Horimiya – 01 (First Impressions) – Not Just Being Nice

What if there was a rom-com airing concurrently with Bottom-tier Character Tomozaki that dispenses with game metaphors and excessively stylized conceits, and was instead just the simple story of two seemingly different but fundamentally decent classmates meeting outside of school and organically becoming fond of each other’s company?

That, friends, is Horimiya, AKA Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, and I won’t mince words: I found it excellent. It also reminded me of the very first rom-com anime I ever watched, Gainax’s 1997 Kare Kano…not a bad thing at all. It is simply, earnestly written, beautifully animated, and just all around a sweet ol’ time. It’s shows like this that are why I watch anime.

The main couple consists of the popular Hori Kyouko and the class gloomlord Miyamura Izumi. Hori (Tomatsu Haruka) is too busy taking care of her little brother Souta and doing housework in her busy parent/s’ absence to hang out much with her friends, many of whom would be surprised by her utilitarian “domestic mode”.

However, they’d be even more surprised to learn that outside of school, Miyamura (Uchiyama Kouki) the lowly caterpillar becomes a beautiful pierced moth with frontman hair. Hori learns this when he helps Souta up after chasing a dog and falling. She also notices Miyamura’s other attractive features he hid so well at school.

The two have an almost immediate, wonderful, easy chemistry, and it’s so refreshing not to have to deal with either of them being in denial about this. Miyamura is great with Souta (who calls him “that cool dude”), and while Hori is initially a little freaked out to learn he’s her classmate, she can’t exactly complain about his “alter-ego” since she has one too.

Her initial impressions were way off the mark, and she quickly adjusts to who he really is: someone either so bold or so stupid he’ll lift his shirt up and show her his tats while she’s cooking dinner! They go with it, both happy they and only they get to see the other, realer side of one another—warts and all.

What’s also nice about Horimiya is how they don’t avoid each other at school, but just naturally start spending more time off to the side chatting with each other, without any thought to how it might look to their classmates. One of them, the purple-haired Yuki, has a crush on Hori, and is threatened by Miyamura’s sudden closeness with her.

How is that resolved? By Yuki approaching Miyamura, asking him about it, and being given the okay to ask Hori out at his leisure. Miyamura tells Yuki not to worry about him since he and Hori aren’t a “good match” and Hori is “just being nice” to him. The day Yuki decides to ask her out, Hori is out of the loop and not sure why Miyamura tries to separate from his usual spot at her side.

Miyamura picks Souta up from school so Hori can stay behind, and when she comes home, she wants to speak to Miyamura at once. Those things Miyamura said to Yuki about being a bad match and her only being nice? Yeah, those were really hurtful to her, and she tearfully demands to know if he really meant them.

Miyamura tells her he didn’t, but assumed he was dragging down her school rep with his gloomy boring aura, and so said what he thought Yuki wanted to hear. And that’s where he erred: making assumptions, just as she had about him before getting to know him. She tells him never to say such crap again, adding as she asks him who would wake her up when she fell asleep during a movie or eat his portion of dinner if he didn’t come around anymore?

Her flaring temper turns to actual pyrotechnics, but the sentiments behind them are clear and lovely: she’s become accustomed to their relationship and doesn’t want it to change anytime soon. Also, Yuki gets turned down, but turns to Miyamura for a shoulder to cry on. Just like that, he’s made another friend, but it will be hard to match the beautiful thing he and Hori have, which we’ll have the honor and pleasure of watching.

Owari no Seraph – 10

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A bunch of vampires go up against a bunch of humans this week, and in a show that I’ve felt for a while now has only eight or nine tenths of the budget it should, the seams were more visible than usual this week.

Showing everyone posing and looking menacing is all well and good, but once the action actually starts, much of it is slow and choppy, or simply not animated at all. The pans of still shots with moving scratches on either side is an old trick when you can’t animate everything you want, but they looked cheap.

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Since there’s a flashback to when Mika first proposes “doing something” about his and Yuu’s family escaping (something Yuu thinks is inconceivable, calling Mika a weirdo), we knew the reunion between the two brothers was imminent. However, several events delayed that…and worse, they kind of felt like stalling.

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After Yuu and Shinoa drop the corporal off at the hospital, Yuu hears that a unit of three Demon Moons are in trouble. Assuiming it’s Shiho, Yoichi and Mitsu, he ignores Guren’s standing orders to help them out. Shinoa follows, because like him, she cares about her new family.

Their friends turn out not to even need their help (while Yuu and Shinoa both save Shiho and Mitsu from attacks from behind, they were the ones who distracted them in the first place). But Yuu tells Shiho it’s not that he doesn’t trust them to carry their weight or survive their fights. It’s the fact that they’re family, and if he hears they’re in trouble, his first priority is to them.

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Helping them and ensuring they’re safe has not become as if not more important to him as killing vampires. But you can’t help but think one or more of his new family will lose their lives at some point, and it’s important not to fall into a cycle of love and despair; that’s no kind of life.

