Honey and Clover by Chika Umino
If Honey and Clover was always sepia toned it would never seem horrifically out of place. Honey and Clover is a joyful if melancholy tinged looked back on college life. It looks at the lives of 5 students at an art college in Tokyo. The main theme is trying to figure out where you are going. Everyone is trying to discover where exactly they are headed with their lives before they enter the “real” world. Of course being college students there are also messy and mature relationships do deal with along the way. Everyone’s story is a mixture of joy and sadness like the bitterness and sweetness of a honey and clover sandwich.
Yuta Takemoto is effectively the main character of the story. He is a directionless art student who falls in love with with Hagumi Hanamoto, the niece of one of his professors. His friend and super senior Shinobu Morita falls in love with her at the same time. But Hagu is a shy and extremely sheltered young genius and finds it hard to interact with others. Takumi Mayama is a also their friend who is poised on graduating. Their mutual friend Ayumi Yamada is in love with Takumi but he only has eyes for Rika Harada a young widow whose soul is a broken as her body. We see all of them go through school and try desperately try to find where they need to be after college.
I think one of the biggest appeals for Honey and Clover is it’s more mature setting. We get so many high school anime but it is a nice change of pace to see a solid dramedy set with some older protagonists. I think these older characters who eventually have to deal with jobs and more mature relationships is refreshing while still having the vibrancy of the college experience. All of the characters are very relatable and amusing. You will feel triumph at their successes and heartbreak with their losses. The comedy is extremely well done and prevents the series from being gray colored slice of life quagmire. Shinbou could get his own spin off series and all the women and most of the men reading would probably buy two copies each. Honey and Clover is a amazing series that captures the highlights and low points of being young enough to have the world before you but old enough to know how scary that is.
Palette of 12 Secret Colors by Nari Kusakawa
I have absolutely fallen in love with the work manga-ka Nari Kusakawa does. My most recent passion is for Palette of 12 Secret Colors which takes place on island that houses the most beautiful birds in the world. Cello a “palette” in training (and many others) use the birds’ bright colors to change ordinary things, like cloth and rocks, into precious treasures that are sought the world over. But Cello’s magic doesn’t work like anyone else and usually manifests itself best when she is in danger but her unique abilities get her into some interesting situations. Cello is positive, funny, passionate, and easy to love. As the story goes on we see Cello struggle with how she wants to use her palette skills after her training is complete. However, most things take a back seat to the budding romance between her and the school nurse. She often turns to Dr. Guell, he is blunt but funny and caring, so much so you can’t help but root for these two to come together. Things between these two move along at a brisk but believable pace through a series of mostly humorous incidents about town involving the birds of the island, random students, thieves, and old friends. While the majority of time is spent on Cello or Dr. Guell, there is a colorful side cast that liven things up constantly from Cello’s rambunctious dad who forms an amusing kinship with Dr. Guell to Yoyo and Olga’s scheming to keep their masters apart that ensures funny happenings both in the background and foreground of this manga. Palette of 12 Secret Colors is a charming combination of fantasy, romance, and a huge helping of comedy. And with a mere 6 books to collect, it shouldn’t be missed!