The Winter 2021 Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
What is this?
Hori is the most popular and gorgeous girl at school, while Miyamura is an introverted, eyeglasses-wearing boy. However, both find out that their appearances at school are not as they seem, as it turns out that Hori is a laid-back family girl, and Miyamura is a handsome young man covered in piercings and tattoos.
How was the first episode?
Go back six years on my Twitter, and you'll find me musing about whether to buy the second volume of Horimiya after my friend gifted me the first one for Christmas. Three years back, and you'll see me hollering at Nick Dupree, “Horimiya anime when?” Two years, and there's the article I wrote about how the series handles kink in romantic relationships. Needless to say, I love Horimiya with all my heart and have been waiting for this anime for a very long time.
No BS, no gimmicks, no misanthropy; Horimiya is a good old-fashioned romantic comedy about two nice kids getting to know each other, connecting, and falling in love. The concept sounds a bit like Kare Kano, with them getting to know the sides of each other that no one else does, but it's not quite the same. While Arima and Yukino of the older series were intentionally deceptive, Hori and Miyamura's hidden sides are more like uchi (inside) and soto (outside), a Japanese way of framing relationship intimacy. While Hori isn't hiding that she has to take care of the chores and babysit her little brother while her mom works, it's a part of her life she considers private. As she lets Miyamura in, and become enmeshed in that part of her life, he is becoming uchi while everyone else is soto.
And honestly? Letting Miyamura in is a great choice on Hori's part. Even though at school he looks like any other misanthropic gamer protagonist (cough cough Tomozaki cough), he's actually a total pretty boy but wears glasses and keeps his hair long to hide his nine piercings. He's also great with kids and a total sweetheart; any boy who's willing to race to the grocery store to buy eggs on sale is a keeper in my book. By the end of the first episode, they've developed a level of intimacy that's more convincing than 99% of romances.
Director Masashi Ishihama is in the doghouse with me right now, since I just finished watching his disappointing adaptation of Persona 5, but I get the feeling that a simpler, character-driven story like this may play better to his strengths as a visual director. Each shot is not only beautifully lit, but also carefully and deliberately framed to highlight the mood. The opening and ending are both incredible in different ways, sure to be some of the bests of the season, if not year.
There was just one thing that made me dock half a star: who in the world decided to open the show with a teacher commenting on Hori's breasts? He's such a minor character in the manga that I literally did not remember him, and jokes about teachers creeping on their students are totally played out, not that they were ever funny to begin with. Grown men sexually harassing teenage girls is creepy.
Hopefully that's not a harbinger of changes to come, because I am overjoyed to finally, finally have the anime of Horimiya that I wasn't sure would ever come.
It sounds odd to say, but the most striking thing about Horimiya's premiere is how simple it is. I'm a sucker for romcom anime, and nearly all of them that I've watched had some kind of gimmick. Be it fake dating or robots or just an exaggerated height difference, there's usually some kind of elevator pitch to the setup to make it sound more compelling than “two teenagers have chemistry and eventually date, shenanigans ensue” would. There's technically a bit of that in Miyamura's pseudo-hidden identity between school and public life, but even that is largely understated in this opening episode. Instead the entire draw of this series would seem to be just seeing two nice, charming teenagers slowly go through the blushy crushy process of getting together.
For my money that's all it really needs to be when it's executed this well. Through their scattered conversations we get an intimate, grounded look at both Hori and Miyamura that plenty of other romance anime would kill to have. Hori is a popular and pretty girl in high school, but at home she amicably shoulders the domestic responsibilities her overworked omni-absent parents can't take care of. Meanwhile the gloomy introvert Miyamura has an alternative-styled impulsive side to him that he purposefully keeps a secret from his peers – especially the extensive tattoos he has down his torso. Together they become quick, easy friends – with some classic romantic tension because Hori is absolutely hot for this boy's scrawny, pierced bod – who bond over being able to share a part of themselves that's been private until now. It's also refreshing how quickly and honestly that bond starts to develop, as both parties admit they like knowing there's a part of the other that nobody else knows about.
