Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I’d like to dig back into Horimiya, which has so far proven to be a compelling but lopsided production, with some clear strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, the show’s character writing has proven quite good so far, with its main cast offering nuanced, multifaceted personalities that incorporate not just goals and attitudes, but also a variety of personal quirks, interests, and anxieties. Combined with the show’s refreshingly grounded dialogue and general avoidance of melodrama, the overall package feels remarkably true to life, an earnest and unpretentious exploration of adolescent feelings.
On the negative side, the adaptation so far has felt awkwardly disjointed, with clear break points delineating each episode’s mini-conflicts, rather than any sense of congruity or ongoing, escalating drama. Because of this, it’s hard to really sink into the fiction of their daily life; it frequently feels like they’re performing a set of skits, rather than simply living through day-to-day interactions. Additionally, while Masashi Ishihama is doing a fine enough job directing, it’s becoming clear that Horimiya will offer far fewer opportunities for his expressive compositional flourishes than something like From the New World. Ishihama might simply be better suited to works he can storyboard from the ground up, rather than adapting manga panels; either way, this adaptation’s conservative approach is limiting it in a few ways, so I’m hoping the staff embrace a little more flexibility going forward. With all that in mind, let’s poke through the third episode of Horimiya!
We open on Miyamura’s childhood, as he finds himself alone while his classmates all partner up. This sequence offers a fine opportunity for Ishihama to flex a bit with his usual filters, using soft, cold lighting and grain crossing the frame to emphasize Miyamura’s feelings of shame and isolation. A clear visual metaphor for that unbearable lump forming in your throat
Desaturated colors as well, a classic visual symbol of depression
And now we witness his first piercing, framed as a sort of rebellion, or statement of personal identity, against the school system that’s isolating him. This is good; we’ve gotten plenty of Hori’s interiority, but we’ve mostly seen Miyamura from her perspective
And indeed, the camera work changes significantly to express Miyamura’s very different headspace. Rather than confident establishing shots that capture the whole classroom in frame, Miyamura’s world is defined by anxious partial closeups, often focused on the things Miyamura is attempting to conceal. The accumulation of such compositions creates a sense of claustrophobia, allowing the cinematography to vividly emphasize Miyamura’s mental state
Hori actually treats him normally – and at the same time, displays that disarming goofiness that makes her seem transparent and easy to talk to. As she calls Miyamura normal, that reliable colored shadow returns, echoing his shifting self-image
We open the episode proper with the beginning of the third high school year, as our leads all discover their new class assignments. As in the last episode, there’s a strong focus on the public, performative nature of high school friendships, and the inescapable shroud of gossip
“Sometimes I wonder… I’m in this group, but am I really a part of it?” Ooh, that’s a barbed sentiment. Hori’s friends treat Miyamura as a member of the group, but he hasn’t really changed his behavior since joining them, and is frequently just a bystander relative to their banter. Even if they claim to accept him, how meaningful are those words, versus the lived reality of him not really communicating on the level they’re comfortable with? In high school and elsewhere, people often feel a natural inclination to mimic the behavior patterns of others, simply to maintain at least some kind of community. You have to grow into being comfortable as yourself regardless of the social consequences, and also work to find people who appreciate your personality, even if it doesn’t mirror their own
The teacher announces a group project, and that old anxiety returns – only for his new friends to group up their desks without a word, silently affirming their friendship
But of course, an anxious teen who’s accustomed to isolation isn’t going to trust unspoken cues like that. This followup sequence of him and Ishikawa on the roof is charming and true-to-life in its own way, as each of them get stuck in their heads and oblivious to the other’s conflict
Ishikawa has some harsh critiques for Miyamura, but the very frankness of his character assessment speaks to the closeness of their friendship. You don’t run down a list of character flaws for people you don’t care about; the true threat is indifference
“You’re also the only person who calls me by my last name, so I wonder what you think of me, too.” When you get as deep in your head as Miyamura, you tend to forget that others are struggling with these issues as well
Also, Ishikawa’s a really charming character. I get the feeling he might actually have a bit of a crush on Miyamura, but just can’t quite see his sexuality that way yet
“You’re weird, but it’s okay. You’re just kind of awkward.” Hah, what a funny, half-hearted appraisal to serve as such a resounding validation for Miyamura. But in that way it’s also realistic; Miyamura doesn’t need to hear the perfect words, he just needs to hear that he is valid. I appreciate that this validation also came from someone other than Hori – and the storyboarding of this sequence, as perspective curves in order to emphasize the clear blue sky, is excellent. You can really feel the sense of Miyamura’s world opening up, of his horizons broadening as someone assures him that he doesn’t have to conceal himself
“I wish I could go back ten years and tell myself that.” Don’t we all
“Where did you two sneak off to?” “The roof, to affirm our friendship”
Once again though, the transition from this Ishikawa-focused segment to the next one is clear as day. You can clearly tell this final scene of them at their shoe lockers was a chapter-end stinger, and then we just cut directly to an unrelated conflict
Hori runs into Ayasaka, the twintails girl from the student council
“So, Miyamura-kun’s pretty hot, huh?” Ayasaka does not waste time
Ayasaka’s interest forces Hori to reassess her feelings about Miyamura. She’s not dating him, and not even really pursuing a relationship with him, but she refuses to let anyone else have him. Whatever their comfortable domestic life could be called, it is precious to her
Ayasaka is a very dangerous commodity within high school: a girl who’s confident in herself, knows what she wants, and is willing to ruffle feathers to get it. Within a scenario like high school, where most people are still figuring out their identities and social comfort levels, a girl like Ayasaka is basically unstoppable
With Hori’s brother Sota starting elementary school, he no longer acts like a social buffer when Miyamura is at her house. Their time is more intimate now, further emphasizing the question of what exactly they mean to each other
It seems about right that Hori is unfazed by horror movies, while Miyamura is too sensitive for CG scares
This episode once again has no sense of momentum; it’s just scattered skits, which fits the dialogue’s naturalistic tone, but doesn’t make for a particularly smooth or momentum-driven watch
I’m very amused by the rituals teenagers perform to sort of sideways-wander their way towards intimacy. Hori and Miyamura start comparing their hand sizes, which is as good a way as any to work up the courage to hold hands
Aw, this is so adorable. Such an charming sense of nervousness, as they delight in getting closer and closer to admitting they love each other
Ishikawa overhears Ayasaka gossiping about Hori’s attachment to Miyamura, and actually goes to fight Miyamura. C’mon, Ishikawa!
Some very nice character acting as Mori confronts Ishikawa about the fight, though it feels more than a little odd that we’re exploring everything around the fight, while avoiding the scene itself
Ah, here we go. I shouldn’t have doubted Ishikawa; the fight begins not out of jealousy, but out of his awkward attempts to convince Miyamura that Hori is genuinely into him
Also, this scene further affirms what we learned during the Hori student council conflict – Miyamura has a violent streak in him, and will respond with force if he’s pushed enough
Well, that certainly was another episode of Horimiya, with all its now-established strengths and weaknesses. This episode actually felt like an improvement on the visual front, with lots of delicate character acting, and some interesting cinematography and post-processing that illustrated some of Ishihama’s usual talents. Additionally, I’m greatly appreciating the speed at which Hori and Miyamura’s relationship is developing; the last episode felt a little static on that front, but the hand-holding sequence here was electric, and it’s simply delightful watching a pair with great chemistry actually admit their feelings to each other. The biggest issue remains Horimiya’s disjointed pacing, which frequently prevents episodes from developing much sense of consequence and momentum. It’s a frustrating issue, but with so many other strengths on offer, Horimiya is still a consistently rewarding experience.