It's completely obvious that I'm a Honey and Clover fan, since I always look forward to reading the original manga in Shojo Beat and I totally enjoyed watching the TV drama as well. So I had to get this DVD sight unseen, since I knew I would love the story, and I already have most of Viz Pictures US releases of Japanese films. It was a good choice, since I really enjoyed watching these wonderful characters again - you would think seeing the same story told over and over would get boring, but noticing the differences in construction and emphasis is so much fun! The tone of this movie is a bit more down-to-earth than the TV drama (similar to the way the Densha Otoko movie isn't as crazy as the TV drama), and the casting is really well done. Takemoto is a bit more athletic (which makes sense for his long bike trip), and Hagumi is much younger looking (which you would expect from the way she's drawn in the manga). Yamada is absolutely wonderful, and the way her love triangle is portrayed is just beautiful - it's so bittersweet to see a relationship that just isn't going to happen, even though the feelings of love remain. While the manga often gets poetic with Takemoto's narration, the movie uses sparse narration from several different characters, which is a good way to get into their thoughts in the limited amount of time the movie allows (even though I'm normally not a fan of narration). One strange touch is the appearance of a cat in a few scenes that seems to be animated in a rough, charcoal style - I haven't really thought much about what it represents, but maybe it has something to do with the art student theme or following dreams. Although a few plot points are a little rushed, I thought they did a great job of honoring the feel of the original. I love Honey and Clover, and this film version is wonderful as a unique expression of this great story.

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