The more elite Demon Moons are having a little trouble with Ferid’s similarly elite squad, and Guren has trouble with the incredibly strong (and arrogant) Mikaela. Again, the battle is made more underwhelming thatn it should have been with the same technical problems I mentioned earlier. Guren resigns himself to the fact he’ll need to take two pills; I was left wishing the show had taken two pills.

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And while Mika, Ferid, and a lot of other vamps and humans spent a lot of this episode standing around talking about fighting rather than actually doing so, Mika decides not to give Guren twenty seconds for his pills to kick in, and stabs him in the chest.

Before he can land the killing blow, more humans arrive, and when Mika turns around and sees Yuu’s face, he freezes. Yuu stabs Mika in the heart with full force, but half a beat later, recognizes him. And just like that, childhood friends and adoptive brothers, reunited with blood and steel. Considering the casualties on both sides, I imagine a mutual retreat next week.

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Owari no Seraph – 09

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Owari no Seraph brings the action this week, starting with a gloriously ridiculous cold open in which a squadron of Vampire Apaches are taken out by a line of Demon Army archers, before two higher-ranking Vamps fly a C-130 into Shinjuku’s barrier wall, blasting a huge hole in the humans’ defense.

It looked for all the world like a suicide attack, but not only do the two co-pilots survive without a scratch, but they even carry on a casual, Joss Whedon-style dialogue, like it’s just another day at the office.

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Things are a bit tenser for our young Moon Demon Company members, as the war literally comes to them and doesn’t ask if they’re ready. Thankfully, they are, and we get to see the whole gang flying and slashing through the air in a brilliant sequence that captures the tense chaos. Unlike many action blockbusters, the relatively steady camera makes it pretty easy to see what’s actually going on, which I appreciated.

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As I said last week, the setting of all this fighting couldn’t be more gloomily appropriate: the ruins of Shinjuku are a constantly unsettling reminder of what’s already been lost and how little is left. Particularly striking is the shot of a school—once the site of silly clubs and laughter and columns of teammates chanting “Fight-o”—converted to a field hospital. Even if all the vampires were to drop dead, we’re not even sure humanity’s gene pool is diverse enough for the species to survive. And many humans will die before this new offensive is over.

I also liked the contrast between the urgency of Yuu & Co. with the relative calm of Guren and his immediate subordinates. They’re veterans who have seen it all, or close to it, and they seem a little more comfortable in their skins and confident in their abilities. Even when Guren spots Feris with a scope and Feris stares right back, it doesn’t faze him. He’s also on a first-name basis with the others, like the power-punching Mito.

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Like Guren, Feris is just kind of chilling as the underlings get valuable battle experience; ready to swoop in if there are any problems. Mika is with Feris, but soon goes off on his own. Feris’ insistence he drink someone’s blood takes Mika back to his first days as a baby vamp, during which Krul Tepes was trying to get him to do the same.

Mika refused a human boy’s blood, and knocked a cup of Krul’s own blood out of her hand…but the sound of that blood pouring and splattering on his face has a visceral effect, and in a moment of possible weakness, possible necessity, he finally digs into her arm. She’s very clear: Mika is her dog, and will always be her dog. In the present, he still carries vials of Kurl’s blood—no one else’s—and he has 10 days of it before he needs more, during which time he hopes to find Yuu.

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That makes Krul’s blood a drug that keeps Mika alive and not a reasonless demon. Turns out, it’s also drugs that, in a pinch, give the humans the edge they need to have a chance against higher-ranking vamps. Shinoa whips them out as casually as Bleach’s Kuchiki Rukia introduces the body-swapping Soul Candy to Ichigo.

In both cases, a fundamentally terrifying biological transformation is treated like taking your Flintstones vitamins. But that’s Shinoa for you; always keeping it light and breezy.

Then there’s the fact that she gives everyone, including Yuu, more than the maximum of two the human body can tolerate, almost assuring that when he’s in a tough spot, Yuu might get stupid and take more than two.

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There’s a foreboding to the truck driven by Corporal Nagai taking them to the front line, but that’s replaced when an Apache ambushes them. The team works together to save Nagai and destroy the chopper, but they end up separated when the street collapses and they fall into the subway below. Yuu is with Shinoa and the unconscious Nagai and head for the nearest base, while Mitsuba, Yoichi and Shihou head to the defense line where they’ll ideally meet up later.

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Meanwhile, as Mika is milling around, looking for Yuu, a cloud of dust is kicked up, and a detached vamp limb flies by his face. As the dust clears, we see Guren, ready to exterminate his next target. It’s kind of fitting that Yuu’s brothers, past and present, meet before Mika and Yuu, though I don’t see either defeating the other, nor do I see Yuu being brought up unless Yuu himself enters the fray.

However this goes, the buildup in the end, presented without music—just the falling rain and a cut to silence—was very effective. Guren v. Mika: Who ya got?

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