Waltz

September 28, 2007

  Akanai mabuta kosutte mieru,
  PASUTERU moyou no mirai ni,
  Chiribamerareta kigou wo tadoru,
  Taguriyoseta hyoujou
 
There are songs which one would instantly fall in love with when heard for the first time. This ending theme song of the anime Honey And Clover is no exception too. Yes, it’s Waltz which is sung by Suneohair. Yeah, the name may sound funny but the song sounds fantastic.
 
  Nee nan dake, Sagashite ita mono,
  Are wa sou ne itsu dake,
  Bokura ga inryoku ni,
  Sakarai nagara deatta koro
 
With a nice mix of guitar playing, piano pounding and synthesizers, this song is definitely more than your average pop song. Sure the synthesizers do sound one kind at first but you’ll find that it does fit nicely into the song. The beat isn’t that heavy and you could say that in a way the song is quite soothing to hear. Not too fast and not too slow. Just right.
 
  Sore wa WARUTSU no you da ne suteki sa,
  Tsubuyaku you na saezuri kikinagara,
  Marude WARUTSU no you ni ne futari ga,
  Egakidashite yuku mono
 
The tone of the song and the voice of the singer is relatively easy on my vocal chords. Meaning that unlike most other songs, there isn’t any long strenuous taxing sustaining high pitched lines for me to negotiate. However, there is a change to a higher octave in the chorus part. Sometimes I manage to accomplish that feat with ease but usually most of the time, I sound like somebody drowning (!). True. Downright horrible.
 
  Aa toketa genjitsu mo genshoku de nurikaete shimae,
  Hikiyosete ageru kara ne,
  Soko kara odori tsudzukeyou,
  Futari dake no WARUTSU
 
And during those early times when I sang this song, the timing of the lyrics is a little different at some parts (the beginning of each verse and the bridge) and I was thrown a little off. It took a little time for me to get use to it and now I’m okay. The guitar plucking solo part is incredible as it makes you want to get up and dance. Yup, it’s very catchy.
 
  Sore wa WARUTSU no you da ne fushigi sa,
  Sasayaku you na komorebi no kousaten de,
  Futari WARUTSU no you ni ne mawari nagara,
  Egakidashite yuku mono
 
Though the version that I’m singing is more of an instrumental, but I suppose it’s pretty okay too since the background vocals are not that obvious. Now if only I can find a way to perfect that higher octave switching part. Ah well. Practice makes perfect. But then, nobody’s that perfect, right? Perhaps it’s just me.

Honey And Clover

January 19, 2007

Wow! The amazing thing is that I somehow managed to finish watching the entire first season of Honey And Clover in just over 3 weeks! Isn’t that amazing? Well, finishing fast is one thing, but the problem is, I can’t really remember all those storyline and details of the series! Darn it. See, another lesson learned is that you shouldn’t really rush things when watching an anime series.
 
One reason why I decided to watch this series was because of my usual reading and research. What do I mean? You see, before I start watching an anime series, I usually try and look up on details of what the anime is really about. So, because of the way the review was written, I had that impression that this series is gonna be bloody good. Uh-huh, everyone is saying how every anime lover should have watched this and not miss it, things like that.
 
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for me after I completely watched it. Yeah, maybe it was because I’ve watched it too fast in the first place to understand anything. Thus, in a way, I felt a little ‘conned’ by the way the write those sweet and smooth reviews. In short, I find it a little boring. Fans of the series may scoff at me for this, but that’s what I felt overall. But hey, even so, I guess that this isn’t such a bad anime after all.
 
The first season of the series, aired somewhere in early 2005 has a total of 26 episodes worth approximately 30 minutes of show time. Well, the 24 episodes actually. The remaining 2 episodes are somewhat like special episodes and are not broadcast on tv as it is released on some DVD volume. Yup, those 2 special episodes I felt are like something ‘extra’ to satisfy hardcore fans of the series. Not that it is really related in terms of the flow of the storyline, but somewhat takes place in between the 24 episode series like some sort of ‘side adventure’.
 
Though there are some comedy elements in it, but it isn’t the main driving force here. Another reason why I decided to watch this series. Maybe next time, reviewers should put a percentage of how much comedy or any other type of genres just to give viewers an idea of what the anime is all about and its feel. This series is more of drama and slice of life blend in with some romance here and there.
 
