Hagu’s Choice: Romantic Love Versus Reality in Honey and Clover

art and article by: ajthefourth

Nine times out of ten, when I discuss Honey and Clover with someone, their response is always something along the lines of, “Ah!  That made me so sad!  I wanted Shinobu and Hagu to end up together!”  When I disagree, their reaction typically trends to one of extreme disgust.  In the series’ defense, here’s a bit more insight into why Hagu chooses who she does, and why it’s actually the best, and most realistic, choice.

In the last episode of the second season, Mayama tries to explain to Yamada that romantic love isn’t everything for some people.  It’s a nice scene between the two that, for possibly the first time in the series, is devoid of the awkward tension that permeates the majority of their interactions in the series.  Yamada has finally come to terms with Mayama and Rika’s relationship, and begun to move on herself by beginning to develop feelings for Nomiya.  It’s an interesting juxtaposition between Yamada’s personality, and inability to truly understand Hagu’s actions, because Yamada is a person who is ruled by her emotions, often to the exclusion of everything else.

Hagu is a person who is ruled by her desire to create.  As she says several times in the second season, she had promised to give her life back to God if she was unable to draw anymore.  Consistently throughout the series, we see how her extraordinary talent has nearly isolated her from the rest of the world.  Fortunately, her father’s cousin, Shuuji, recognizes her talent and facilitates her eventual arrival at the art college, which leads to her finding a strong group of friends, two of which fall in love with her.

The first of Hagu’s romantic options is Takemoto, best characterized by Shinobu as a shiba inu puppy: loyal and faithful until the last.  When Hagu injures her hand and may be unable to draw anymore, Takemoto expresses the want to be at her side at all times because he loves her, despite the fact that he knows his feelings aren’t reciprocated.  This is in direct contrast to Hagu’s other love interest, Shinobu, who is drawn to Hagu specifically because of her overwhelming desire to create art.  She ends up falling for him, in spite of his incessant teasing, because they are one in the same; two people driven to create art no matter what their situation.

The majority of the first season, and the latter part of the second, are dedicated to who Hagu will choose as a romantic interest.  Her eventual choice, Shuuji, combines two things that Takemoto and Shinobu had to offer: devotion and financial means respectively.  It’s especially heartbreaking in light of the fact that Shinobu returns from searching for his missing brother and offers to take care of Hagu instead, saying that it’s okay if she doesn’t create art anymore.  This rings false for the audience, and Hagu as well, creating one of the most poignant scenes in the series where Hagu declines Shinobu despite the fact that she loves him (and that he could provide her with more than enough money to aid her recovery).

Had Hagu accepted Shinobu, it would have meant Shinobu giving up a key part of his personality: his own overwhelming artistic desire, which is what caused Hagu to fall in love with him in the first place.  Recognizing this, because they are so similar, Hagu can’t possibly accept Shinobu’s proposal to give his life up for her and stay by her side.  Effectively, if Shinobu were to give up art for Hagu’s sake, it would be as if the glass had fallen on both him and Hagu, incapacitating both of them.  Yes he would have done it willingly, but at such a cost that it would take away the ambition and drive that made him who he was, and who Hagu had fallen in love with.

The gravity of such a decision is reinforced in the wording with which Hagu asks Shuuji to be with her; she asks him to “give his life to her.”  Fully aware of what it will mean for someone to help her through the arduous recovery process, Shuuji is the only choice.  He is financially stable enough and, more importantly, has been looking after Hagu for nearly her entire life.  Shuuji dedicating his life to caring for Hagu will not compromise his personality as it would Shinobu’s, since Shuuji does not have that same ambition or drive to create art.  His role has always been one of a facilitator or caretaker, going as far back as his own college days with Rika and Harada.  While it’s heartbreaking to watch, Shuuji really is the best choice.  Hagu may not love him with the same passion that she loves Shinobu; however, her passion for art will always be her first love, and with Shuuji, she has a significant chance to continue that passion without compromising anyone else’s wishes.  Sometimes, as Mayama tells Yamada, there are other things that are more important than romantic love.


Filed under Editorials, Honey and Clover

16 responses to “Hagu’s Choice: Romantic Love Versus Reality in Honey and Clover

  1. Shinobu and Hagumi basically did a Macross option. I shan’t say more, except that Macross was my introduction to love triangles period. Shinobu gets shafted here, because he was given the role of the inauthentic one to play, while Takemoto gets to play the lovable loser. I have no sympathy for Takemoto… even though almost everyone likes and/or identifies with him.

    This doesn’t mean I am not affected by the final moments of the show. But I have been more enamored of the idea and romance that Takemoto refers to than Takemoto’s romance itself. From the first episode, when Mayama comments about witnessing someone fall in love before his eyes… I’ve been infatuated with that idea and the show that boldly pushes it, rather than the actual Takemoto x Hagu dynamic.

    I prefer Takemoto the cook for the restorers, than Takemoto the loverboy.

