Lovely Complex: Risa and Otani

Lovely Complex: Risa and Otani

“I don’t care if he’s small enough to fit inside my arms. I don’t care if he’s a lot shorter than I am. I love this guy. I really love this guy.” – Risa Koizumi, Love*Com volume three.

With such a large catalogue, it’s no surprise that there are many genres represented within the Shojo Beat imprint. From supernatural fantasy to melodrama that would rival any soap opera, the Shojo Beat manga line offers something for everyone. But at the heart of the Shojo Beat line is the romantic-comedy. Many of the most popular Shojo Beat manga are simply about high-school students falling in love, including Kimi ni Todoke and High School Debut. One of the best shojo romantic-comedies Viz has released to date is the 17 volume series Lovely Complex, also known as Love*Com Love*Com stands above most romantic-comedies because not only is it genuinely funny, but also because it features one of the most memorable couples in manga: Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Otani. The two are nicknamed the ‘All Hanshin-Kyojin,’ a famous comedic duo, by their classmates, because of the great difference in their heights and their bickering dynamic. At 5’7, Risa is the tallest girl in her class, while Otani is the shortest guy at 5’2. Although they tease each other constantly, Risa and Otani decide to help each other win over their respective crushes. It doesn’t take long, however, for Risa to realize what a great guy Otani is, and she must learn to overcome the complex that has been bothering both of them: their heights!

In most romance manga (shojo or otherwise), characters tend to fall in love for contrived reasons. And while falling in love with the janitor who saved you from being kidnapped may make for a great story (I still love you though, Dengeki Daisy!), Love*Com takes a simplier – yet less often travelled – approach to romance by showing that our main characters get together because they have so much in common. At first, Risa uses the fact that Otani is shorter than her to deny that she has fallen for him. But their friends all believe that Risa and Otani would make the perfect couple: they have the same hobbies, particularly their tastes in music (both share a love for a rapper named Umibozu, whose rhythms no one else in the series seems to be able to stomache), and similar mindsets, including a fondness for trying new menu items at their favorite restaurant. In volume four, Risa finally decides to accept her feelings for Otani and confesses to him. It takes him awhile to realize that she has a crush on him, because he is unable to imagine a ‘jumbo gal’ like her falling for a ‘shrimp’ like him. Once the depth of her feelings hits him, Otani rejects her, and the aftermath is handled differently than in almost any other shojo manga I’ve read. While in most shojo manga the love interest’s rejection leads to the female protagonist swearing revenge (such as in Skip Beat!), or occurs before the characters even really knew each other (such as in Itazura na Kiss), in Love*Com, Risa has to learn how to deal with her unrequited affection while getting her friendship with Otani back on track. At first, Risa tells him to forget about her love confession and act normally – but whenever she tries to revert to their ‘All Hanshin-Kyojin’ act, Otani teasingly asks her if that’s any way to treat the man she loves. This story-arc is probably my favorite the series – because for as funny as the series can be, the characters’ reactions to difficult situations like these are handled in ways that are extremely relatable, without ever losing it’s sense of humor.

But soon Risa decides that it’s okay if she still loves him, and their friends notice that Otani seems to be pleased by the depth of her feelings for him. Otani’s feelings for Risa come into further question when Risa sets her sights on a new teacher named Mighty. Otani confides in a mutual friend that even though he has fun with Risa, he has a hard time picturing the two of them together because of her height difference. However, when Risa joins a fan club devoted to Mighty, Otani gets jealous of the attention she’s giving her teacher, and on her birthday the two finally get together. Although Risa fell for Otani first, I’ve always believed Love*Com does a good job of showing that Otani loves Risa just as much as she does him. At first, he is reluctant to openly say he loves her, but little things like buying her a bunny pendant because he noticed she likes rabbits, to missing an Umibozu concert when Risa faints, show how much he cares for her. But it’s more than just their interactions that make them a great couple: both characters are interesting on their own as well. Risa is a great female protagonist – she’s funny yet sympathetic, with a love of video games and has a penchant for making strange faces. Otani, meanwhile, is sarcastic yet endearing, and is a great basketball player despite his height. I appreciate the fact that the series follows the couple trying to maintain their relationship after the two get together. And while some parts of the series after Risa and Otani start dating may be clichéd – such as the introduction of rival love interests Mimi and Kohori, who bring in unnecessary drama to the series – in the end, the lopsided duo are one of the funnest (and funniest) couples in manga, which makes Love*Com essential reading for any fan of the Shojo Beat catalogue.

