On the surface, Horimiya is a finely polished anime—Glistening character art, bright lighting, realistic backgrounds, glittery visual effects. Every voice actor's suited their character, and their performances are convincing. Both the opening and ending credits are slickly animated with the utmost care and talent. The original soundtrack is average, but it fits every scene. Though I was immediately drawn to this anime for its impressive technical qualities, they weren’t good enough to overlook the subpar writing.
Beneath the superficial presentation, Horimiya is a computer-generated romantic comedy story that thinks in cliches: It merges tropes from the mediocre rom-com anime with the worst parts of sappy
shoujo dramas. I should start by saying, I have never read the manga and this subpar anime didn't convince me I should.
Chances are you've heard this premise before: A male high school student with no friends meets a girl through a chance encounter. She's popular at school; still, she works hard to take care of her family, and she doesn't have time to socialize: The pair bond over their secretive lives. Despite his edgy appearance, the girl does not judge the boy. She encourages him to come out of his shell and find friends. In return, he does everything within his capability to make her happy. While it is a bog-standard plot, Horimiya was my kind of show. It had a simplistic trajectory: Make progress on Hori and Miyamura’s first love, tackle sexual awakenings, develop the side characters, and develop the themes of self-acceptance. That’s not quite how it went. Instead, they rushed through the story at a breakneck pace while repeating identical jokes and throwing in endless cliches. Fake dating scenarios, love triangles, perpetually pissed off heroines, and a tidal wave of misunderstandings.
Even though the premise was simple, I liked seeing Hori and Miyamura together. Their relationship felt genuine; beginning as playful friends who got along despite their differences. Miyamura was a cipher at first—Quiet and introverted, he does not like school, cliques, and social requirements. He spoke very little about his personal life and he stood out from every other generic character design. Simply looking at him raises questions: Why does he have tattoos, nine piercings, and such long hair? All of these questions are answered in a very cut and dry manner. About two minutes of each episode is saved for flashbacks to his dark past. His backstories are presented with washed-out colors, quiet background sound, and darkened backgrounds to highlight his depressed state of mind. The solid presentation makes his melodramatic past seem more interesting than it is. With Hori's help, he overcomes his trauma, depression, and isolation (rather quickly). Miyamura's most significant obstacle was his inability to say how he truly felt. Characters joke about it because they reference how stereotypical his behavior is. If your story makes fun of a genre cliche, then repeatedly uses it, you are not subverting anything. The story is aware it is annoying and it does not care.
Miyamura is a respectful guy; he's not possessive of Hori. He does everything she asks, and then some. When his friend Toru asked him for permission to date Hori, he said 'it's her choice' because he's a decent person. Most importantly, he had plausible reasons for falling in love with her. His first reason was, "She doesn't judge people based on looks." She embraced him even though society frowns up students with long hair, piercings, and tattoos. In reality, kids would be lining up to be friends with someone like him—but we need anime high school drama logic! So let's say being Cool makes him Uncool. Hori's classmates made fun of her for dating Miyamura since he's so uncool. Though she never let their words bother her. She accepted him, which made his high school experience better. He's the perfect guy for her. Yet in love stories, there's a problem if one of the partners is a little too perfect.
Miyamura does anything he can to make Hori happy, even at his own expense. Though the story frames his selflessness as something good, his dedication strips him of individuality and all intriguing aspects. Such as to prevent Hori from getting teased, he cut his hair and stopped wearing his piercings because people looked down on him for them. However, Hori never needed help. I hate how the show frames his edgy appearance as a problem he must fix to have a good relationship. Part of what made this show so appealing was Miyamura's distinct appearance from generic high-school anime protagonists. As we found out, that amounted to little more than a marketing gimmick. In the first few episodes, it pitched itself as an emotional portrayal of bullying and depression, but those themes were bait. When it comes down to it, this show doesn’t give a rat’s ass about “Not judging people by their appearance.” When Miyamura tells his friends about people talking behind his back, they tell him to man up—in a show about bullying that we’re meant to take seriously.