Still, in the wrong hands all that character writing could end up squandered if not delivered properly, so it's a good thing this show's being handled by the inimitable Masashi Ishihama. Ishihama's eye for framing even the most inconsequential of moments is complemented by stellar animation courtesy of CloverWorks, and it makes for one of the most vibrant and appealing anime of the season. There's also a distinct flair for visual abstraction throughout the episode and especially in its gorgeous opening that does wonders to capture the atmosphere of both the laidback humor and sincere drama the story operates in. It's just an all-around stellar production and likely to be one of the most consistently stunning visual treats in a season with no shortage of competition.
All in all, Horimiya's first episode proves that you don't need an over the top premise or goofy gimmicks to make a charming, emotionally compelling romance. It's simple, but infinitely effective, and absolutely one to keep an eye on.
Horimiya got off to a rough start with me when one of its first jokes was about Hori's homeroom teacher making sketch-ass comments about her breasts and then trying to perv on all of the other girls in his class by inviting himself to their summer beach parties (Note to Anime: This is a bit that will never land, no matter how hard you try). Then, the show immediately got back into my good graces by being literally everything I've ever wanted in a cute slice-of-life romance. This is one of those occasions where all the years I've spent insisting that I actually *like* romance stories pay off, because this is the kind of rom-com that I'm not just going to wholeheartedly recommend — I will spend the remainder of the season aggressively reminding everyone else around me that they need to watch it too, unless they want to lose their spot at the Cool Kids Table.
Let's run down everything that Horimiya manages to accomplish before this premiere is even halfway done, shall we? A lush and appealing visual style courtesy of CloverWorks and director Masashi Ishihama (From the New World)? Check. A pair of likeable, realistically written, and genuinely funny leads? Check. Romance that allows for organic drama to build out of everyday situations, instead of relying on cheap cliches and narrative contrivances? Check! Jokes that are actually funny? I mean, it's no Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun just yet, but I was laughing consistently the entire time, which is more than most comedy anime can put on their resume.
Did I mention that our male lead, Miyamura, is hotter than every isekai-potato and harem-dweeb of the last ten years put together, with hotness to spare? The dude's great with Hori's kid brother, Sota; he works at a bakery, so you know his sweets game is on point; he rocks some sick piercings and a set of tattoos that are just on the right side of the tryhard line; he's willing to deadass sprint across town in the middle of a school day so his lady doesn't miss out on the egg sale going on at the supermarket. Hori's great too, though her “secret self” is not as dramatic as Miyamura secretly being the coolest son-of-a-bitch in the tri-prefecture area. She's just a dedicated daughter and sister who can put up her hair and get some chorin' done. Hori would do the gang from Letterkenny proud (with Letterkenny being the closest thing to an anime that a live-action Canadian sitcom could ever hope to become).
Have I sold any fence-sitters yet? I hope so, because unless Horimiya takes some kind of awful nosedive off a cliff in the immediate future, this show will be sitting comfortably at the top of my watchlist this winter. I want every single remaining episode of the season to come out immediately, and then I want a couple more seasons on top of that. Just take my money and put it directly into my veins, Funimation.
Horimiya was one of the titles I was most looking forward to this season, and I'm delighted to say that it didn't disappoint. Based on the (adorable) manga of the same name, the story shares some similarities with other high school romances in that it follows the relationship of two people who, at first glance, don't seem to run in the same circles. But while other series make that social distance the main thrust of the story, Horimiya gets it out of the way fairly quickly, instead making the growing bond between Hori and Miyamura the focus.