The rest of the Shojo Beat Manga Moveable Feast entries can be found here.

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We Were There: bittersweet hopefulness (spoilers!)

We Were There: bittersweet hopefulness (spoilers!)

With 14 volumes released in the U.S to date, We Were There is drawing to a close. We Were There follows Nanami Takahashi, a normal high school girl who falls in love with Motoharu Yano, the most popular boy in her class. Nanami soon learns that Yano is still mourning the death of his previous girlfriend Nana, which puts a strain on the couple’s developing feelings for one another. Nanami’s and Yano’s relationship is also threatened by Yano’s best friend Masafumi Takeuchi, who has feelings for Nanami, and Yuri, Nana’s little sister who has held unrequited feelings for Yano since junior high school. The first eight volumes cover Nanami and Yano’s high school romance, culminating when Yano decides to move with his mother to Tokyo. The highlight of the series occurs right after Nanami sees Yano off at the train station: in a sadly shocking yet realistic twist the reader is thrust four years into the future near the end of Nanami’s college career, only to find out that she and Yano never saw each other again. The latter half of the series follows an adult Nanami struggling to overcome her feelings for Yano and accept a relationship with Takeuchi. As the series draws near it’s end, the pieces of the puzzle are coming together as both Nanami and the reader find out what happened to Yano and why he broke his promise to reunite with her. And while the events that occur to the characters may seem melodramatic, the characters’ reactions are all wonderfully written and heartbreakingly realistic.  And yet it’s because of how authentic the series has been that I am fearful of how it will end.

As much as I love realistic endings, I can’t help but want Nanami and Yano to find their way back to each other, even if that seems impossible. Their long-awaited reunion in volume 13 was bittersweet at best: Yano coldly tells Nanami he dumped her, and Nanami quickly figures out that Yano and Yuri are living together. But the fact that he dreams of Nanami at night suggests that he still loves her as well, and it’s obvious that Yano’s feelings for Yuri are more of an obligation to help her sick mother than romantic. I think the reason I want things to work out for them even though they’ve suffered so much is because in the end I feel like neither of them are at fault for their relationship failing. While some may blame Yano for deciding to abandon Nanami and his friends after his mother’s suicide, all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around him and give him a big hug. Just as Nanami hasn’t been able to let go of what once was between her and Yano, I haven’t been able to either. I can understand why some have problems with Nanami and Yano’s relationship, because even at their best they were far from perfect. While Nanami is for a long time is constantly threatened by Yano’s lingering feelings for Nana, Yano oftentimes isn’t completely honest with Nanami, which stems from his fear of being betrayed again just as he was by Nana. But I still believe that when it comes to Yano and Nanami the good outweighs the bad. Yano loved Nanami the best way he knew how, and one of my favorite scenes when he says that he wishes he could change his past to stop her from crying. The scenes of them making fun of how cheesy they are as a couple or wishing under the stars to grow up so they can be together always still warm my heart through the bittersweet moments.

And while there are some readers who wish Nanami would move on and learn to love Takeuchi, I can’t say I want that to happen. I was happy when Nanami rejected Takeuchi’s marriage proposal since she would only be hurting him had she accepted it, because along with the fact that she lacks passionate feelings for Takeuchi there are other problems I have with them as a couple. While some readers are frustrated with Nanami’s inability to let go of all of the hopes she’s placed in her relationship with Yano, I feel as though these readers wish Nanami will choose to be with Takeuchi just so she can move on, which in my opinion doesn’t have to be with Takeuchi. Takeuchi may be the kind and selfless friend Nanami has always turned to, but I’ve always felt that if he were truly selfless he wouldn’t put so much pressure on Nanami to choose him, or constantly remind her of the fact that he’s always been there for her. And in terms of Yano and Takeuchi’s friendship, it doesn’t seem as though either one of them is fully comfortable with the thought of Nanami and Takeuchi being together, despite the fact that Yano asked Takeuchi to take care of her after his mother died.

