「これまでも、そしてこれからも」 (Kore Made mo, Soshite Kore Kara mo.)
“Hitherto, and Forevermore”
For rushed adaptations.
From CloverWorks, especially.
This finale stands as a good microcosm for Horimiya as an adaptation – except that it’s not a finale, as there will indeed be a 13th episode next week. I have a pretty strong suspicion of what that will be, which would explain the very “finale” feeling of this penultimate episode. This was everything that makes Horimiya the anime so rewarding and maddening – too much crammed into too little space, gorgeous imagery that’s used symbolically as well as aesthetically, isolated moments of brilliance surrounded by some that are uncomfortably close to mediocre. You take the bitter with the sweet.
I won’t go into what Episode 13 will probably be, but for the sake of this post I’ll continue under the assumption that this was the series finale for all intents and purposes. If so, Ishihama-sensei did pretty much what he’s done for the entire series. And there are two main problems with this for me as a fan of Horimiya. First, trying to cover as many characters and storylines as possible in too little time rather than distill the story down to its essence is IMHO the wrong strategy. And second, the ones he did choose to leave out or de-emphasize are better than some of the ones he highlighted.
For me, the stuff with Kyouko’s family is almost always more effective than the school stuff (especially the comedy). All of the Hori family are great characters, and that can’t be said for all of the Hori classmates. I think you pretty much have to include the Yuki-Tooru subplot, because they’re first among equals on the school side. I don’t find them hugely compelling but they are the most important supporting characters outside the Hori circle. So putting some focus on them here makes sense, and while it needed more context (Yashiro plays as a totally left-field development) it has some nice moments. Trying to make that jump from friends to lovers – especially at 17 or 18 – is incredibly awkward, as this ep shows very effectively.
The issue is that Ishihama does here what he’s done for the whole series. Rather than focus on the best, he tries to include literally everything (including a character, Yuuna, whose arc has been totally omitted up to now). I don’t think this ep really needed anything except the Hori house, the HoriMiya relationship moments, and a short sidebar for Tooru and Yuki. If that had been the structure all of those elements could have gotten a better treatment than they received. Again, the adaptation in microcosm – good, but not all it could have been.
As a result of this Viking buffet approach, we get isolated moments like Akane offering to buy Yuki’s onee-san contacts which just seem very random and weird. The best of these was Sakura’s protestation that she doesn’t celebrate Christmas because she’s a Buddhist, which sums up her lot with sad eloquence – very few Japanese have any interest in Christmas as a religious holiday, but the social aspects (especially for young singles) are a 900-pound gorilla. It’s a weak excuse, but what else is she going to say when the Prez says what he did? Poor Sakura – she absolutely gets the short end of the plot stick.
The last part of the episode is the best, for obvious reasons. It is sad to see Yuuna dropped in now in such a perfunctory way, because she’s both more interesting and more important than most of the high school crew in the manga. But apart from that this is all good stuff. The family’s interaction with Izumi is always much funnier than the school comedy, and I love watching this dynamic play out. It’s very natural, and I think captures the essential nature of Horimiya better than any other part of the narrative. That, and the HoriMiya bonding moments of course.
This is Ishihama at his best, really. The snow motif, the way he uses the streetlights to illuminate Izumi and Kyouko – it’s gorgeous and it creates the perfect atmosphere for their conversation. My favorite part of this dialogue is Hori-san basically admitting that she’s high-maintenance and expressing her gratitude for Miya-kun accepting her as she is. Kyouko can be a difficult person but she has self-awareness, and that’s what allows her to grow into this relationship. To the point, in fact, where she accepts Izumi’s marriage proposal. A proposal from a high schooler on Christmas Eve has to be taken with a pound of salt, but in the context of the story it feels very believable.
So now we move on to the real ending, and it’s going to be interesting to see just what direction Ishihama-sensei decides to take with it. He’s probably tipped his hand with this episode, but this adaptation has surprised me before. The likely finale would have a lot more impact if the buildup had focused more on Izumi and Kyouko, whose relationship is considerably more complicated than what the anime has chosen to show us. But moments like the Shrine scene on New Years still connect because abridged or no, this is one of the most interesting romances you’ll see in anime.