「偽ることで、見えるもの。」 (Itsuwaru koto de, mieru mono.)
“The Truth Deception Reveals”
To be honest I’ve kind of given up on trying to figure out what the heck Ishihama-sensei is doing with the pacing here. Ishihama did a Reddit AMA this week (thanks to John for linking it in the comments) where he gave a pretty standard “we had to decide what was important and what we could cut, and it was hard” answer. That’s fine, but to me at least their decisions about what was worthy are not making a whole lot of sense. It seems as if the staff is trying to split the difference between distillation (HoriMiya in focus) and dispersion (everyone gets their day in the sun) and kind of diminishing both in the process.
This episode (as was last week’s, for different reasons) is a perfect example of why this approach is problematic. In the first place while opinions about which subplots and characters are most crucial will certainly vary, Remi is a character who’d be one of the first to go for me. M.A.O.’s performance (breathy and chirpy seems increasingly to be her M.O.) isn’t helping, but even in the manga I found her to be pretty uninteresting. The reminiscence about the seitoukaicho was fine, but Horimiya has a lot better material to offer than that which has already found the cutting room floor, and it was really in no way essential to telling the larger story.
As well, the weird structure Ishihama goes with here is- well, weird. We actually get four different plot threads, with arguably the most important one – Izumi’s continued reconciliation with his past – reduced to a pre-open amuse bouche. Then there’s the Remi-Kakeru bit, a comic aside about Hori and Miya’s relationship, and a section featuring Yuki, Tooru, and a new character. You can debate about which of these are mission-critical and which aren’t, but jumbling them all together (especially when they’re so tonally different) doesn’t really work. But of course, YMMV.
I don’t think there’s any way you can (or should) cut out the quirky Izumi-Kyouko relationship chapters, because they’re an essential part of the manga as it progresses and for the most part quite amusing. You’re not going to have time to include all of them so sacrifices will have to be made here (I’d prefer a whole ep devoted to a couple of them, then a break, then another, etc.) but they’re mostly OK as shorter segments. This time we see the challenges Izumi has in dealing with Kyouko’s quirks. One of those quirks is that she likes it when he plays the bad boy – he’s too nice and reserved when he’s with her. But you can only wear the clothes that fit you, as Izumi finds out in rather agonizing fashion.
Batting cleanup this week is the one segment that was pretty much a lock to be included unless Ishihama was going to cut out all the plot involving the supporting cast. It’s the meatiest part of the episode for sure, and probably the best. It introduces Yanagi Akane (Fukuyama Jun is not who I’d have chosen here, but he’s not too much of a distraction). He’s an ikemen from Class 6 who asks Yuki out, much to her surprise. She plans to say no but in typical Yuki fashion dithers over how to do it, and worries about hurting Yanagi-kun’s feelings. Hori comes up with the rather cliched idea of getting someone to pretend to be her boyfriend, and once that’s on the table there’s no question who it’s going to be.
This subplot is quite interesting for a number of reasons. First among them is Yuki’s motivation to say no. Superficially it seems easy – she’s in love with Tooru. But she reveals another layer to this once the others have seen Yanagi’s looks – she’s worried he’s above her pay grade. In fact when it’s discovered that Yanagi has bad eyesight (Mie-san in trousers) she even assumes he meant to ask Hori-san out instead. While his eyesight is indeed comically (especially given his decision not to wear glasses) bad, he had it right – much to Yuki’s surprise.
The other interesting element here is that in typical Horimiya fashion, this doesn’t go quite as you’d expect. One might assume that Tooru pretending to be Yuki’s boyfriend would be the spark to fuel his attraction to her and we’d be off to the races – that would certainly be the conventional route. But instead, Yanagi-kun reaffirms his interest, Yuki starts to question her mindset, and he reveals himself to be rather an interesting character in his own right. Taking extremely classic romcom tropes and twisting them enough to be intriguing is something Horimiya is exceptionally good at – one might even argue it’s the basis of the series’ success – and it’s nice to see that part has survived the transition to the screen.