「難しいけど、無理じゃない。」 (Muzukashīkedo, muri janai.)
“It’s Difficult, But Not Impossible”
This was a nice return to form for Horimiya after what have frankly been a couple of pretty off-form weeks, where the rushed pacing has finally exerted its toll. This wasn’t a perfect episode by any means but a damn good one. And while there were some awkward and difficult moments, for the most part I think it’s because they’re written that way – they’re supposed to be awkward and difficult. That’s the sort of story Horimiya is, though it isn’t always as obvious as it was this week.
One thing that strikes me in watching this episode is that Horimiya has the time to delve onto the minutiae of a relationship specifically because it confirms the relationship so early in the narrative. That’s one of the things I like about it, though these kinds of microscopically-detailed chapters seem to drive some manga readers crazy. And to its credit, what it shows us isn’t always pretty. In point of fact Kyouko can be a very unlikeable person, which we sometimes see when the show focuses on her interactions with Izumi. A lot of series would shy away from letting us see that but Horimiya doesn’t, for (I would argue) better or worse.
As we’ve seen hinted at Hori-san is definitely into what might be called S & M if one was so inclined. It’s mostly played for comic effect but it’s also clear that Izumi is a bit freaked out by it (as most generally mild-mannered 17 year-old boys would be), to the point where he approaches Kyousuke for advice about it (draw your own conclusions about what this says about his family situation). It’s a quirk of her character to be sure, though mostly a benign one so far. Less benign is her possessiveness and her proclivity to lash out at Izumi-kun – sometimes violently – over stuff that isn’t his fault. That too is mostly played for comic effect but it’s not entirely harmless, though I sometimes debate how HERO wants us to feel about that side of her personality.
It can be argued to be cruel for Hori to be so into these things given the virtual PTSD Miya has over his adolescent years, but in her defense, he hasn’t shared that history with her. She’s started to suspect it though, as pieces of his former life float into their path like driftwood. It’s pretty self-evident that Izumi is a more conventionally sympathetic figure than Kyouko – more likeable, frankly. But it becomes ever more evident as Horimiya progresses that it’s Izumi who’s really the protagonist of the series in the truest sense – it’s his psychological journey that forms the spine of the narrative.
That driftwood this week comes in the form of three of Izumi’s tormentors from middle school. Most important among them is Tanihara Makio (Chiba Shouya), who’s the least at ease with the tone of the conversation during their chance meeting with HoriMiya on the street. This is a very uncomfortable scene, as Izumi silently stands by as the bullies do what bullies do, until Izumi comes to his rescue. This is a complicated situation for many reasons. It’s uncomfortable to watch (or be) a guy get bailed out of a situation like this by a girl, but should it be? The fact is Izumi has seen enough of the dark side to be glad to have someone willing to do that for him. And as we know, he has a dangerous temper, and is justified in being anxious about seeing it unleashed.
Tanihara-kun’s introduction is interestingly handled. His entire interaction with Izumi is altered by the revelation about him which we don’t learn until after its almost over – to the point where his scenes don’t really work until we know the truth. Is that a mistake in withholding that information from us, or good writing? I don’t think one can dismiss the trauma something like this can inflict on a kid. To have caused the death of the school’s rabbits through thoughtlessness, then compounded the sin by blaming it on a bullied classmate… If one isn’t fundamentally a terrible person (as I don’t think Tanihara-kun is) that would be a very scarring thing to have bottled up inside you.
In the end, all this – and his interaction with the Hori-smitten Mizouchi Taiki (Ishiya Haruki) – is illustrative of how much Miyamura has grown as a person. Having spent his life “outside”, Izumi has become someone capable of great empathy. He’s learned the right lessons from his pain – but it’s worth noting that this has been a very close shave for him. If he hadn’t more or less by chance been given the opportunity to let other people into his life and discovered that he liked being connected, he might have retreated ever-further and the outside might have gotten smaller and smaller. For all her foibles Kyouko was the key to his salvation, and I think that’s one reason why Izumi seeems to cheerfully accepts her faults.