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This Week in Anime
What Makes Horimiya The Best Rom-Com in Years?

by Jean-Karlo Lemus & Steve Jones,

Horimiya has all the makings of a typical high school romance, but it stands out thanks to stellar direction, expert character writing, and a story that isn't afraid to go beyond handholding. Steve and Jean-Karlo discuss what sets the series apart.

This series is streaming on Funimation

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @mouse_inhouse @NickyEnchilada @vestenet

Hi, readers! Just a minor heads-up, this week's column covers heavy-handed subject matter.

Emphasis on "hands".

We're really gonna have to make sure this one gets tagged NSFW. Those fingers are interlocking and everything!
I say this a lot, but I mean it every time so believe me when I say I'm thrilled to talk about Horimiya in today's edition of This Week In Anime. I can't speak for Steve, but I didn't know anything about this show going in. My editor said I'd like it, and sure enough – I think it's become one of my favorite things I've seen for this column.
It's really good! I haven't read the manga (tho I heard a lot of praise when the adaptation was announced), and all I knew going into it was the name of the director, Masashi Ishihama, who happens to be one of my favorite dudes working in anime currently. Most regrettably, I think the last time his name came up in this column was when Nick and I covered Eiken, so I'm very glad to be discussing him in a positive context once more. You heard it here first folks: Horimiya is better than Eiken.
Talk about a 180 in terms of their career!
Honestly, the less I'm reminded of Eiken the better, so I'm thankful that weird joke and teacher from the premiere never comes up again. Not to say Horimiya doesn't get horny, but it evolves into a much savvier kind of horny.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's set the stage. So, we have Hori Kyoko, a fairly-popular high schooler who normally has to babysit her brother and help her mother as opposed to hanging with her classmates. A chance encounter introduces her to her classmate Izumi Miyamura; he's normally gloomy and withdrawn while at school, but in public he's fairly flashy, what with his nine piercings and tattoos.
It's not the flashiest conceit for a romcom, but I like how down-to-earth it is. Basically, they both have this clean delineation between their public and private (or school and not-school) lives that, once broken, lets Hori and Miyamura start to form this intimate connection they never would have picked up on otherwise.
The concept reminds me a lot of His and Her Circumstances, which I'm told is another beloved anime teen romcom. And it works, especially with the script slightly flipped. Where Yukino was the multifaceted gremlin in disguise in His and Her Circumstances, here we see Miyamura be the guy who feels he has to hide his true self. And we get a lot of really touching emotional deep-dives into the poor guy's psyche.
Yeah it's a pretty light series a lot of the time, but it also frequently descends into the psychological baggage these characters carry, and it does so in delicate and beautiful ways. And this might be my Ishihama bias slipping through, but I think it's this aspect of Horimiya where his directorial voice shines. I mean, the first version of the OP (which he also directed) is full of his signature flairs—the use of paneling, shadows, color, etc.—applied in this gorgeously melancholy fashion. I adore it.

It's a lovely song, too!
Absolutely! And the way the little piano licks are punctuated by the flashing of a TV screen in the animation is also such a pure Ishihama touch. Lots of love put into this one.
The series also contrasts Hori and Miyamura with their classmates. There's the class president and his girlfriend, who have their own unique dynamic. He likes feeling like he can protect her, and she appreciates his gentle nature.

Meanwhile, there's Toru, another classmate. The poor guy goes through hills and valleys in the first 8 episodes: dealing with being rejected by Hori, being the objet d'amour for both Sakura (also from the school council) and Yoshikawa, Hori's friend... Poor guy can't get a break.

Oh yeah, it's not just the Horimiya Half-Hour every week, and I like how they've been fleshing out the rest of the cast. Regarding the student council prez and his boo, we first hear him talk about Remi as a girl who makes him feel strong. Then, this week, we learn that Remi really isn't weak at all, and she basically lets him feel that way on purpose, because she likes him so much.

I just thought that was a neat way of transforming a kinda sus thing this dude said into a power play by his gf. They're clearly a good match for each other.

Also the pretentious English major in me can't hate a couple forged over Goethe.

I especially love that when they're first introduced, she's introduced as a spineless, meek violet and he's presented as a total badass. Way to show off the layers these secondary characters have!
Also, one headbutt from Miyamura is probably enough to make any person reflect on their words and deeds.

For the most part, though, Horimiya focuses on this one group of four close friends, some of whom are dating, some of whom want to be dating, and some of whom are being pursued by outside dating agents. Horimiya shows both the fundamental strength of the friend group, as well as the complicating romantic and platonic factors. It actually reminds me a lot of the friend group I got myself into in high school, so it certainly has an authenticity to it.

It's a prime example of how you can have a "slice of life" show that's not just Cute Girls Doing Cute Things™️. Plenty of episodes are just a chain of vignettes between the kids; a little of Hori realizing how out-of-touch she is with pop culture, a little of Miyamura being inducted into Hori's family, a little unrequited love from Toru – oh hey, you remember that bit with Hori being out-of-touch with music from 20 minutes ago? Here's some payoff for that bit...
As someone who also didn't start listening to contemporary pop music in earnest until my senior year of high school, I feel you, Hori. Don't worry, though, anime music is always cool. Take it from us, some objectively cool people writing for a cool anime website.

What's that? I can't hear you, I got my YouTube playlist running


Another Perfect™ aspect of Hori is her fondness of schlocky horror flicks, both good taste and her scaredy-cat boyfriend be damned.