The only problems in their relationship that weren't Hori's fault were caused by contrivances. Miyamura's phone dies for five days, so Hori goes into panic mode and assumes the worst. The grand reunion is played up with dramatic slow motion, loud, emotional music, but it rings hollow. It's meant to feel like they've been apart for a long time, but to us, it was only five minutes. What should've been a significant turning point for their relationship felt inconsequential. Alone, this one contrived moment isn't a big deal; however, it is a persistent problem with the anime. The pacing issues are more noticeable the longer the show drags on. However, no amount of adaptation magic could've saved Hori from being an awful person. She treats Miyamura like sewage water—yet no one ever meaningfully criticizes her, so she is never redeemed! No matter what Miyamura does, she’ll yell at him, whack him, or get silently pissed off.
Girls compliment him? WHACK!
She's feeling nervous? WHACK!
He compliments her? WHACK!
There's no winning with her. She's like every bad shoujo author's idea of a strong female character. Making your heroine hit and berate her boyfriend totally makes her a girl boss. These 'issues' only got worse the longer they dated. First, she became possessive, then jealous, angry, and creepy. Mind you, Hori's short temper is not a character flaw. No, it's merely a sign of her love! Because this is how sane people act when they're in love, right? Hori could work on solving her anxiety and jealousy by communicating with her boyfriend. Or better yet, she could confide in her parents, who occupy background space for no reason. Her little brother acts as a bridge between the two when they're having one of their misunderstandings. When Hori finally expresses why she is upset about Miyamura getting attention from other girls, it is revealed to be all in her imagination! If they were able, to be honest, then these misunderstandings would stop. But we can't have that. We need Hori to be jealous because that's one of her three jokes! If I remember this show three months from now, it will be for those God damn misunderstandings.
Relationships are about compromise. Loving someone requires giving and taking. Hori takes, Miyamura gives. Some relationships are acceptable this way, but this one is toxic. Miyamura is the glue that keeps them together because he's always patient and submissive. When Hori asks him to act dominant by berating and hitting her, he tries. Expectedly it didn't work, but it's not just played off as a joke. Hori asked him to be dominant, and she always gets what she wants. This is the level of humor in the second half of the show. She constantly asks Miyamura to hit her and insult her. He says no, and that he's not into that—yet she continues to pester him! I would've ghosted her at this point, but he is perfect; therefore, he mustn't reject his queen. He even tries S&M it for her sake, but it makes him uncomfortable. Even stranger, they do their S&M shit in public. Their classmates just watch it happen and say "Wow Miyamura is so cool..." for calling his girlfriend a bitch. What kind of bizarre alternate reality is this writer living in? Still, Hori keeps asking him. If you're a masochist, and your partner isn't a sadist, don't force them to be one! To make her happy, he ignores his discomfort to berate and slap her. The writer must've assumed S&M just meant consensually abusing your partner in broad daylight. No, that is not how it works, nor is it good humor.
Miyamura confides in Hori's father, saying he feels uncomfortable with the S&M dynamic and asks for help. Finally, he spoke his mind! Hori's father tells her how Miyamura feels and to be considerate of her boyfriend's feelings. I felt blessed; finally, the show listened to my cries: Please stop being boring! You'd assume this would be enough to get through to her… but no, she responds with, "Stop blabbing about stupid crap and help me out with the chores." This could've been a problem they resolved to strengthen their relationship, but no, it is played off for humor. I knew for certain Hori wouldn't get any worse than this. Right?
Wrong. It's time to address the worst joke. Miyamura expresses attraction and considers dating other guys; it's apparent he's bisexual. That's cool! Bisexual people are great partners... though Hori would disagree. At the slightest implication that Miyamura is bisexual, Hori says, "Gross," with a nauseated expression. A little bromance? "Gross." To get the joke, we have to understand it from the way she does, and that is to believe it's gross. Very cool, girl boss.
