Honey and Clover Vol. 10
The conclusion to Honey and Clover comes with few real surprises. As the series is basically a towering monument to the majesty of unrequited love, it's no real shock that none of the main characters end up together. At least not in the way expected in more traditional romantic comedies. After all, the whole thing is narrated by Yūta Takemoto, the unluckiest guy in the gang. And the tone throughout the series strongly implies that they'll eventually drift apart. As pointed out in Vol. 8, the only two people to have something remotely resembling a relationship are Ayumi Yamada and Takumi Mayama, though not with each other. And even when the volume catches up with them for one final look, their respective narratives are far from settled. Coming from the series' more down-to-earth characters, this unfinished state feels appropriate to the story. It's how things are concluded between Yūta, Shinobu Morita and Hagumi Hanamoto where things start to get a little odd.
Shinobu and Hagu have been in love with each other for quite some time, and have been torturing each other like two shy Fifth Graders who can't quite admit to their mutual attraction. The last volume ended in an emotional high as they finally confessed to having those feelings. But could these two volatile geniuses ever compromise their gifts or their aspirations? I've always found Hagu to be the least relatable of the entire cast, though the inner strength and determination she's exhibited of late have gone a long way to making her a more sympathetic character. But in the end, artistic passion wins over love. Hagu isn't looking so much for a partner, but apparently more of a father figure to watch over her while she heals. And when one does show up in the one plot twist I didn't see coming, he's willing to fulfill this role even if his own feelings towards her are never returned. The self-sacrifice is meant to be seen as something wonderful. But I found this match incredibly depressing, and to be honest, even a little disturbing.* But at least Shinobu finds his niche working with fun lovin' gaijin who can keep up with his misfit persona.
And so, the series ends just as it began - Yūta alone with his own thoughts. Looking back on the last five years, he asks "… if love that never bears fruit means anything. If something that vanishes and is gone is the same as something that never was." I'd say that the vivid emotions engendered by his own recollections have answered the question. And his last meeting with Hagu is so bittersweet it absolutely floored me.
The latter part of this volume includes some ancillary material, including two bonus chapters that are more in line with the lighthearted humor of the earlier volumes. Not that the silliness was ever expunged from the series. Far from it...
* I guess that even adult romance stories must have at least one creepy pairing.