I'm gonna be dating myself significantly here, but I have lovely memories of going to Blockbuster and picking out some truly awful horror movies for high school get-togethers. Good times.
Like any good teen romcom, a good bit of this series is everyone worrying about whether their partner will be happy with their unconventional aspects. Miyamura worries that his odd fashion sense would reflect badly on Hori, and Hori worries that her loving slashers makes her uncute.
Yeah it's pretty funny as an adult to look back on those days, but as a teen you really do worry about every and anything making you look like a complete freak. Luckily, our heroes frequently manage to talk through their insecurities in frank and productive ways, which puts them beyond at least 99% of adolescents worldwide.
There is still a lot of fluff, like the bit where Miyamura is stuck in Hokkaido for five days without his charger and Hori counts the days until he comes back. But it's good fluff. Horimiya makes sure we care about these characters, so the fluff is compelling.
Also, man, what a horrific reminder of the days when literally every cell phone had its own proprietary charger.

The aftermath of that is especially artful, because the episode then leans fully into Hori's gaze and really makes sure the audience understands how upsettingly hot Miyamura is.

Again, a far-cry from how gloomy others see him when he's at school. When he has to cover his piercings, Miyamura is a modern-day Takeshi Todo. Horimiya does something I really love in rom-coms: the crux of Miyamura's character development is Miyamura learning that it's okay for people to see him as he truly is.

Curiously, Horimiya nips in the bud any kind of plot thread where Miyamura self-sabotages his chance at happiness: right away, Hori establishes that she likes Miyamura and nobody else.

It's refreshing too how quickly they get together. The season isn't half-over before they confess and reciprocate their feelings. That's some record time as far as anime goes! Even if Miyamura still could've been a little more direct about it.

Granted, it's also worth noting they were doing stuff like this before they confessed anyway.
Oh, they do a little more than just "confess"...
Hell yeah. Hollering both about these kids having some healthy romantic intimacy (i.e. they're banging) in their lives, AND about how good the anime is at communicating that sense of intimacy in a tastefully horny way.
I know that a lot of people decry anime romances because of the melodrama and lack of communication. One of the best part of Horimiya is that it doesn't do that. ... At least, not for the main characters.
Look, if our main characters are going to be a lovely and happy couple, then somebody is going to have to be the emotionally stunted walking disaster ticking timebomb, and as one of those myself, I appreciate Yuki stepping up to the plate here.
That Toru's the guy she's pining for feels a little unfortunate – surely, a girl like Yuki can do better. That she and Sakura are both fighting for him feels even sadder.
And, again, speaking of the anime's prowess at communicating the interiority of its characters, this whole scene is so devastatingly beautiful in its construction.

Yuki doesn't have to say a word for you to understand how she's feeling here. How she just wants to disappear. Hell, you can barely even see her here.
I'm almost sad our batch of episodes didn't show us any kind of resolution for poor Yuki. Even if Toru is a putz, the poor girl pining over him is just sad. Thankfully, she has other prospects – but she self-sabotages her chances with him!
Well, she and the infinitely magnanimous advice of her best friends.

Hori really starts embracing the raw, terrifying power of her inner shitlord as the series progresses—which we'll get into shortly—but I do hope we get some kind of resolution with Yuki's unrequited pining before the season ends. With or without the coolest (and blindest) guy in school.
Oh God, is Hori ever a gremlin. Terrorizing her boyfriend with slashers is one thing. As it turns out, even her kinks are tougher than his are!

Every guy is gangster until his girlfriend is kinkier than he is.
Some girls will tell you if they don't like your haircut. Hori doesn't need words to get her point across.

I can understand people being a little put-off by the discomfort Miyamura shows as Hori's light-BDSM proclivities start to reveal themselves, but I think it's been cute and inoffensive so far. And accurate! I mean, teens discovering and working through their kinks for the first time is gonna be awkward as hell no matter how you slice it, and at least Hori and Miyamura have solid communication skills going for them.
Also, it's still really cute and a fun way of demonstrating the two navigating the various ways their personalities fit together.
Yeah, it definitely fits into the overall theme. And whatever friction does pop up, the fundamental comfort the two of them exhibit together continues to shine through. Like, we should all be so lucky to have the kind of relationship that lets you paint your bf's toenails with nary a protest.

Has there been conflict between them? The two have mostly been in a honeymoon since they started dating.
Pretty much! I mean, even before they started dating, the kind of problems they had to deal with never got much more serious than "oh no, whatever will I do about my sexy tattooed body that I am also showing you right now?"

Oh, and the Great Egg Sale.
On the one hand, I'd hate to see anything sad happen to these kids. On the other, it'll be interesting to see how they weather a significant problem. For example, grades! Miyamura has horrible grades – what is going to happen when they graduate and have different prospects for colleges?
True, basically every high school anime has the built-in mono no aware timebomb of graduation. Dunno if the Horimiya anime will get that far, but even if it does, I think it's done a good enough job of balancing its goofiness and seriousness to tackle that swirl of emotions. Like, the fact that it can pack so much punch into even its most incidental scenes is a sign of its strength.
Suffice to say, Horimiya is a highlight of the season and definitely something you should keep on your radar. The visuals are sumptuous, the music is great, and it's hard not to love the main couple. Can it be fluffy? Sure. Some bits feel like a sugarbomb. But this is a really well-made sugarbomb, and it'll remind you of why these kinds of shows are so beloved.
If you're in the mood for a well-crafted romantic comedy, it's an extremely easy recommendation from me as well. And really, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You don't want your friends to be talking about you like this, do you?
Hey man, maybe people have different tastes.
For better or worse...

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