「誰も、誰かが好きなんだ。」 (Dare mo, dareka ga sukina nanda)
“Everybody Loves Somebody”
It’s amazing how much happens in Horimiya for a series that seems like a slice of life most of the time. This is something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing in that regard. Because the tone is generally so languid and relaxed, one can be lulled into thinking things are static – but they’re anything but. Compared to most romance series Horimiya is much more about progress than stagnation – to the point where I think some new viewers, used to the opposite extreme in most modern romcoms, think the romance is moving too fast.
Part of the trick is the focus the show gives to the supporting cast, who act as a sort of stalking horse for the main couple’s romantic advancement. Tooru is probably first among equals in that group, and the one member who has the most vested interest in what happens with HoriMiya (excepting Souta, perhaps). He has an interesting encounter with Sakura, the seitoukai VP, after she accidentally loses a stack of papers out the window (seriously – does that actually happen outside animanga?) but it’s clear his mind is still focuses elsewhere.
Japan is finally lumbering into the 20th Century and installing A/C in a lot of classrooms, but it was still a rarity at the time these chapters were written. So aircon in the student council room is worth chasing, and this is a pretty laid-back passage in the narrative. Remi still seems rather focused on HoriMiya herself for someone who was just joking with Kyouko (matchmaking Tooru and Hori, for example). And there’s an amusing communications mishap between Miyamura-kun and Ishikawa-kun about what happened when he and Hori-san went to get the drinks.
The thing with Izumi is that he’s a square peg in so many ways. He’s not “normal”, and he’s at the age where he still sees that as something to be embarrassed about. Kyouko has come to find his presence comforting and reassuring, but yes, when she allows herself to think about it it is odd that he’s willing to strip topless in front of her and not find it awkward. Izumi finds awkward things normal and normal things awkward, which is a problem for him and has been since at least middle school, which we see in his memories of that time.
Those memories are triggered by a meeting with an old friend, Shindou Kouichi (Yashiro Taku). Kids like Shindou do exist in RL, though sadly they’re more rare than manga makes them out to be. It’s clear how much having one person who accepted him meant to Izumi in middle school – and just as clear that before Hori, he had no one like that in high school. Being awkward isn’t something you shed like a summer cold – it’s something you (if you’re lucky – and if you have help) learn to manage and live with.
Kyouko’s cold is the next slice-of-life event to move things forward. Colds are a bigger deal in anime than in life of course, but this isn’t dramatisized too egregiously. Souta, thank goodness, takes responsibility and forces Kyouko to stay home from school (even pre-pandemic a 38.7 fever isn’t a game) – not to mention calling Onii-san over to help. If the staple of Izumi’s existence is awkwardness, perhaps with Kyouko it’s responsibility. Sometimes older siblings don’t want to be the adult, they want to be the child – but for Kyouko that’s a luxury she’s seemingly never been afforded.
The last scene of the episode is full of loaded dialogue that defies easy interpretation – “Why are you never, ever, ever, here?” “Instead of where are you going, don’t you mean ‘please don’t go?'” What doesn’t defy interpretation is Izumi’s “I’m not going anywhere”. That’s an unambiguous as it gets. As is the confession he offers, albeit offhandedly – “I’m in love with you. Have been for a while now.” What can be debated, I suppose (though I feel pretty certain), is whether Izumi thought Kyouko was awake when he said it.
“If I pretend I didn’t hear it, maybe we can stay like this for a little while longer.” Considering this was the second offhand, slipped into a conversation confession in two episodes Kyouko has pretended didn’t happen, it’s not surprising in this case. Keeping things the way they are would be much easier, much less risky. She likes things the way they are, and why wouldn’t she? She has a companion by her side, a helper with Souta, another family member. Why risk all that for… what, exactly? It’s not so simple as pretending it never happened of course, or pretending anything else – but at her age Izumi can be forgiven for not realizing that.