    Sure I like Shuuji and identify with him the most, but I shipped Shinobu x Hagu harder. Shuuji also got shafted by never being given any woman his age to even look at, for chrissakes. He was a device to frame the Rika and Mayama love story, and a device to break the core love triangle. He was a soulful character, but clearly got shafted by never meeting anyone. ARE THERE NO HOT ADULT WOMEN IN THE JAPANESE ART WORLD?

    Hey, let there be no doubt of my intense regard for this show, but fucking motherfucker did it shove a truck of cocks up my favorite characters’ asses?!?!?

  2. One thing that you never fail to remind me of in every single one of your comments is that I really need to get around to watching more Macross. I don’t know what the hold-up has been; I love Do You Remember Love? and more recently I discovered this post on your blog, which blew my mind. What a brilliant way to both approach the idea of adapting a story while at the same time ensuring the that the longevity of the franchise would never not be “in-universe.” Now onto the actual comment…ahem.

    You bring up the point that the idea of Takemoto’s romance was more interesting than Takemoto’s actual participation in said romance, and I’d have to agree with you there. While Takemoto’s idea of loving Hagu remains mostly a concept, Shinobu’s love is shown entirely through his actions. (Who can forget his first gift to her of the mules that she had thought were well out of her price range?) Yes, Takemoto’s mooning over Hagu is easy to relate to, especially since his love is unrequited, but Shinobu’s is far easier to root for, especially since it’s obvious from the beginning of the series that he is the one that Hagu has fallen for.

    Honestly, if it wasn’t clear from this post, Hagu is the person that I relate to the most in the series. If something ever happened to my right hand, I would hope to deal with it with the same grace that she deals with her injury (although it’s hardly guaranteed, and I hope that it’s something I’ll never have to deal with at all). Despite also being a ShinobuxHagu shipper, I can completely understand why she chooses who she does.

    • Ahem, Macross propaganda is the prime directive of WRL so it should be no surprise hehe.

      Excellent breakdown of the romance dynamics and why it’s easier to ship the respective characters. The viewership is at the mercy of the characterizations:

      1. There are more plodding, insecure, lonely Takemoto types among viewers. Even I at some point could relate very much to this character (as a teenager for some spells).

      2. Shinobu is older, and super talented, and driven. These traits are extreme outliers among people and consequently the viewers. He is not very easy to relate to, unless many people are deluding themselves.

      But as you say, the dynamics of his romancing Hagu are built on acts and not mopey, stalking crap. So Takemoto is more than lucky to eat those fucking sandwiches and get that sendoff.

      While I can accept the outcome of Shuu taking Hagu away, this feels more like an interlude than an ending… unless we really indulge the relationship as some kind of incestuous non-platonic horror, or a platonic, familial tragedy. Either way, Shuu gets a train of cocks shoved up his ass, unless one cheers for the lolicon ending.

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  4. hearthesea

    I can’t read this post as I never finished watching HaC, but the title of the blog post caught my eye — interesting area for discussion. To be honest, I only saw about two episodes of the series (maybe three, can’t recall) and I’m confused as to why everyone seems to adore it. I heard that it was a show that focused on character above all else, which sounds exactly up my street, but when I gave it a shot all I could see was a lot of light comedy, without the close focus on characters I was expecting or the interesting things like emotional complexity or changing character dynamics. Does the show build up to that later, or is the whole series a lot like the first few episodes?

    I was also a bit confused at Hagu…she looked and acted like she was about ten years old, and I didn’t understand why the other characters were seemingly fixated on her. (I guess she’s an oddity, so I can understand her standing out amongst them.) Does her behaviour take on greater significance down the line?

    • Don’t get hung up on this. This is one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen in animated form.Yes, her behavior represents later on one of the core themes in the show.

    • It most definitely does focus on characterization through character interaction and dialogue over all else. The touches of humor that are present in those introductory episodes are juxtaposed beautifully when the series’ more dramatic elements are introduced. I would implore you to give this series another shot.

      Honey and Clover is one of my top anime of all time, and recently I forced my blogging partner, David, to watch it. He had a hard time watching more than one or two episodes at a time until the series really hit it’s dramatic stride and then he marathoned the rest. I hate to be one of those people that says, “It gets better, I swear!” but Hagu becomes an integral part to the storyline, and a lot more than a tiny woman who makes cute noises which, I’ll agree on the surface, is most of what she does for the first three or so episodes. Believe it or not, these episodes set up a lot about her character later on, and the way she influences other characters (Takemoto and Shinobu) is also significant.

  5. Now that you mention it, Hagu’s choice is the right choice. While mostly unpopular and disgusts the audience at large, sacrificing a key component in one’s personality for the sake of love could lead to an inevitable downfall.

    I knew that Hagu’s maturity is light yeas ahead of most people but to take into consideration many other factors other than her own in the simple choice of choosing who to be a romantic interest sheds a new light on Hagu’s maturity as a person.

    Honey and Clover is a good tests of a viewer’s objectivity, I think.

    • Yeah, Hagu ending up with Shuuji is an oft-maligned choice, so I wrote this article to defend it. Sure he’s not the popular pick, but he’s certainly the most realistic one.

