From the back cover:
Takemoto’s journey across Japan continues, and though he’s sleeping in empty lots and subsisting on convenience store food, he seems to be getting closer to understanding what made him ride away from school and his friends. But with his money running out and his bike on its last legs, will he have to give up on his quest before he finds what he’s looking for?
Comedic antics can sometimes overshadow the thoughtful depiction of young adulthood in Honey and Clover, but then a volume like this comes along, full to the brim with gentle metaphor and universal observations, and I realize anew just how great this series is.
The spotlight in this volume is pretty evenly shared by Takemoto and Hagu, each of whom is trying, in their own way, to work out what it is they want from life. Takemoto’s journey has taken him to a tourist town, which takes him by surprise, as he realizes he was so obsessed with how far he could get that he hadn’t actually been paying any attention to the scenery. This parallels his predicament at art school, where he was constantly comparing himself to others and had no clue what he wanted for himself.
After a stint with a temple-restoration group—with whom he’s tempted to remain because the feeling of usefulness banishes his doubts and insecurities quite effectively—he continues on to the northernmost point in Japan, this time paying a lot more attention to the world around him. It’s easy to see how valuable the experience has been for him, and when he finally returns to school, though he claims he didn’t find any big answers on his journey, he’s clearly a more relaxed and confident person than he was when he left. I love how Umino portrays his growth with subtlety; it’s evident in simply his expressions that he’s not the same Takemoto that he was before.
Hagu, meanwhile, is tasked with running a summer art course for kids. Most of her students are appropriately child-like and able to have fun with it, but one boy, who’s under a lot of self-imposed pressure to succeed academically, asks Hagu for pointers on how to win a prize, believing this will give him a boost towards getting into a prestigious middle school. Various people have given Hagu advice lately on what to do to win certain competitions, but she realizes that when she sets a certain target like that, she loses all ability to paint freely and spontaneously. In talking to this kid, they both have a kind of catharsis and help each other find the simple beauty in art again.
It’s no exaggeration to say this volume made me teary twice, when each of these characters finally figured out what it was they needed to do to remain true to themselves and find happiness. I also liked that this volume has very little to do with romance, despite the fact that Takemoto realizes the purpose of his journey was to figure out just how much the life (and people) he was leaving behind meant to him. Both of the series’ two love triangles do get touched on a bit, but now it feels like they’re really ready to be addressed in the final few volumes, as Takemoto is finally in shape to be a viable contender for Hagu’s heart.