「せめて、この大空を。」 (Semete, Kono Ōzora o.)
“I Would Gift You the Sky”

Well, it’s over. And to some extent I’m not sure what I just watched. Maybe that’s not surprising, since Horimiya isn’t exactly a typical manga. It’s a long series based on a short series, and one which radically changes direction after a fairly early climactic moment (pun intended). But now that the anime is over, I can’t shake the feeling that it was an adaptation that looked at all that and just sort of punted. There doesn’t seem to have been much effort put into making this show a cohesive whole. And the question I find myself asking now that it’s ended is, am I glad it exists at all?

I’m going to use the buffet analogy again, but sorry – it fits. When you go to a big buffet (they call them “Viking Buffets” in Japan, for strange reasons that tie back to the old Imperial Hotel in Tokyo) you have a couple of options. You can try to eat as many different things as possible, and only a little of each. Or you can focus on what’s really good, and fill up on that. The advantage of the first approach is of course that you don’t “miss out”. But you also fill a bunch of your precious stomach space with food that’s not the best the buffet has to offer. If you limit yourself a little and focus on what’s really good, there’s no wasted space in your gut.

It’s pretty clear which approach Ishihama Masashi decided to take with this adaptation – for better or worse, and I would say mostly worse. Horimiya is indeed a series with a big spread of options, but Ishihama loaded up on too much dry chicken and stale bread and left the carving station and waffle iron sadly underutilized. What’s more, it’s like he went to the dessert station midway through and then went back for appetizers, then entrees, then back to dessert. If there was science behind this plan of attack, I have a hard time seeing it now that the check has been paid and the Alka-seltzers popped.

As for the finale itself, it wasn’t quite what I expected (which I guess is sort of fitting). I mean, there is a graduation in the manga but it’s the culmination of a lot of development. And it frankly feels like overkill after the events of last week, at least at 15 minutes plus. And there’s one particular two-chapter passage at the end that, after Episode 12, I was reasonably certain Ishihama-sensei was going to adapt this week. Wrong as usual, though – it, like everything else after graduation, may as well never have happened.

This is somewhat symptomatic of the larger issues with the adaptation, to be honest. Just like one could almost believe that Kyouko and Izumi never had sex based on the way it was ignored in the follow-up events (apart from one badly adapted passage with Souta), it feels like Izumi’s proposal last week never happened. The manga isn’t totally immune from this, but it’s not nearly as big an issue as with the anime. It seems like a very odd approach to adapting the material – but then, the choices involved in this series have me scratching my head more than not.

I would apply that to the characters as well. In effectively treating Horimiya as a school comedy (dry chicken) the anime has marginalized Kyouko’s family and especially Souta to the point where they disappear from the story for weeks at a time (and yes, Miya’s family does have some small presence in the manga too). Even the first part of this finale was a meandering ten minutes devoted to the side cast, and frankly it was a slog to get through. If you view Horimiya as a school comedy I suppose it makes sense to end on graduation, but I would argue that this is a pretty major misread of what Horimiya is as a series. Or an attempt to recast it based on what’s perceived to be commercially marketable (which is almost worse).

The best part of the finale was that it did at least end on Izumi’s perspective, and that’s as it should be if you’re going to focus on what the anime did. His character arc was the spine of the story much more than Hori’s, but the issue is that his emotional journey was too intermittently highlighted for the ending to have its theoretically possible impact. It was good, but it should have been more. And that, really, is about how I would describe this adaptation generally.

One interesting element is that the Hori-san to Miyamura-kun OVAs – different studio, director, and cast – are going to have two new episodes, the first in two years, releasing next month. The OVA was always a pretty unsatisfying take on the manga largely because it was so brief (only four episodes) but maybe it starts to look a little better in comparison now. I suspect the two new OVA eps are going to highlight some of the material the anime short-shrifted, so in a funny sense the TV series has helped to carve out a place for the OVAs in the Horimiya landscape.

I hate to end on a down note, because it’s not as if Horimiya wasn’t a very good show. It’s hard to ignore the unfulfilled potential when you know it’s there, but the TV series did some very good things. Ishihama is unquestionably a brilliant director and he delivered some signature moments, and the central relationship here is one of the more interesting anime romances we’ve seen in a long time. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t hope for more – a lot more – but what we got was still a good series intercut with moments of brilliance. I hoped for better, but anime certainly delivers a lot worse.

14 Comments

  1. The problem with Horimiya is it peaked midway through the manga, and after that it was pretty much monthly slice of life stories for nearly 5 years. The anime series cut through a lot of fluff. This meant a lot of the side characters and their stories got the short stick, but at least this meant most of the series’ focus remained on the main couple Horimiya. After a while, the manga series started to feel like it was going downhill and it became more focused on side characters who didn’t really matter much to the main couple.

