Horimiya – Episode 2

2 weeks ago 23

Hello folks, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today we’re returning to one of the year’s most compelling productions so far, as we check out the second episode of Horimiya. Horimiya’s first episode impressed me on a few fronts, with the most expected of them clearly being Masashi Ishihama’s excellent direction. Ishihama has tuned down his frequently aggressive style a bit for this laid-back production, lightly employing the post-processing and collage-like elements he tends to favor, but his excellence is clear in Horimiya’s abstract visual flourishes, as well as its terrific OP. Meanwhile, the actual story is demonstrating a welcome nuance of characterization, neatly sidestepping cliche dramatic beats through its characters’ willingness to actually, honestly communicate. There’s a lot to enjoy so far, and I’m eager to see where this story goes. Let’s dive in!

Episode 2

We open on our lead couple returning from picking up groceries. It’s still pretty novel and satisfying to watch an anime romance where the leads are actually communicating, and developing a genuine friendship, rather than longing for each other from afar. Though it actually seems like stories have been moving in that direction more generally – my assumption of the “default state” might just be colored by the fact that I first got deeply into anime right around Clannad’s ascendancy, perhaps the apex of the “chaste, distant romantic longing” trend. Given that environment, it’s nice to instead see teenagers actually acting like teenagers

Nice brief closeup on Hori as she sings along with this jingle; both the closeness and briefness of the shot imply a sense of confessional intimacy, deepening the sense that we’re witnessing an unguarded flash of personality

And then Miyamura just quietly admiring her; you can practically feel their mutual fondness growing

The gag conclusion pulls the frame back and super deforms the characters, abruptly canceling the intimacy of the moment

Hori knows the words of her brother’s anime songs, but nothing about popular music. She seems to genuinely love her domestic life, but feels self-conscious about basically acting like an old person relative to her peers. It’s an odd thing, feeling self-conscious about having mature instincts!

Hori is surprised by her mother’s presence at home

Episode two’s title is the extremely on-the-nose “You Wear More Than One Face”

Suddenly, Hori realizes she doesn’t know Miyamura’s first name. Extremely relatable conflict here

And so the waiting game begins, as she attempts to discover it without actually asking it. You might try “how do you spell your first name,” but then again, that might backfire if his name’s spelling is obvious… yeah, clearly a conundrum here

As with the first episode, the pacing of this episode is a little staccato – some odd jolts, and more driven by scene-to-scene conflicts than an overarching structure. It feels a bit like the perils of adopting a 4koma manga, where you can frequently feel the arbitrary breaks between strips

“This is the third day in a row we’ve had microwave curry.” Nice to see some actual illustration of her mother’s inadequate management of the house

Kinda funny how Miyamura meeting Hori’s mother, normally a point of great emotional tension in a teen drama, is here used entirely to facilitate the Miyamura name gag

And at last, after Miyamura explicitly asks her what’s wrong, Hori tells the truth. This is all pretty canned drama (you could fit it into basically any narrative without alteration, meaning it doesn’t really tell us much about this cast), but I appreciate that they didn’t drag out this conflict any longer, and also that it ended in a moment of genuine honesty between the two of them

We learn his first name is Izumi. Now Hori just needs to gather up the strength to actually address him by it

Once again, the production uses these colored shadows to emphasize when the characters are shifting beyond their comfort zones, pushing themselves into new levels of intimacy and sincerity. It’s a neat visual evocation of the way adolescence really is a time of “testing your own personality,” of assuming different shapes from the ones you’re accustomed to, and seeing what behavior feels like the most satisfying version of yourself

The student council seem to be pushing more and more of their labor onto Hori

Her friend Not-Ritsu rightfully pushes back against this labor, but it seems Hori is the type who’s so understanding that she’s overly willing to accept responsibility for others. It makes sense, given her home life; she’s had to grow up and assume a certain level of maturity a lot faster than many of her peers, and actually enjoys exercising that maturity through useful labor. But of course, without a corresponding degree of confidence and self-regard, these qualities can easily be abused by those around you – Hori is mature enough to be able to perform this labor, but not so mature that she’s able to say no

This also serves as the introduction of our apparently quite popular student council president, Sengoku

And now we meet Ayasaki, a girl with pink twintails

Apparently she’s dating Sengoku and also on the student council – though rather than actually doing her work, she sends it to Hori

Miyamura is concerned, but bumps into Ayasaki himself before he can talk to Hori

Wow, Ayasaki is pretty shitty, huh. After she loses the budget reports that she was supposed to write because she bumped into Miyamura, she lies and blames Hori for not correctly finishing all her work for her. Her fear of consequences here is obviously relatable enough, but this is some odious behavior

And now, exhausted and called out by the popular student president, Hori starts to doubt herself, and wonder if she really did the work correctly

“Man, all she has to do is apologize.” Sengoku is expertly manipulating this situation to make Hori seem like the bad guy – by framing it as “all you have to do is apologize,” he’s making it seem like the student council is being merciful, while automatically assigning the blame for this situation to Hori. I’m guessing Ayasaki is just a generally frivolous person, but Sengoku seems like something else – a genuine schemer, and heartless enough to essentially make a public spectacle of Hori in order to protect his own interests

AW SHIT, MIYAMURA’S TAKING HIS GLASSES OFF

Miyamura straight up headbutts the president, then reveals the truth. Given Sengoku’s reaction to Ayasaki admitting fault, it’s clear he genuinely believed Hori was in the wrong here – and yet, his eagerness to publicly shame her clearly came from a petty need to protect his girlfriend. If Sengoku had wanted to address this situation maturely, he’d have taken Hori aside in private, not accused her in the hallway. Definitely someone to keep an eye on

Also clear Miyamura has a bit of a hot-tempered impulsive streak, in spite of his generally mild disposition

Alright, now we get a genuine explanation for why Sengoku was so hard on Hori: she literally spent their entire childhood bullying him. So yeah, he’s clearly working through some pretty understandable resentment here

One more seriously awkward transition as we shift from the end of the “student council papers” chapter to the beginning of the “Hori’s birthday is approaching” chapter. Graceful anime adaptations find ways to shift their source’s content from self-contained chapters to self-contained episodes; Horimiya isn’t even really trying, which is a bit of a disappointment, and makes for a somewhat dramatically disjointed viewing experience

Once again, Hori is forced to wrestle with feelings she’s left intentionally ill-defined, as she ponders the reality of Miyamura eventually not coming to her house anymore. Grappling with that fact, and settling it within the fixed chronology of her high school life, forces her to ask herself what Miyamura really means to her. And so, that painted shadow returns

Oh my god, Hori forgot her own birthday. She’s such a unique mix of teenage and old-person instincts

Ooh, good. The episode does manage to come full circle at the end, using Hori’s gift to create a sense of congruity between beginning and end

And Done

Huh. I’ll be frank, that was a pretty strange second episode! After Horimiya’s premiere rushed us through the introductions of these characters and their dynamics, this episode changed pace entirely, and instead meandered through a series of school vignettes without much connective tissue or dramatic momentum. It wasn’t bad, exactly, and there were actually plenty of nice character moments, but it did feel disjointed, while leaving the characters in a bit of a dramatic limbo relative to the rapid-fire premiere. Rather than establishing any core, ongoing dramatic concerns, this episode stuck largely to self-contained conflicts, offering only that hint of trouble on the horizon at the end. It’s an odd choice, and seems reflective of this production’s general adaptive wonkiness – the character work is good, but the structure’s a little creaky!

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