Basically, it’s about the life of 5 art college art students and one their professors. So we’re introduced to 3 young art college students living in some small and cramped apartment, which looks like a run down place. They are Yuuta Takemoto, Takumi Mayama and Shinobu Morita. Yeah, who would’ve thought that students could be living here in such a place. But I guess art students are really poor and have no choice, though.
 
Then one day, their teacher, Shuuji Hanamoto, introduces a new student, the 18 year old child prodigy in art, Hagumi AKA Hagu in short, which is Shuuji’s niece. Yup, she looks so petite that one could have mistaken her for an elementary school kid. Plus, she has that cute and angelic look. Which is most probably why Takemoto and Morita fell in love with her at first sight. But it’s quite amusing to see how the 2 of them ‘express’ their love to Hagu. Maybe not.
 
Let’s go briefly over the few characters first. The main narrator for the series is Takemoto. He is 19 years old and a second year student in the arts college. Looks like your ‘normal’ average guy with nothing too flashy or obvious. Unless you can count that he has his own family problems (who doesn’t). Like how his dad died when he was young and his mom has a new boyfriend and Takemoto doesn’t agree with it. But his mom’s boyfriend’s pretty cool and mature, as oppose to those heartless ones as you usually see. Soon, Takemoto accepts him. As mentioned he as a crush on Hagu but he doesn’t seem to express them openly and keeps his feelings hidden in his heart.
 
Then we have Morita, and possibly my favourite character in the series. Yeah, he’s somewhat of a ‘troublemaker’ but his intentions are good actually. Just that because of his outgoing behaviour which may seem annoying at times. Okay, so maybe he is quite annoying and irresponsible. He’s 24 years old and is in his 6th semester! Uh-huh, this guy keeps repeating his semester because he failed to wake up on the day of his final exams. Even his mentor got fed-up and in a way ‘scared’ of him. Yeah, too long buddy.
 
Besides doing crazy stuffs, Morita seems to ‘pick on’ Hagu as his way of expressing his love to her. Poor Hagu, she gets intimidated by him everytime. Who wouldn’t. Snapping random pictures of her then posting it on the web. Calling and teasing her ‘Hagustar’, which is because to him she looks very close to s hamster (hamusutaa in Japanese). Wah, that child’s gonna have serious psychological problems when she grows up. Also, he seems to be rushing off and doing and accepting some mysterious money making job (yes, it’s really really that much money) proposed by his older brother Kaoru, which isn’t really revealed. I wonder what it is? But I guess that’s probably why he sleeps heavily. I suppose that cash he receives is enough for whatever expenses he and the others need to cover.
 
A 4th year student in the arts college is the bespectacled 22 year old Mayama. He treats Takemoto as his underclassman and vice versa. He has a crush on Rika Harada, who is the manager of Harada Design company. Maybe this guy likes older women. Because her husband died in a car crash many years ago and Rika herself was injured (you should see that horrible scar on her back), Mayama in a way sees this opportunity to get close to her by tending her wounds and injuries. Not only physically, but emotionally as well.
 
Though, not really that obvious in a way that you know Mayama really confesses that he likes her, but Rika too does seem to subtly know about this. However, pushing away each time as she doesn’t want to hurt him. Mayama isn’t a bad guy really. Though, there’s that ‘stalking’ everytime he passes by her house, just standing out there and watching from afar before leaving.
 
But Mayama has an admirer. She is Ayumi Yamada, the 21 year old arts college student dubbed the ‘Iron Lady’ (no Margaret Thatcher here) because of her extraordinary skills in pottery. Yeah, she’s damn good in it and she ceases to amaze her professor. Though Ayumi loves Mayama very much, but the latter only sees her as a friend and nothing more. This could be very emotionally heartbreaking for a young girl. Her family runs a liquor store and it seems because of her good looks there’re many other guys after her. But she has her mind set only on Mayama. Looks like she isn’t giving up yet.
 
Ayumi seems to be pretty close with Hagu throughout the series. She even treats her like her younger sister. Though Hagu is quite talented in her field, she is quite shy when meeting people, except for her uncle Shuuji. That’s probably because she was raised in a sheltered environment in the countryside by her grandma. And the way I see it, when she does things, it’s like she’s doing it cutely. Aww…
 
The cigarette smoking Shuuji seems quite overprotective of Hagu. Yeah, who wouldn’t if you see your own students trying to be funny with her. Also, it seems that Shuuji’s part of some trio group which comprises of Rika and her late husband. Yeah, best of friends kinda thing. So why didn’t Shuuji look after Rika after her husband died? Well, he thinks that Mayama’s doing a perfect job and he himself isn’t fit to do so.
 
