「だから、大丈夫。」 (Dakara, daijoubu.)
“That’s Why It’s Okay”
Oh wait, we did.
Things are humming along with Horimiya, in more ways than one. We’re definitely moving at a considerably faster pace than the manga, and it’s increasingly obvious that CloverWorks intends to pack everything it wants to into 13 episodes and call it a day. But so far, that hasn’t been a real detriment. Director Ishihama Masashi is a master of pacing, and there’s a particular quality to his work (see Shin Sekai Yori – seriously, see it if you haven’t) where the B-parts of eps are more compelling that the A-parts. And that’s very much been the case with Horimiya thus far.
As I noted in the season preview, “If you enjoy romcoms that are more about the relationship than the dance, this one’s for you.” While it’s true that there is some dancing here, it’s mostly Izumi and Kyouko desperately trying to fool themselves into thinking they’re not under the pressures of a romantic relationship. The thing is, their relationship is so comprehensively intimate that it doesn’t really matter to us watching whether they’ve admitted the truth or not, because the truth is implicit in the way they act around each other. And that takes the usual romcom BS quotient down by an order of magnitude.
The one element of Horimiya that’s largely unexplored in the first several chapters is Miyamura’s darkness, and it can be argued to be the single central theme of the entire series. Ishihama hints at it (more so than HERO does) in the intro section, but this is the first time the series really digs into it. “Awkward” is one of those loaded words, almost as much as “normal”. Both are burdens on children in their own way, and it’s a label, once-affixed, that can be very hard to peel off. Especially when, in Miyamura’s case, it’s basically true. We’re all awkward in our own way, but he’s more in touch with that side of himself than most.
Folks who aren’t socially awkward might look at Izumi in the first half of this episode and think “cry me a river” (or worse, “man up”). And that’s understandable, because this is one of those cases where empathy really isn’t adequate to the job. There’s a doubt that never goes away, and we see it in Izumi’s suspicion of those who appear to be his friends. Seriously, how could anyone willingly be my friend? It’s a question kids like Miyamura often ask themselves, and kids not like Miyamura can never really understand the power of.
As for Hori-san, she’s grappling with her own feelings for Izumi, which take her too far out of comfort zone for- well, comfort. And with Souta-kun advancing to first grade (old enough to ride the train solo in Japan) and starting to feel his way socially himself, she and Izumi find themselves alone together a lot more. Yes, their conversations sometimes “peter out” – but what Kyouko doesn’t have the experience to realize is that’s part of a relationship too, and has its own charms. It’s Remi of all people who provides the push Kyouko needs (but doesn’t want), jokingly (she says) asking Hori is she can have Miya for herself. The answer is, needless to say, vehement – to a degree that surprises no one more than Hori-san herself.
Enter Tooru, who of course still has strong feelings for Hori himself. Tooru sees what’s happening here, and his friendship with Miyamura doesn’t stop him from agonizing over it. Tooru is even more irritated because Izumi keeps denying the truth himself. But he learns a lesson of some note – don’t piss Miya off. This is not the first time we’ve seen it but he’s got a hair-trigger, and what’s more the caliber to inflict serious damage when it’s fired (as poor Tooru finds out). Izumi clearly doesn’t love this part of himself (and more than the general awkwardness) but this is who he is right now, whether he likes it or not.
So have they admitted the truth? If Kyouko’s outburst to Remi wasn’t a confession – and I would argue it was, though it may not count if Miya didn’t hear it – what happens later certainly was. Kyouko backtracks her “I love you” to “I love your hands” (ROFL), but the horse has already left the barn on that one. And Izumi pretty much makes it official anyway, leaving no question as to whether he got the message. Getting to this point is a big step for a couple of 17 year-olds, but neither of them really know what to do next, so a dance of sorts persists. But in a relationship like this one, that dance is just part of the magic.