    I’d argue that the anime is a solid adaptation, and that those who want to know more about the side characters can always go back to the manga to learn more about them. Sure, it sucks that we missed out on some chapters like the sports festival (which was only hinted in the credits scene) but as a light romcom series of a young teenage couple learning more about each other, Horimiya has been an endearing journey from start to finish.

    Fat Cat Lim
    1. I’m kinda in the same boat as Fat Cam Lim here with that I’m ok with the anime cutting out the fluff from the manga. I’m actually more upset with how the manga ended. Yes there were 3 chapters near the end I wished they would have adapted but I would argue that the manga should have explored that instead of of the 5 years of slice of life chapters that barely does anything to progress the story and characters. To be honest, I legit could not really tell you any more what happens after the early climax 😉 up until the final 4 chapters of the manga. I haven’t read HERO’s original web novel but I was feeling very empty seeing how the manga ended and it becoming 1 of favorite romance manga to becoming one with missed opportunity where I’m not sure I could really recommend someone reading it since it doesn’t add that much to the story other than the last 4 chapters.

      Denscafon
  2. I think what got me the most was the final credit scene. I was finally coming to terms with the fact that this was the adaptation that we were going to get – and then the credit scene teased us with all the great content we were missing out on. The rain scene especially was a missed opportunity to gain more from Hori’s point of view.

    I would have either preferred a slow burn that covered the manga closely and ended around the time he changed himself for her (and himself), or one that progressed faster but just focused on their relationship and family with the side characters just along for the ride. We received neither.

    I know two-cours would have been too much to ask, but if any work would benefit from having the space to breathe and develop organically it’s this one.

    7godeohs
  3. Having never seen the manga it definitely came off as a romcom to me. As well as a show that’s more about how a group of kids’ lived are intertwined rather than being about the main couple. With that in mind this was a show that I felt like warranted another 12 episodes. There were multiple characters whose days in the limelight I thought were interesting only to barely be seen again next episode

    Arche
  4. The more I watch, the more I’m approaching TV anime as just an advertisement for the source material and this is no different. If anything, this is a “gift” to the fans who stuck around to the end of the manga. Maybe even an apology for the OVA series. Yes, it should have been better, but “go read the manga” is the message I get off this. On a positive note, the OP/ED songs and animation gave off big Maison Ikkoku vibes to me. Normally I start skipping the OP/ED after a couple of views, but I’d watch these every episode. Earworm material.

    Keep Refrigerated
    1. That’s the thing though about this series in particular. I can’t even really say “go read the manga” other than the final 4 chapters so there’s a good 60 chapters where not much really happens imo. I do agree with you with the Maison Ikkoku vibes though with the OP/ED. Loved that series even though it’s ancient. Especially loved the sukisa ED haha

      Denscafon
      1. I thought Maison Ikkoku (the manga) was great. I’m rereading the collectors edition now.

        On the other hand, I thought the anime had pacing problems. The manga chapters were too short to be made into one anime episode so I thought it was too slow. (Too many slow pans with only background music.) The multi-chapter arcs were much better animated.

        Bakapooru
    2. Horimiya anime is a gift. The series ended and the sales boost is finite

      On the other hand, Yuru Camp is on-going. If the second season boosted sales, a third season could be made because there is still more material..

      Except for the very most popular source material, anime is just an advertisement to sell more light novels and tankouban. Sports anime are the worse culprits.

      Bakapooru
  5. The ending made me sad because of what they did to my girl Kono Sakura.

    She really deserved a happy ending. That one Yuki episode really made me unapologetically hate her to the core.

    Henrietta Brix
  6. Well, I will take HoriMiya with all its flaws over umpteenth “half dozen girls chase one guy for 26 eps or more and nothing really decisive happens” romcom.

    ewok40k
  7. Overall even if the series didn’t meet expectations -for all the good reasons described- it was still a good-to-great series for me.

    I did feel the drag of the latter part of the series, and there are plenty of incomprehensible plot priorities that even an anime-only audience that I am will notice.

    But to miss so many aspects and still be decently viewed? That’s saying something of the content material and character depth underneath, and I am overall grateful to have come across this series.

    tsirrus
  8. this episode capped it off nicely. I’d say it was worth it. Sure we missed a bunch of stuff, but most of the time it was enjoyable.

    Also I couldn’t get over how this show seemed to speak to me directly and made me feel very retrospective. Any show that can reach me on a personal level like that is something special.

    sealouse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *