Series Review – Horimiya (2021)

The premier slice-of-life anime of Winter 2021, Horimiya, captivated anime fans with its down-to-earth portrayal of high-school life. The show refuses to shy away from topics anyone who has gone through high school can relate to.

Based on the web manga Hori-san to Miyamura-kun written, and illustrated by Hiroki Adachi (under the pseudonym HERO), and the manga adapted by Daisuke Hagiwara, Horimiya follows high schoolers Kyoko Hori and Izumi Miyamura. After Miyamura saves her bother, the two discover who they are outside of school and begin spending increasingly more time with each other. Along the way, Miyamura is introduced to Hori’s circle of friends and builds bonds that will last him the rest of high school, allowing him to break out of the shy shell he hid within for so much of his school life.

Izumi Miyamura headbutting Kakeru Sengoku in episode 2, “You Wear More Than One Face”

While the show is named after Hori and Miyamura, it is really about the ensemble cast, with full episodes focusing on the other characters, sometimes rarely featuring the premier couple. Yuki Yoshikawa and Tooru Ishikawa spend multiple episodes figuring out what their personal relationship is without Hori and Miyamura, attempting to adjust to the new status quo, while figuring out whether they want to push it further. The members of the student council, Kakeru Sengoku, Remi Ayasaki and Sakura Kono, each discover who they are outside of their small club and realize how important their larger friend group is. To be fair, Kakeru was kind of forced into becoming friends with Miyamura and Ishikawa, but Remi and Sakura did actively push themselves into talking with the rest of the main cast. Horimiya is able to turn characters from unlikable to endearing within the span of only a few episodes.

Seeing multiple characters deal with their romantic feelings for each other, with only a couple relationships actually working out, was an exciting change to what I’m used to in slice-of-life anime. The love triangle between Tooru, Yuki and Sakura is interesting, not because we want to know who Tooru ends up with, but because we don’t want their friendship to be ruined. Yuki’s confliction, with her trying to put aside her own feelings for Sakura and Ishikawa, is heart-breaking to watch. The way Adachi, along with the anime’s writer Takao Yoshioka (Your Lie in April, Elfen Lied), wrote these characters is incredibly engaging.

Yuki Yoshikawa and Tooru Ishikawa apologizing for spilling a drink on Sakura Kono in episode 7, “You’re Here, I’m Here”

Even secondary characters receive significant development. One of the best examples of this is how much Makio Tanihara changes throughout the show. Tanihara is first introduced in a flashback, showing him bullying Miyamura in middle school, likely being one of the catalysts that led to Miyamura feeling so alone constantly. This all changes when he reconnects with Miyamura in high school, seeing not just how much he has changed, but that everything he had done to him in middle school was wrong. While he can never make up for his harsh attitude when he was younger, he tries his best to be better in their encounters afterwards.

Every character receives some sort of development, whether it spans the entire series or just a single episode. No matter how much time is devoted to them, each character’s story feels impactful. The simplicity of the art style and animation only makes the quality of the writing stand out more. CloverWorks (Millionaire Detective, The Promised Neverland) did a fantastic job adapting this series.

For the most part the English dub, ADR (automated dialogue replacement) directed by Caitlin Glass (Fruits Basket, The Day I Became a God), with Shawn Gann (Fruits Basket, Appare-Ranman!) as the assistant ADR director and Jeramey Kraatz (Fruits Basket, Millionaire Detective) and Jessica Sluys (Kaguya-sama: Love is War) as the script writers, was excellent. Newcomer Marisa Duran definitely struggled in the first couple of episodes of the show to fully express Hori’s personality through her performance, but by the end of the show, her voice became synonymous with Hori for me. Alejandro Saab played off of Duran’s performance perfectly as Miyamura, being able to capture both Miyamura’s shyness and exasperation at social events throughout the series. The whole cast did an excellent job making their characters feel real despite the over-exaggeration that is expected of an anime series. The two members of the cast that most excelled at this, however, were Anairis Quinones as Yoshikawa and Zeno Robinson as Ishikawa. The chemistry these two had throughout the show’s run was palpable, and I cannot imagine their characters voiced by anyone else.

Hori and Miyamura hanging out at Hori’s house in episode 4, “Everybody Loves Somebody”

Probably the biggest surprise though was hearing Johnny Yong Bosch as Akane Yanegi, primarily because I didn’t hear any of his other characters in his performance. This is especially astonishing considering how long Bosch has been dubbing anime. However, he is not the only incredible talent involved in the dub, with Belshebar Rusape Jr. (Kakeru), Jalitza Delgado (Remi), Celeste Perez (Sakura), Y. Chang (Shu Iura) and Bill Butts (Kyosuke Hori) all delivering equally memorable performances as well. I am excited to hear them in whatever project they are involved in next!

Horimiya was such a joy of a show to watch every Saturday and there isn’t any other slice-of-life series quite like it. While I would have liked more, one season was certainly enough to tell every character’s story. I will definitely be checking out the manga soon. You can watch the entirety of Horimiya subbed and dubbed on Funimation!

Rating: 9.5/10

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