For a long time, Takemoto had wondered if a love that didn’t ripen had any meaning and if things that disappear were are the same as things that weren’t there in the first place. In the aftermath of Shuuji’s confession, he and a visibly shaken Yamada are having coffee together. Shuuji confirms that his feelings are just as she heard – he loves Hagu. But as for how long he’s liked her, Shuuji is too embarrassed to say. He also hasn’t told Hagu, although he thinks that she probably knows. Still in shock, Yamada is stuttering through her words, barely able to talk since she had never noticed until now. She suddenly turns around to go tell Hagu, but Shuuji holds her back. It’s at this point that Mayama walks up to the pair, having returned from Spain. He immediately hugs Shuuji happily, saying that he heard the news from Professor Tange. After they settle down, Mayama asks if it’s ok that Shuuji is leaving the school, worried about his living expenses. Shuuji thinks he’ll be ok since some publishers have asked for his work and he’ll be able to do some art history seminars, causing Mayama to realize that Shuuji has really decided this time. Later that afternoon, Mayama thanks Yamada for contacting him about Hagu. In return, Yamada thanks him for finding Morita, but she also has doubts about whether she did something unnecessary again. Mayama tells her that he felt that things could only develop like this and goes on to talk about the meaning of living, saying that there are people who love and there are people who don’t. He thinks that Hagu has things that she must do, prompting Yamada to ask if those are more important than love. Mayama responds by saying that it’s not about which is important and which is correct. He suggests that Yamada use her instincts to judge before worrying.
By nightfall, Shuuji returns to his room at school and finds Rika waiting there. He confirms to her that he is indeed leaving, and the two then share a tearful embrace. Shuuji remembers how he and Tange had earlier talked about his leaving. Tange had said that Shuuji had looked like he couldn’t move from here because he lost the exit. After what happened with Harada, Shuuji had been unable to honestly face things. It wasn’t until Shuuji brought Hagu here that it was apparent that he was gradually returning to normal. Tange had ended by saying that this time it was Shuuji’s turn to save Hagu, which is also the same as saving himself. Rika admits that she had wanted to come sooner, but she was in the middle of some important work. It was in fact Mayama who had stopped her and told her that if they returned, they wouldn’t be anything that they could do. When Mayama had said that returning then would cause Shuuji pain, Rika had countered by challenging what Mayama understood about Shuuji. Mayama claimed that he had indeed understood because he had been with Shuuji for these past six years and the Shuuji he knows is a respectable man. Having now heard about this, Shuuji thinks that Mayama should have said it to him face-to-face.
Around this period of time, Kaoru is walking through a town looking for an address, remembering what had happened when he had taken over the company from the Floyd Electric president. He arrives at the home and finds the president’s family preparing the garden trees to get through the winter. The president’s wife is remarking about how there was someone who would lend them this big of a house on the sole condition that they maintain the garden’s greenness. The president, who is sitting nearby, apologizes to everyone for their hardships since he lost the company. His grandson actually thinks it’s fun, and his son agrees, saying that he’s happy because they can all be together under one roof now. The president’s daughter-in-law also agrees and his wife suggests that he feel better. Watching as the scene unfolded, Kaoru can’t help but be reminded of his own childhood since this is actually his old home. He realizes that this must all be the doing of his brother and Shiroyama. Kaoru ends up calling Shiroyama, but doesn’t say anything at first. Shiroyama figures out that it’s Kaoru on the other end and wonders where Kaoru went off to for all this time. He says that there’s a mountain of documents waiting for Kaoru’s signature, but more importantly, he tells Kaoru that everyone is waiting for him. As Kaoru starts to cry, Shiroyama turns less serious and asks if Kaoru would be interested in a system that took 190 yen from each woman aged 20-34 in the world. A now smiling Kaoru says that it would have to be 230 yen, and then declares that he’ll return tomorrow. He also has Shiroyama to gather everyone up to prepare a meeting. When Shiroyama asks what Kaoru would like to eat when he gets back, Kaoru of course answers curry. In the end, Kaoru thanks Shiroyama for everything.
Meanwhile, Hagu remarks to Shuuji outside the hospital that the white pigeon in front of her resembles Yamada with its eyes, good posture, plump chest, and pink feet. She then recalls how Satsuki-sensei had told her that she could touch clay during rehab, and she hopes that she can learn from Yamada how to make pottery. Hagu wants to make pigeons first; she’ll give one to Yamada and one to her father’s wife and new baby. Hagu is unsure if she can make it in time, but Shuuji believes she can because the baby won’t be born until spring. The two walk off, holding hands and talking about spring. It was the next day that Kaoru returned to the company and Shinobu found him eating curry. Shinobu is pissed off at his brother, but Kaoru simply has Shiroyama get another plate of curry for Shinobu, one with extra meat. That night, as they are sleeping in the same room, Shinobu reveals that he’s going to Peter Lucas’ place. He explains that he really likes the old man and that company and recalls how happy everyone was to play with beam sabers after the electricity went out. That was the first time he had seen such foolish adults, outside of their own father. When Kaoru asks about Hagu, Shinobu remembers that she had told him that she’s always going to be watching him. She had seen through him when he had wanted to throw everything away and had told him to not run away so that they could struggle through it all together. Because of what she said, Shinobu feels that he can’t do anything but his best. Still, he wants to stand in front of her again and show her something new that he’s created. To him, it at last feels like it has become bright before his eyes. Kaoru attributes that to the fact that it’s already morning, but says that he finally understands what their father said about heading towards the light.
