If the first episode of Horimiya can be called anything, it’s fast-paced. Maybe even rushed, if you’re someone who hasn’t read the manga series or the original webcomic. Don’t let that scare you away: it’s largely an impressive start to what may become the best romance of the season.
To quickly recap the story, Hori is a popular girl at her high school, while Izumi seems to be a bespectacled brainiac. In reality, neither of them are who they seem: Hori’s parents are never home, leaving her to take care of her little brother with zero time to socialize. Izumi, shockingly, is not only terrible at schoolwork, but is covered in piercings and tattoos beneath his (always) long-sleeved school uniform. The two discover each other’s secrets, and quickly become friends… and, maybe, something more.
Still ongoing in Square Enix’s GFantasy Magazine, Horimiya (or Hori-san and Miyamura-kun) turns ten this year, and an anime series seems a fitting reward to its continued success. Artist Daisuke Hagiwara and writer HERO stumbled into plenty of fame, with volumes of the series continuously placing highly on the Oricon manga charts upon release. An OVA series was released with only four brief episodes, the first in 2012 and finally concluding in 2018.
Fans wanted more: a complete series more in line with the original art seen in the manga. With CloverWorks at the helm (Darling in the Franxx, The Promised Neverland), the quality of the animation was never in question. It’s smooth and consistent, a treat for the eyes, and easy to appreciate even in the first sixty seconds. Not a frame is out of place; in a particular chase scene halfway through the episode, we really get to see the animators flex their muscles and go above and beyond for a simple romance series.
Despite the comedy presence here, it’s easy for viewers to pick up on the undercurrent of earnestness. Horimiya deals with the burden of having to fit into a box, something clearly indicative of Japanese youth culture, but something every person can relate to on some level. All of us wear different faces, whether we’re at school, or work, or near family or friends, and at some point, that responsibility to keep our identities separate can wear on us. Especially when we aren’t allowed to be honest with those around us.
What Hori and Izumi find in each other is a place to rest and breathe. In only one episode, Horimiya manages to convey this masterfully through the pair’s instant chemistry. They also display that strange and all-encompassing possessiveness we all felt in our first relationship: the fear that someone will come along and steal those first moments of ‘hey, you get me.’ This young friendship and blooming feelings they have for each other is so effortless. But effortless love doesn’t make a story, and human beings are very good at screwing things up. In Horimiya, those screw-ups feel genuine, and not written as stepping stones to the greater plot.
The relationship between these characters is cathartic and addictive, with the themes of self-doubt and societal pressure too familiar to ignore. The odd CGI ending animation aside (it’s actually grown on me), waiting for episodes each week will be a highlight. There’s no reason not to believe that Horimiya won’t continue to knock it out of the park.