Yet while the loose strings between Nanami and Yano seem to slowly tying together, there is still one thread that has so-far been left hanging: Nana. For the past six volumes or so, Yano’s late girlfriend has played a minimal role in the series. This makes sense because it’s been several years since her death occured and the characters have all naturally moved on, but I feel that the end of We Were There would be incomplete unless she was brought back into the series one last time. With all of my hopes for the cast of We Were There, even if the series ends on the bittersweet note it seemingly has been heading towards, reading it is the most enjoyable heartbreak you’ll ever experience. As much as I wish for a happy ending in We Were There, what I love most about the series is how beautifully it shows that there is no easy solution to problems of the heart.

Natsume’s Book of Friends

Natsume’s Book of Friends

Natsume and Nyanko-sensei (in his true form).

Teenager Takashi Natsume has been able to see spirits and demons called yokai since he was a kid. One day he meets Nyanko-sensei, a yokai who has been stuck in a ceramic cat, who tells Natsume he’s the grandson of Reiko Natsume, a woman who was also able to see yokai. Reiko owned a book called Natsume’s Book of Friends, which contained the names of many yokai whose lives are controlled by the book. Natsume decides to take on the mission of giving the yokai back their names, and Nyanko-sensei joins him as his protector in the hopes of taking the book once Natsume dies. But as the series progresses, Natsume finds himself doing more than giving the yokai back their names – he also helps the yokai out time and time again, even against Nyanko-sensei’s warnings.

Natsume, Nyanko-sensei, and several yokai (including Tama).

The series is told in an episodic fashion, with each chapter featuring Natsume’s encounter with a different yokai, so over the course of the four volumes I’ve read so far the series doesn’t have an overarching plot. While some of the yokai are vengeful and wish to eat humans, others are innocent or have even become attached to a human. So far, many of the softer stories have stood out as favorites because they’re poignantly bittersweet. The fourth story in volume three features a yokai (named Tama) who hatches from an egg, and Natsume decides to take care of him. The first scene between them is adorable – when Natsume hears Tama sneeze the second he leaves the egg, he rushes to get a bowl of hot water for Tama to sit in so he can warm up. Because Tama is a Tatsumi chick, he took the form of the first thing he saw when he hatched, which was Natsume himself, and he becomes very attached to him. He refuses to eat because he’s afraid of growing and one day having to leave Natsume, but Natsume promises him that it’s okay for him to grow because Tama can come visit him even after the time for them to part ways comes. Another favorite story of mine is “Natsume’s Special Observation Diary part one,” a short story at the end of volume four. It’s told from the perspective of a young fox yokai who often gets picked on for being useless. One day, Natsume beats up the yokai who were taunting him, and the fox begins following Natsume. At first, Natsume tries to hide from the fox because he’s afraid of him getting too attached, since they would have to part ways since Natsume was only visiting the forest on a school trip. However, he ends up saving the fox again, and in turn the fox gives Natsume a large leaf to shelter him from the rain, and even once the two part ways the fox no longer feels useless because he was able to finally help someone. Little moments like these stand out, and showcase how touching and memorable Yuki Midorikawa’s storytelling can be.

Natsume and Nyanko-sensei.

Because of the series episodic nature, there aren’t many recurring characters except for Natsume and Nyanko-sensei, who have a fun dynamic (even though Nyanko-sensei is a powerful yokai Natsume isn’t afraid of him at all, and he simply puches Nyanko-sensei when he threatens to eat him). One character who pops up occassionally is Shuichi Natori, an actor who can see yokai. He enlists Natsume’s help a few times, and the relationship between the two is interesting – Natsume finds someone he can relate to in Natori because he knows what it’s like to see things normal people can’t, yet he dislikes the fact that Natori is an exorcist. I tend not to care much for series that don’t have developing plots – but the short stories in Natsume’s Book of Friends are well-crafted enough to capture my attention. And although the plot doesn’t develop much, Natsume’s character goes through tremondous growth, which I find doesn’t always happen in episodic series. Natsume is a wonderful character – he has been traded from family to family and always grew up feeling alone. He’s afraid to get to close to people because of past experiences of being called a liar and teased by other children for being able to see yokai no one else can, and thus doesn’t tell his classmates or the family he’s staying with his secret. Natsume’s grandmother Reiko faced similar hardships, which led to her cruelty toward yokai and her desire to own their names simply for her pleasure. Yet through his experiences with yokai he learns not only to feel sympathy and attachment to yokai – he also learns how much the fragile relationships with humans he’s made mean to him. Natsume’s kindness is the biggest reason I’m enjoying Natsume’s Book of Friends, a series that’s so different from the majority of the shojo manga I’ve read that I’d recommend anyone to at least give it a shot.

