OP: 「Iro Kousui 」 (色香水) by (You Kamiyama)
「ほんの、ささいなきっかけで。」 (Hon’no, sasaina kikkake de.)
“A Tiny Happenstance”
In a curious way, you go into a premiere with expectations as high as they were for this one with more downside than upside potential. It should be a joyous experience, but if that’s what you expect, the only surprise can be disappointment. An adaptation for a series like Horimiya would always carry huge expectations, but then you add in the length of the wait and the surprise that it ended, and they double. Throw in the redoubtable Ishihama Masashi directing and they explode exponentially. Frankly, it’s a recipe for disaster.
That it was avoided is a testament to just how good this premiere was. Certainly the best premiere of the season so far by a wide margin, but again, the only surprise would have been had that not been the case. Starting with the OP (directed by Ishihama, who’s one of the best in anime history in that area), the episode itself, the ED – this was pure class all around. The pacing may have been a little faster than the start of the manga (more on that shortly) but it didn’t dull the impact of the intro chapters at all from my perspective. This was great, and timeless in the best way.
Ishihara of course did his best work as a director for A-1 Pictures (CloverWorks’ parent company) as well, with Shin Sekai Yori. That masterwork is more closely aligned with his usual genre choices as a director, and there’s no question Horimiya represents a bit of a departure for him. But really elite directors seem to transcend genre, and Ishihara’s quite recognizable visual style worked beautifully with this material. His masterful manipulation of light and shadow, fast cuts, deep focus – not used here to create existential unease as with SSY, but adolescent insecurity and feelings of isolation.
Those feelings are centered around two people. One is popular model student Hori Kyoko (Tomatsu Haruka), the other social outsider Miyamura Izumi (Uchiyama Kouki). Though in the same class their worlds rarely intersect at school – Miyamura is basically anonymous to Hori, a quiet bookish kid who might be (gasp) an otaku, but hardly worthy of consideration (or, it should be noted, any meanness or bullying). Hori’s best friend is Yoshikawa Yuki (Kozakai Yurie), and the guy with an unconfessed crush on her is Ishikawa Tooru (Yamashita Seiichirou).
The catalyst that causes Hori and Miyamura’s world’s to collide is her younger brother Souta (Terasaki Yuka). Souta is the reason Hori always seems to skip out on karaoke or other after-school hijinks, as she seems to do a lot of the heavy lifting in caring for him. Miyamura comes to Souta’s aid after he falls down when startled by a dog and brings him home, and Souta decides he likes having a man around the house (of Dad, there’s no sign). The catch – Hori initially has no idea the kid with the piercings and man-bun is the glasses guy from her class, and is quite unsettled by learning the truth.
Make no mistake, this “two faces” element is very crucial thematically in Horimiya. As Hori-san notes, everyone has a “secret side of themselves they don’t want anyone to know about”. It’s more obvious in Miyamura’s case (he has major ink in addition to 9 piercings) but no less true for her, since the frumpy surrogate mom she plays at home is as far removed from her image as the rebel is from his. Circumstances (and Souta) conspire to force these two to reveal their secret sides to each other, and she quickly realizes that this is a subtly powerful form of intimacy, whether she asked for it or not.
There are a lot of “click” moments here that just resonate with me, as they did in the manga. On the whole I think the easy family dynamic that springs up between Miyamura and the Hori siblings is probably the most winning part of the series (though the competition is fierce). Learning that Ishikawa is actually a really nice guy tells us what sort of series Horimiya is going to be – and what it isn’t. And the fact that what upsets Hori most about Miyamura’s disclaimer to Ishikawa is that he suggested she was just being nice by allowing him into her life is heartbreaking in an emotionally subtle and profound way. Spot on.
Again, this just flat-out works. It’s a great source material in the hands of a great director, and somehow it actually ends up as good as it should be. Casting does its part – Tomatsu-san is, as she always seems to be, astonishing emotionally accurate. Uchiyama is really good too – my personal biases make me thing not having Miyu Irino in the role is a missed opportunity, but Uchiyama’s work is well beyond competent. The only fly in the ointment is that Horimiya will be 13 episodes (better than 12 I suppose), and not the two-cour fans were hoping it would. It could be a split cour or get a second season, but 13 eps is only going to be enough to scratch the surface of the miles-deep charms Horimiya has to offer.
ED: 「Yakusoku」 (約束) by (Friends)