But the most prominent thing about this anime is the life lessons that one can learn from it. Yeah, there are lots of them which would make you go "hey, he’s right", or "that’s so true" and maybe "why didn’t I think of that". Makes you realize a lot of things in life and that life isn’t really a bed of roses. And that’s my main problem. I can’t seem to remember a single one of them! *Long sigh*. That’s what I get for watching too fast. By the time I watch the next episode, I’d already forgotten those lessons in the previous episode. So theoretically, I didn’t learn a single thing! Bad me.
 
So the first half of the story introduces things as you get to know the characters, the situation, their problems they face. Stuff and things like that. Then, halfway through the series, Morita suddenly left without saying goodbye for another mysterious money making job in USA. I felt that’s when the funny part of the series died down a little. Yup, without Morita, the whole thing seems to be a drag and probably why the whole series is funny is mainly because of him. The gang found out some weird high tech machines in his room that seemed like those used in spy headquarters. Uh-huh, they’ve never been into Morita’s room before. They tried to go after him, especially Takemoto, but he already left. Though, nothing much is really revealed about those machines and Morita and his job as explained by Kaoru to Takemoto.
 
And with Morita’s absence, the series then shifts its focus more on Mayama and the company where he worked, Fujiwara Design. Yup, by this time, Mayama has already graduated from the arts college and decides to look for a job. So some friendship bonding and stuffs like that between him and his colleagues like the boss of the company, Takumi Nomiyama, who is considered by Mayama to be some sort of a playboy. To make things a little worse, Nomiyama seems to have fallen for Ayumi over time. And the weird thing is, whenever Nomiyama approaches Ayumi (his intentions are always good), Mayama seems to get a little jealous and tries to steer her away from him. I though this guy isn’t in love with Ayumi. Perhaps he just wants to protect her from that ‘playboy’ boss of his. Plus, Mayama thinks that Ayumi is quite innocent and that he needs to guard it against Nomiyama.
 
Other colleagues of Mayama at Fujiwara Design include Miwako Teshigawara (who has a dog named Leader) and Kazushi Yamazaki, who seems to have a crush on Miwako but the latter seems oblivious to it, ignoring them or treating it as a joke. Also, Mayama and Rika thingy. He still can’t get over her while Ayumi still isn’t giving up yet. Dunno. I kinda find it a little boring here.
 
Then when Fujiwara Design broke up because of the 2 feuding brothers of the company, Nomiyama had no choice but to split his group into 2. As Nomiyama arranges Mayama to one of the group, the latter quits. Mayama then joins Harada Design alongside Rika. Yeah, more of those Mayama-Rika kind of situation. And later towards the end of the series, as Ayumi decides to stay on as a graduate student, she also seems to do pottery work for both Fujiwara Design and Harada Design. Yeah, those companies seem to admire her work very much.
 
And somewhere in 2/3 of the series, Morita finally returns! Yay. Funny days are back again. Yeah, while Takemoto seems to be recuperating in hospital due to some stomach ulcer, the gang watched some tv and found out that a blond-dyed Morita have won some Mocademy Awards (some spoof thingy) because of his contributions to some special effects for some movie. They’re all shock to see him win an award. Plus, they found Morita in the bed next to Takemoto’s! Yeah, that telecast was delayed and Morita has came back since.
 
Even though he has came back, I felt he wasn’t that funny as before. Sure, he did those crazy stuffs again like how his professor is trying to make him take his final exam and to pass it because he’s already fed-up of waiting so long. Wait until he die, literally. After all that pushing finally Morita took the exam and passed. Now his professor can rest in peace. Unfortunately, he decided to apply for another course and re-enters the arts college as a 2nd-3rd grader. Oh oh. That professor is gonna have a hard time and long day.
 