High School Debut: second chances

High School Debut: second chances

Haruna Nagashima has had no luck in love. A tomboy who played softball in junior high, as soon as she entered high school Haruna set her sights on getting a boyfriend. Unsuccessful, Haruna enlists help from Yoh Komiyama, a popular senior to be her dating coach! Yoh finds girls and dating to be a pain, and he is standoffish at first to Haruna. He only agrees to help Haruna on one condition: she can’t fall in love with him. Along the way, Haruna becomes friends with Yoh’s group, including his sister Asami and his best friends Asaoka and Fumi. At first, Haruna falls for Fumi (who is kind but clueless), but when he starts going out with Asami, Haruna gets over him and starts to have feelings for Yoh (of course). Yoh quickly figures out Haruna has feelings for someone, but despite his innate ability to read her like a book, he is unable to tell that the person she has feelings for is himself. When he starts to realize it may be him, he asks her and she denies it, out of fear of losing Yoh as her coach. Yoh realizes he’s disappointed with her answer, but Haruna quickly changes her mind and decides to tell him she loves him, and by volume three, the two have started dating.

Even though I expected the two of them to get together, I had a bit of a problem with Yoh changing his mind so quickly about the possiblity of Haruna having feelings for him, particularly since he had been so adamant about her not falling for him. This is especially because very little had been done to show that Yoh actually has feelings for Haruna too. It seemed as though Haruna’s feelings for Yoh were stronger than his. Luckily, this problem is resolved by volume six when Yoh meets up with his ex-girlfriend, who still loves him. He tells her that he doesn’t care for her anymore and he could never break up with Haruna because “everytime she’s worried about him, she’s not dressed warm enough.” While his ex-girlfriend often only cared about her own feelings, Haruna always takes Yoh into consideration, usually to the point of going overboard. I really liked this answer, and was finally able to pull for the couple.

I have to say, it took me awhile to warm up to this series. I’ve already mentioned how the timing of when I’ve watched and read series has affected my opinions of them. I bought the first four volumes of High School Debut in 2009, at the same time I also got the first few volumes of Love*Com and Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. I didn’t care for High School Debut as much as these other series and found it be kind of average, so I gave up on it. It wasn’t until about a year later when I read B.O.D.Y that I learned what the word ‘average’ really means, and this prompted me to give High School Debut a second chance. I bought volumes five and six, and after rethinking things I really appreciated how the series sometimes twists shojo clichés, and I also like how cheerful Haruna is. I think the first scene that really endeared me to her character is right after she and Yoh start dating and she begins to be bullied. Like other shojo heroines in this predicament, she doesn’t tell her boyfriend what’s going on, and instead decides to endure it. However, when a group of girls confronts her about breaking up with Yoh because she doesn’t deserve him, she flat out says no, chooses to fight them all and wins. I know fighting girls over a guy isn’t exactly feminist, but I like my heroines spunky, so I appreciated that Haruna isn’t weak or passive.

Overall, I really like High School Debut. Later volumes deal with the possiblity of a love triangle between Haruna, Yoh and Asaoka, but I felt it was handled differently than in most series because Asaoka was so teasing about his affections for Haruna since he’d constantly dangle his feelings for her in Yoh’s face then take his feelings back (while Haruna remained clueless for the most part). And while not every storyline is a winner (I really didn’t care for the part when Leona, Haruna’s former softball rival, attempts to ruin Haruna’s ‘happy’ high school experience by trying to tear her and Yoh apart), I think the characters are fun enough that I’m glad I gave this series a second chance, and I’d definitely recommend it to those looking for a good shojo romantic-comedy.

Dengeki Daisy: Teru & Kurosaki

Dengeki Daisy: Teru & Kurosaki

Even if you aren’t Daisy…I’ve already fallen for you.” – Teru Kurebayashi, Dengeki Daisy volume 2.

I don’t really want to tease you. I actually want to hold you in my arms…I tried to run away many times. But I want you.” – Tasuku Kurosaki, Dengeki Daisy volume 6.