In fact, this first episode pretty much gets the whole “she's popular, he's not” thing finished up. Hori may not be high school royalty, but she's pretty, smart, and nice, so she's definitely on the popular side. People are a little miffed as to why she never goes out with them after school, but no one makes that big a deal out of it. Miyamura, on the other hand, has shaggy hair, glasses, and never switches to the summer uniform, so everyone assumes that he has zero social skills and is probably a creepy, gloomy otaku. As it turns out, neither of them are showing their “real” faces to people at school: Hori's mom works a lot, meaning that she has to pick up her little brother Sota and do 90% of the housekeeping, if not closer to 99%. She doesn't go out with friends after school because she can't – not if she's going to help her family, at any rate. Miyamura, on the other hand, is actually a nice, easygoing guy who always covers up because he's got nine piercings and some tattoos, all of which are absolutely frowned upon by the Japanese school system. The two connect when Sota falls down while he's out playing and Miyamura brings him home, piercings on full display.
To say that neither Hori nor Miyamura were expecting the other to be so human might be a slight understatement. They'd both made plenty of assumptions about each other based on their school personas, and their discovery that they're not only not the same off campus but also that they quite like each other is really at the heart of the episode. There's definitely building romantic tension between them, although whether or not they're aware of it is up for debate; Hori remarks that she doesn't want anyone else to see him with his contacts in and hair pulled back, but she doesn't quite seem to know why, and the same goes for Miyamura with the more outspoken, homey Hori.
In part this is because Miyamura has some definite self-esteem issues. It wouldn't be entirely fair to say that the revelation that he did his piercings himself in middle school with a safety pin is a sign of that, but it's certainly something to consider, as is the fact that he has no reason to wear glasses instead of contacts other than not wanting to be noticed. (Trust me on this one – I've definitely been there.) When classmate Toru tells him that he has a crush on Hori, Miyamura really does believe that he and Hori aren't a good match – and since he knows her well now, that's more a statement made out of the social issues of high school than anything else, and Hori is truly hurt when she finds out, especially since they've begun hanging out during school, too. Horimiya is a warm, sweet story, and this first episode captures that nicely. It's like a warm chocolate chip cookie – although since that's what I was eating when I watched this, I might be biased.
This title was not one that I knew anything about coming into the debut episode, which may partly be why it turned out to be such a pleasant surprise. It is based on a manga first published in 2011, which was itself a spin-off of an earlier 4-koma manga featuring the same two central characters. The concept – that two individuals who do not show their real sides at school connect after discovering the truth about each other outside of school – suggests a clear influence from the earlier Kare Kano, but there's a crucial difference here: neither Kyouko Hori nor Izumi Miyamura is deliberately putting on a false face. Izumi dresses differently to keep himself out of trouble with school officials, while Kyouko just doesn't bother to bring up that she has responsibilities at home, presumably because she thinks it's no one else's business. She also gives the impression that domestic life is more her speed anyway (though I could be reading too much into her character here).
This all provides the foundation for the two to start connecting outside of school, with Kyouko's much younger brother being the factor that provides them a reason to both meet and keep meeting. This allows us to see that neither character plays to stereotypes. Izumi may have the tattoos and piercings that would be more expected of a bad boy, and he may look all gloomy at school, but he's a much sweeter and gentler person than that, to the point that I can completely understand how everyone misjudges him. Kyouko might end up being a blatant tsundere type in most other romantic comedies, but she's more straightforward here. While she doesn't directly say that she's coming to like Izumi, she also does not hesitate to speak to him at school and is most upset when Izumi mistakenly thinks that she's just being friendly.
Some side characters also show some promise. Toru might be more of the arrogant type in other series, but he quickly becomes accepting of Izumi when the latter reveals why a swimsuit won't work for him, and the face he makes the next morning after Kyouko rejects him was the episode's funniest moment. (The follow-up conversation about how Izumi and her friend perceive Izumi consoling Toru is also classic.) Kyouko's short-haired female friend also looks like she's going to be in the romantic mix after spotting Izumi in his cool look and not recognizing him; that promises some amusing developments, too. The technical merits on this series are not anything special, but that doesn't matter. I like the vibe and the character interactions so far, so this could be an unexpected keeper.
discuss this in the forum (324 posts) |
this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history