「嫌い嫌いも、ウラがある。」 (Kirai-girai mo, Ura ga aru.)
“It May Seem Like Hate”
It says something about how inexplicable Neverland is that Horimiya is only the second-most baffling adaptation of the season. They’re galaxies apart in terms of quality, of course, but the choices Ishihama-sensei is making really have me flummoxed. And I think that’s ultimately why Horimiya is going to be a disappointment on the whole. Really good to be sure and great at its best, maybe sneaking into the Top 10 depending on how the year plays out. But for a source material that had AOTY potential that counts as a disappointment for me.
There are many facets to Horimiya to be sure. And that’s the heart of the problem, given that 15 volumes (and that’s just the print version) are being shoehorned into 12 (or possibly 13 – I don’t think it much matters) episodes. Some parts of this series work better than others. If we were getting a more or less full adaptation that wouldn’t be such a big deal in context. But given that what we’re getting is basically a highlight reel, every misstep is magnified 10X over. Imagine getting a highlights package for Game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals, devoting half of it to guys shooting free throws, and leaving out Michael Jordan’s final shot.
What struck me watching this episode is, oddly, how much better Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge is at this sort of material than Horimiya. Why that series specifically? Maybe because there’s some similarity in the character designs, but mostly because that’s the ideal of what Horimiya tries to be in this mode. I knew it wasn’t all that good at it just from the source material, but when so much of the anime’s abbreviated run is wasted on it, the sting is really felt. Horimiya just isn’t that good as a school life comedy, frankly, but it’s a small enough part of the manga that it’s not a big problem. Not so the anime, based on what Ishihama has chosen to focus on.
I don’t dislike Shu, any more than I dislike any of the supporting cast. But he’s pretty vanilla, and introducing his sister one week from the end of the series is truly baffling (sorry to repeat but it’s the only word that fits). If hard choices have to be made to fit 15 volumes into 12 episodes, what could be more expendable than stuff like Shu’s sibling relationship and the whole Sawada subplot? They have no importance to the core story and aren’t that interesting to begin with.
My assumption on hearing Horimiya was going to be one cour was that Ishihama would focus on the relationship stuff. But in truth, he’s basically ignored that apart from some bad comic sidebars ever since they became a couple (or at least since they hooked up). He’s also largely ignored Kyouko’s family and home life, which I feared would happen but still mourn, as it’s much better than the school comedy. And then there’s Izumi’s emotional struggle and dark past, which has gotten a drop or two of oxygen but not nearly enough.
In short, then, I’m disappointed and there’s no point trying to sugarcoat it. I can never say how this show would have played for me if I had no experience with the manga, because I can’t know that. I imagine it would have worked pretty well on the whole, especially the first half-dozen eps or so before the real drift set in. But it’s hard to imagine anything from this episode would have made much of an impression, because even in a vacuum this is pretty flimsy material, if not unpleasant. And Horimiya can be so much better than that, which is why all this is such a shame.