      I think Hagu’s choice is hard to frame within the paradigm of most people’s minds because, through what we’re taught in nearly every other story, a successful romantic relationship is usually the end all be all to a happy life. Hagu eschews this because she loves art above any one person she could ever know, and that ‘s hard for most people to understand.

      A good test of the viewer’s objectivity AND endurance. ^ ^ It’s hard to submit your viewers to tragedy after tragedy and expect them to be happy with the outcome. Thanks for the comment!

  6. I think I’m somewhat of a rarity (or perhaps I only perceive myself as such) because while Honey & Clover is easily one of my favorite series ever, I don’t really have a personal ‘shipping’ choice. If I were to have a personal choice, I would rather Hagu end up with nobody at the end. I’m sure this would infuriate some people even more than the actual ending, but I would have preferred an ending more like the first season, with a sort of sense that Hagu, like Takemoto on his bicycle trek, doesn’t have all the answers but that she is determined to continue creating art as well as sharing more memories with those around her.

    Having her get injured and then giving her a sense of finality by ending up with Shuuji just ruins the motif of the Ferris wheel for me. A circle has no end after all, and I think that’s one of the reasons that the first series’ ending resonated so much stronger within me than the actual finale of the show. I don’t really have anything against Shuuji (although I did yell out “Cousin love strikes again!” as I tend to do with this kind of pairing), but I didn’t really see anything special that he could offer Hagu.

    Also, I really question Shuuji’s ability to care for Hagu. You mention that he “has been looking after Hagu for nearly her entire life”, but do you recall what Hagu was like before she attended the art college? Was it due to Shuuji’s negligence that he never did anything to help her improve socially? I always got this squicky ‘possessive’ aura from Shuuji. That he wants Hagu all to himself, and so I really have to question if he would truly be the best for her.

    • I think that there’s a bit of a difference between Hagu and Takemoto in that Takemoto legitimately had no idea as to what he wanted to do. He chose architecture because he could, and it got him away from his mother and her new relationship. Hagu has always known what she has wanted to do, although I agree with what you say about her ending up alone, and wouldn’t have minded that as well.

      The only thing special that Shuuji has to offer Hagu is his emotional support. He can be there when she starts biting herself, he can attend to her basic needs as well as her rehab appointments, etc. etc. As for his looking after Hagu his entire life, you’re right in that she was incredibly emotionally stunted and closed-off before she came to college; however, if I’m not mistaken, Shuuji was quite young when Hagu was a child herself. He was enrolled in high school and then in college, having his own issues to deal with (some of which we see in the series through Rika). When he was able to do something for Hagu, he did, but I get the impression that before that point, he couldn’t have really done anything since he himself wasn’t in any position to.

      I suppose, in the end, it’s because I see Hagu and Shuuji’s relationship as a very sterile one. It’s obvious that she’s not chosen him out of romance, but out of necessity, and while there may be romantic feelings on his end, I don’t see them going anywhere romantically.

      Thanks a lot for this comment! I love discussing things, especially when it’s with someone who obviously enjoyed the series as much as I did. Thanks again. ^ ^

  7. :) Just re-watched it for the Nth time, again… Got curious and found my self here, Hagu and Shuuji’s relationship sorta reminds me of Usagi Drops, although i feel awful for shuuji,…

    Wish they make an ala “Samurai X:Director’s Cut” ending to Honey and Clover, just curious how’d they end up after they split.

    • That Hikaru Genji Plan…it will get you every time. ^ ^ Although it’s not necessary, I too would be curious to see how everyone ended up (even if they presented it as completely separate stories). A great deal changes from university graduation to your mid-to-late twenties, and I’d definitely be interested in what happened to these specific characters.

      Thank you for the comment!

  8. AnimeLover

    I was wondering are you saying that Hagu picked Shuuji as her love interest?
    If so I disagree, I believe that she chose Shuuji as a brother figure, father figure, emotional support, etc. Yes she does love him, but not in a romantic way. I think Shuu-Chan realized this too when he said he would give up everything without gaining anything in return.

    In Shinobu’s case though, Hagu apologized to him because she could not give up art, and she didn’t want him to either for her sake. It was what had drawn them together and she said that she would always watch him forever and to watch her get better. Plus he yelled to Shuuji that it isn’t over, implying that both Hagu and Shinobu will ultimately find each other. Then restart or rekindle their relationship. I’m sure that Shinobu won’t just sit around too, he’ll probably send her things or climb through the window again. But he understood that at the time he could not be what she needed.

    Takemoto’s situation……..is hopeless you just know it is never going to happen.

    Not that I think your opinion is wrong, I just don’t think Hagu’s feeling for Shinobu will change and vice versa. I wish that they would’ve focused more on Shinobu and Hagu’s relationship development, becauseTakemoto didn’t seem to have a major role when I thought about it.

  9. That’s why i think we should have a director’s cut of Honey and Clover, fan’s and anime are like a couple after a bad break up. :) we need closure … who knows we might be looking at a Hagu X Mayama and Shinobu X Yamada, oh and Takemoto X shuuji (For Yaoi Fan’s out there XD)

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