Toru's entire character encapsulates this joke. He was in love with Hori, but he got turned down in the first episode. Afterward, he stuck around to support Miyamura. The thing is, he's into guys too! He'll call a guy attractive, then everyone will go, "Whaaaaat?" How quirky! I swear some of his dialogue was ripped straight out of a BL manga. This isn't just a Hori thing. Random extras act disgusted when they see Toru being friendly with Miyamura. They tease romance with full intention of never making it happen because it's bait. So what's the point of the joke? There is none—the show tries to have its bisexual cake and eat it too.
Every supporting character can be placed in at least one of three categories: 1. Nice on the outside, mean on the inside. 2. Constantly acts happy to avoid burdening others. 3. Too dumb to understand what's happening. Although some of them get a few seconds of characterization, it is skipped for the sake of dramatic romance. Ultimately none of their side plots mattered. They're simply a diversion from the primary couple, who could use more screen time because the anime skims through dozens in the blink of an eye. You probably won't remember all of their names, but thankfully their candy-colored hair makes it easy to tell them apart.
Hori's friend, Yoshikawa, falls into all three. Her character flaw is that she has trouble communicating. She acts sweet to make everyone around her happy, but she actually does it because she's a spiteful person underneath. Like most of the cast, she narrates her thoughts and puts herself down because she lacks self-worth for unknown reasons. She hides her emotions for the sake of others to not be a bother. Aside from Very Original character writing, this doesn't make her unique. Everyone in the show is terrible at communicating—not because this is true to actual high school students, but because it's repetitive writing. It's never a mystery what a character is thinking, and if you can't tell, the directing makes it even simpler.
When they don't know how to communicate the characters' thoughts, they just put a text box on-screen. Adapting a manga involves more than copying and pasting panels—you creatively develop ways to show emotions through body language, music, camera angles, and editing. The extent of Horimiya's visual storytelling is by focusing on a character, slow motion, changing the backdrop to a white wall, and adding a colorful shadow. The first time, it was unique. It conveyed Hori and Miyamura's thoughts. Even though they were evident without the sudden art style change. Then they kept doing it. Eventually, it would happen five times per episode for each side character. It lost its effect right away and became forced. There are numerous more ways to convey the character's thoughts without recycling this mindless visual effect. It just made me roll my eyes. Before it felt personal like I intimately knew who these people were. But then it happened again. Then again. And before I knew it, every irrelevant character had their little introspective moment and I realized I didn't know these people at all. By the end I still had big questions, even about the main characters, for one—why does Miyamura continue to date Hori even though she's a toxic asshole?
Nearly everyone has said Horimiya is a masterclass romance, that it is the anime of the season. All I saw was a subpar, run-of-the-mill anime weighed down by superfluous characters, annoying misunderstandings, rushed pacing, and a viscerally unlikable heroine. After sprinting past over a hundred chapters, the story screeches to a halt at the thirteenth episode with a tearjerker ending. I enjoy watching shamelessly corny love stories that make me tear up with joy. But I don't like anime that are so cliche that they do the tearing up for me. If you're new to anime, a lover of romcoms, and have a high tolerance for cliches, you'll get a kick out of this. To everyone else, there are much better choices than Horimiya.
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Synonyms: Hori-san and Miyamura-kun
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jan 10, 2021 to Apr 4, 2021
Premiered: Winter 2021
Broadcast: Sundays at 00:30 (JST)
Producers: Aniplex, Square Enix, Mainichi Broadcasting System, Movic, Kanetsu Investment, My Theater D.D., Global Solutions, Mirai-Kojo
Duration: 23 min. per ep.
Rating: PG-13 - Teens 13 or older
Score: 8.201 (scored by 680956680,956 users)
1 indicates a weighted score.
2 based on the top anime page. Please note that 'Not yet aired' and 'R18+' titles are excluded.
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