One of the manga series I’ve been really enjoying reading recently is Dengeki Daisy by Kyousuke Motomi. The series is about Teru Kurebayashi, who was left a cellphone by her older brother after he died that connects her to Daisy, a hacker whose identity remains unknown. When Tasuku Kurosaki, a deliquent janitor, shows up at Teru’s school one day he becomes Teru’s protector and is quickly revealed to be Daisy. At the heart of my enjoyment of this series is the relationship between Teru and Kurosaki. I don’t think I’ve ever fallen for a couple as quickly as I have in this series. There are couples I love because of their dynamics (such as the rapport between Akito and Sana in Kodocha, who argue and tease each other but are always there for one another), or I love the couple’s love story more than the couple itself (such as Naoki and Kotoko in Itazura na Kiss). Dengeki Daisy is one of the few series where I feel as though I love the couple for both reasons.

On the surface, Teru and Kurosaki as a couple remind me a little of Tsukushi and Tsukasa from Hana Yori Dango. Both couples bicker a lot – Teru always tells Kurosaki that she hopes he’ll go bald, while Kurosaki often makes remarks about her ‘puny A-cups.’ And at certain points in both series the main girl is hiding her feelings for the guy she loves. However, while  Tsukushi’s refusal to admit her feelings for Tsukasa is a bit frustrating, I actually enjoy watching Teru struggle to hide her feelings for Kurosaki. I think a lot of this is because I love the setup of Teru and Kurosaki’s relationship: Teru knows Kurosaki is Daisy but doesn’t want him to know this, while Kurosaki is trying to resist his feelings for Teru because he is unwilling to forgive himself for a certain incident from the past (which I won’t reveal). Thus, their teasing dynamic is really just a pretense to cover up their hidden affections. But it’s more than just Teru and Kurosaki’s fun rapport or their unique situation that makes me like them as a couple. I really appreciated that Teru’s a bit brighter than the average shojo heroine because she figures out that Kurosaki is Daisy on her own pretty quickly – I expected that revelation to be dragged out a lot more. I also really love the use of inner monologues in the series – not that this is unique, it’s just that it’s great to see Kurosaki’s thought processes, because normally guys in shojo are left shrouded in mystery.

And, much like Tsukushi and Tsukasa, Teru and Kurosaki have great chemistry. I’m a fan of sexual tension in manga as long as it’s not too smutty or the only point of a series (cough cough Black Bird), and Dengeki Daisy hits those notes very well. Because Kurosaki and Teru’s relationship is one where they both have to repress their feelings, the tender scenes between them stand out. Little things like Kurosaki brushing his fingers through Teru’s hair, putting his face close to hers, or kissing her cheek when she’s asleep make it impossible not to root for the couple (and also get Kurosaki labeled a pervert by Riko, a woman who works with him). That’s probably a good thing, because one potentially troublesome aspect of the blooming romance between Teru and Kurosaki is the characters’ age difference. While Teru is 16, for awhile in the series it’s unclear just how old Kurosaki is – but it’s quite obvious that he’s at least a few years older than Teru considering he’s working at her school. I felt it was wise that Kyousuke Motomi held off on revealing Kurosaki’s age for several volumes, because by the time it was specified I had already fallen for Teru and Kurosaki’s vibe as a potential couple. And besides, Kurosaki’s teasing makes him seem more like a teenager anyway. If anything, I think it’s because Motomi knows how to tease her audience that Teru and Kurosaki are such a fun and workable couple, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.

Nana: Baby momma drama…(spoilers)

Nana: Baby momma drama…(spoilers)

This entire post is basically one huge spoiler, so please be cautious when reading, especially if you haven’t read volume 21 yet.

Although volume 21 of Nana brought the series to what could have been a dramatic finale, the series is actually on hiatus because Ai Yazawa was being hospitalized for an unknown illness. The manga tells two stories: one of the present day alongside brief glimpses into the future. However, with the series unfinished, there is a gap left between the present day and the future, so many questions have been left unanswered. When did Nana Osaki leave all of her friends behind to go to England, and why? What happened to Black Stones and Trapnest after Ren Honjo’s death? And what happened between Hachi and Nobu? But the biggest question I think many fans want answered is who are the parents of Ren and Satsuki?  I have a few thoughts about this subject, but please be aware that my opinion is pure speculation and that there is no right answer as long as the series remains unfinished.