When spring comes, Takemoto and the released-from-the-hospital Hagu both graduate. The group holds a celebration for both the graduations and for Takemoto going off to Morioka to work. The only one not with them is Shinobu, but he happens instead to be on TV with Peter Lucas. Shuuji notices Hagu’s smile as she watches Shinobu go crazy on TV, and then asks Takemoto what time his Shinkansen leaves tomorrow. After Takemoto reveals that it’ll be 9:30 in the morning, Shuuji wonders about Takemoto’s apartment. Takemoto explains that he already finished tidying up the place, and Mayama interjects that Takemoto will be staying with him tonight since this is the end. His choice of words causes an awkward silence between the group as they think about this last time. Shuuji finally suggests that Hagu go buy some ice and he has Takemoto go with her. Once those two go off, Mayama, Yamada, and Shuuji all admit that they were almost about to cry. Takemoto ends up taking Hagu to the store on his bike with sakura trees blooming all around them. Hagu tells him that she thinks the temples he fixes will be blessed because she had seen how he hadn’t cut corners while working on his tower. That’s why she thinks he’ll be putting his heart into fixing those temples, and surely those temples will be happy. After Takemoto thanks her for her words, Hagu says that she’ll also do her best so that she won’t lose to him; she believes her right hand will definitely heal. It has to because otherwise she can’t return anything to Shuuji. Takemoto disagrees, saying that the things that Shuuji wants aren’t the things that Hagu can return to him, but rather the things he can find himself – that’s the type of person he is. Hagu starts crying, but she thanks Takemoto.
As he gets ready to leave, Takemoto recounts the details of his now-empty room: it is six-tatami with no bath, a ten minute walk from college, built 28 years ago, rent of 34,000 yen, and the morning sun shines because the room faces east. Today is the day that Takemoto leaves this place. He arrives at the station and is putting away his bags on an empty train when he sees Hagu outside – it seems that she came with a special package for him. Takemoto responds by hugging her as a goodbye, but then the bell sounds for the train to leave, separating the two. As the Shinkansen starts off, Hagu runs after it and waves goodbye, unable to hear what Takemoto yells to her. Takemoto sits down afterwards and opens up the package, revealing several slices of no-crust bread forming a large sandwich. At first, he smiles and just checks to see what the filling is. He is quite surprised to find honey and a four-leaf clover between each piece. Hagu’s wish had been to give all of the happiness to him. Crying as he eats it, Takemoto recalls how he had always thought about the meaning of love that didn’t go well, about things that disappeared being the same as things that weren’t there in the first place. He understands now: there is meaning. Takemoto is glad that he liked Hagu. .
In the aftermath, Rika and Mayama return to Spain where Mac Carlos is as feisty as ever. Miwako, Yamazaki, and Leader remain at Fujiwara design with Mario and Luigi. Yamada continues her pottery and appears to be warming up to Nomiya. Kaoru works with Shiroyama while Shinobu works with Peter Lucas. Shuuji and Hagu are determined as ever to get through Hagu’s rehab. Takemoto meanwhile rejoins Shin and the repair crew he met on his bicycle journey. Looking up to the blue sky, Takemoto remarks that time passes by and the day when everything becomes a memory will surely come. However, he was there and she was there – everyone was there, searching for only one thing on that day that was like a miracle. It will always be a sweet pain, that distant place inside his heart – always nostalgic, always continuing to turn.
For this final episode, I thought Nojima Kenji did a pretty good job in Takemoto’s part. It did sound different, but I quickly got accustomed to it. (For those of you who don’t know, Nojima Kenji voiced Takemoto for this last episode because Kamiya Hiroshi was injured in a car accident.) Although I do wish that Kamiya Hiroshi had been able to voice the role to the very end, this way worked too.
As for the ending, it did a good job wrapping everything up, with maybe a few minor exceptions. Since they were strapped for time, they cut out all of the NomiyaXYamada stuff from the final chapter. In a way, I feel a bit jilted given how much development Yamada and Nomiya (and Mayama) had, but I also understand that there were more important things they had to show. And of course, the final lines of the series reflect back on that day when they were searching for the four leaf clover – a very fitting end.
Incidentally, the final insert song was Spitz’s 「田舎の生活」 (Inaka no Seikatsu) from their 1992 mini-album 「オーロラになれなかった人のために」 (Aurora ni Narenakatta Hito no Tame ni).
Final Thoughts: Well, this fantastic series has now come to an end, almost a year and a half since I started watching it. Back then, I started watching the show for the comedy (the Twister episode was hilarious), but the series was very much a relationship drama. And indeed, the complex web of relations is what kept me watching, whether it was Yamada & Nomiya or Takemoto & Hagu-chan or Mayama & Rika or whoever. But what was also so great about Honey and Clover was their use of insert songs from Suga Shikao and Spitz, neither of whom I had known about before watching this show. Though I admit that my favorite songs still ended up being Suneohair’s pair of EDs, Waltz and Split. My point is, they combined production quality with story and crafted such a great show – J.C. Staff did a great job, and Umino Chika wrote a great manga.
On a side note, the next show airing in the “Noitamina” block is Hataraki Man.