But the main focus towards the end of the series is on Takemoto. Because he is unsure of what to do in life, feeling lost and those sort of stuffs, he decided to take a bike expedition somewhere. It’s like some soul-searching trip. Yup, it’s Takemoto’s turn to leave the gang as they all found out he’s gone. Amazingly, his biking trip took him to Hokkaido. That’s a long way from Tokyo on a bicycle. And during that journey he met some construction workers where he worked and lived with them when his bicycle’s flat out. Yeah, he’s working there so he could earn enough money to repair his bike. Well, it’s a good thing. He gets to meet people while learning and realizing lots of stuffs throughout his journey. In the end he has to leave and I suppose he’s found out what he wanted (which I forgot).
 
And when he returned to Tokyo and his group of friends, he finally confesses to Hagu that he loves her. But Hagu didn’t really give him an on-the-spot answer as she cries and just feel glad that Takemoto’s back. So as usual, Mayama vowed to himself he should try harder to make Ayumi give up on him while Nomiyama goes away for some work for 6 months with Ayumi still keeping in touch with him. With that the usual gang have another round of celebrations as they eat and drink, something about life goes on and be happy with what you have now. Yup, at least they all learned a bit more about themselves. But life’s a never ending journey. You can’t stop learning. And with each little progress every day, you’ll be a better person than before.
 
As mentioned there are those 2 special episodes with episode 25 (nicknamed episode L) is about Takemoto, Mayama and Morita’s old housemate Lohmeyer. Those guys loved him because that tall guy usually brings back meat to them (yeah, those college students are meat deprived) but he has to go back to his family farm after working as some part timer at an amusement park in some cat dog costumeEpisode 26 (nicknamed episode F) is on Nomiyama, Miwaka and Yamazaki, before Mayama joined the Fujiwara Design company.
 
Ah well, that wasn’t such a detailed episode by episode blog, due to the fact I can’t remember most of it *slapping myself*. One thing I’d like to note are the ferris wheels in this series. Yup, the ferris wheels has become some sort of trademark for this show as they appear here and there. Someone in the gang mentioning something about where love begins and all that. I also read that those ferris wheel landmarks are supposed to be real and they do exists in Japan. Next time when I see a ferris wheel, it always reminds me of this series. Now that’s real conditioning.
 
I find the drawing and art to be somewhat bleached. No, not that anime named Bleach, but the drawing is quite white-ish and like I said, bleached. Maybe it’s another ‘trademark’ of the series as it tries to steer away from the norm of not to be that usual rich and bright colours. Speaking of which, whenever the characters are in shock or in disbelief, their eyes will go all white and there’re those black doodle rings around their eyes and their mouth agaped. Kinda funny lah. Also, maybe their mouth lines are a little bit long. If you know what I mean.
 
If you listen closely during the show, you’ll notice that there are lots of those insert songs. And if you’re a fan of those kind of music, this is quite an ear candy. Almost each episode has an insert song. But for me, they all sound kinda okay. By the way, if you happen to notice the first 12 episodes, the opening credits uses that clay animation. It’s kinda freaky. Don’t be freaked out when the song finishes and the lobsters which is supposed to depict some hand suddenly explodes and stretches out. Scary. Though the balance 12 episodes they changed the opening credits to a more pleasurable viewing video (some flying photos and ferris wheels aren’t that bad), though it’s the same opening song still, Dramatic. You should hear the first ending song, Waltz. It’s quite a catchy tune (and a ferris wheel for a view too).
 
The character developments are great and are done quite properly. You could see how people change with time to become a better person and then, of course those who don’t really change. You could also see the problems that they face and somewhat reflect them in your own life. Who says all college students are rich and have everything they want at their fingertips. Okay, maybe in today’s world and society.
 
There’s a second season of 12 episodes which has just recently concluded its run in Japan in late 2006. But somehow I felt that I didn’t want to watch this one because of my stereotypical mindset that this series is overall boring and the fact I can’t remember a single life lesson. Maybe it has the answers to certain questions like Morita’s mysterious money making job, or on the Mayama and Ayumi relationship, or even Takemoto-Morita-Hagu relationship. Oh well, opportunity lost. But I guess I could live with it. Hey, there’s even a live action series! Wow. Fans certainly do get their wish.
 
Thus, just like all other reviewers who have watched and reviewed this anime, I would also like to recommend those to watch the series, despite my opinion of being boring (okay, enough with that word already. Sorry if I said it too much). If you’re asking me to watch it as a re-run so that I could refresh myself on those life lessons, I think I’d prefer to go watch something else. Because it’s… *yawn* boring (STOP IT, THAT"S ENOUGH!)… Just watch it first.