Child Ren

I’ll start with Ren, the boy we see with Takumi in England in volume twenty. This may get confusing because there are two Rens: Ren Honjo, Nana Osaki’s boyfriend who dies at the end of volume twenty, and Ren the child, so from now on I’ll be talking about the latter unless I use Ren Honjo’s full name. Even though Ren calls Takumi ‘daddy’ and Hachi asks where he is during a phone call with Takumi, many fans do not believe that Ren is the child of Hachi Komatsu and Takumi Ichinose. When Hachi got pregnant, she had just broken things off between her and Takumi and began dating Nobu. However, when she realized she was pregnant, she and Takumi got engaged even though she loved Nobu because she believed there was a greater chance that the baby was Takumi’s (since he didn’t use protection). The fact that Ren has light hair has led many fans to believe that Ren is actually Nobu’s son with Hachi. As for my personal opinion of this theory, while I do think it would make for great storytelling that Hachi dumped Nobu because she thought she was having another man’s baby, just for that baby to turn out to be his, I really don’t believe that Ren is Hachi and Nobu’s child. Just because Ren has light hair doesn’t automatically mean he can’t be Takumi’s son, especially since Hachi has light hair as well. At the beginning of volume 20, Ren is very cold to Takumi, which reminds me of Takumi’s coldness toward most people. Naoki even comments that Ren has Takumi’s “evil eyes,” and thus for these reasons I believe that Ren really is the son of Takumi and Hachi. I wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong though – after all, this is Ai Yazawa we’re talking about.

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Honey and Clover: more bitter than sweet

Honey and Clover: more bitter than sweet

At its core, Honey and Clover is a story about unrequited love. From Yamada’s pining for Mayama to Takemoto’s hidden feelings for Hagu, the pain of unfulfilled love resonates throughout the series. But there’s an even stronger sense of longing that isn’t romantic in its nature; rather, it’s about the love between friends. Honey and Clover perfectly captures the bittersweet sorrow of lost friendships. The theme of past friendship is threaded throughout the series by Takemoto’s poignant narration. The series seems heartbreakingly nostalgic, yet Takemoto isn’t simply looking back at his past through rose-colored glasses – instead he is commenting on the present, aware that one day the fun times he’s experiencing with his friends will one day be precious memories for him. At first, I never got why people loved Honey and Clover so much. The manga is funny, but it’s not the most hilarious series I’ve ever read, nor did I find any of the characters to be amazingly special (although I do like Ayu quite a bit). It wasn’t until recently re-reading the manga that I finally realized the magic of this series: I cared about the characters as a group of friends because they mirrored my own friendships, and I became emotionally invested in them staying together. The first time I ever felt like I connected to the series on a personal level is in volume three, when Takemoto and the others are enjoying their Christmas party. While the gang enjoys cake and roast chicken, Takemoto observes everyone, and suddenly comes to the quiet realization that this would probably be the “last Christmas we’d all spend together.” And in volume nine, the gang talks about going to the beach together and Takemoto wistfully notes that they never made it there, but instead they all imagined themselves there, carrying the image in their memories as though it were a photograph. It’s hard for me not to relate to this scene’s sense of nostalgia for a moment that never was.

The most iconic scene in Honey and Clover for me comes in during volume two, when Hagu, Takemoto, Mayama, Yamada and Morita all search (to no avail) for four-leaf clovers to give to Professor Hanamoto before he leaves for his trip to Mongolia. Takemoto’s narration is beautiful because it shows that even though the passage of time may separate friends, the bonds between them were definitely genuine and always will be: “I know the day will come when all of this is past, and it all becomes a memory. But I know I’ll remember it, over and over. You were there, and everybody was there…and we all looked for the same thing. That blue sky and the smell of the wind…and that endless carpet of clover.” Takemoto’s bittersweet narration reminds me of when my friends and I went to a park the day before our graduation from high school. As much fun as I had that day, I remember thinking that in the future this would become a memory I’d fondly look back on, and that it was probably going to be the last time my friends and I would all be together. I’m sure most people in high school and college are acutely aware when they form their friendships that there will be a day they will have to go their separate ways, and in Honey and Clover that moment inevitably comes when Takemoto and Hagu graduate from art school. Although he considers staying in town for Hagu’s sake, Takemoto realizes he simply has no purpose there, and moves away to begin a job restoring temples. But upon boarding the train to leave town, Hagu bestows Takemoto with one last gift: sandwiches filled with honey and four-leaf clovers. I think I’ve re-read this scene more than any other in the series, and it makes me cry every time. Honey and Clover is probably the only manga I’ve read that realistically portrays past friendship so well, to the point that incites reflections of my own experiences with a bittersweet fondness.