Honey and Clover Vol. 9

Honey and Clover Vol. 9 By Chica Umino
By Chica Umino

As expected, vol. 9 of Honey and Clover advances the individual story lines of Hagumi "Hagu" Hanamoto and Shinobu Morita in a manner that is comparatively more melodramatic than those of the rest of the cast. We're finally let into what exactly Morita and his older brother have been up to all this time, and their actions retroactively explain Shinobu's prolonged periods of absence from school and his often fanatical obsession with accumulating vast sums of money while still remaining exceptionally miserly towards everyone.

Both Shinobu and Hagu have been largely defined as the series resident geniuses. In many ways, this role has hemmed them in. While most of Shinobu's friends, classmates and teachers have tolerated his selfishness on account of the brilliant work he supposably turns in from time to time, they've handled Hagu with kid gloves. She's the delicate flower whose extraordinary gifts must be carefully nurtured lest they wilt. At the beginning these surface differences resulted in much comic relief as the two butted heads for alpha-artist status, despite an obvious mutual attraction developing between them. But for the most part they're remained enigmatic figures, and after awhile this gets kind of boring to read. Something needed to be done to shake them up, which is what happens here.

What this volume demonstrates more clearly is how being labelled a genius has isolated these two characters. We learn that throughout the series Shinobu has been assisting his brother in a personal vendetta against the people who've wronged their late father. Shinobu is compassionate and loyal to a fault, but he's beginning to manifest some dissatisfaction over being perceived primarily through his incredible talent. Nevertheless he doesn't reveals his quest to the rest of the cast, further increasing his separation.

Honey and Clover Vol. 9 By Chica Umino

Hagu can't avoid being infantilized for her childlike stature and mannerisms. It doesn't help that she's supremely timid. Hagu claims that she wants to return to her childhood home once she graduates from art school. But she's at the cusp of admitting that she might actually want more out of life. The central event of this volume is a horrible accident that pushes her to grow up a little. While Hagu has demonstrated amazing powers of concentration in the past, this is the first time she's had to apply herself in ways that are well outside her comfort zone.

As for the third person in their love triangle, Yūta Takemoto is left mainly on the sidelines. He briefly considers abandoning his career plans to care for Hagu, before realizing how disastrous a choice that would be for everyone. As the POV character, Yūta is the primary voice for the series deeply nostalgic tone. He's a guy who expresses regret that the cast wasn't able to go on a certain beach excursion, and he conjures up an imaginary beach episode in his mind. It sure does suck to be Yūta. While the last volume focused on some of his friends moving on with their romantic relationships, not only does his five-year long infatuation remain unrequited, he'll be moving away after graduation and lose regular contact with everyone. No wonder the entire manga's narration is so wistful.

Getting back to Shinobu and Hagu, the accident is the catalyst that finally compels them to confront their shared anxieties, and someone raises the possibility of leaving it all behind. Can these two escape their respective reputations? Could these two volatile personalities even function well together?