Their (Our) Private Life: Horimiya

The opening sequence of Horimiya, a combined effort from series director Masashi Ishihama and Haruka Iizuka, is stylish and purposeful. It has a similar stylishness that the opening of the Ishihama-helmed Persona 5 anime adaptation had without a similar burden of the original source material. Characters are placed into boxes that don’t quite match up, or placed next to boxes and panels of things we don’t yet understand as an audience, but likely mean a lot to the person they’re placed beside.

Even when characters are in the same room, like the shot above of the two main characters (Kyouko Hori and Izumi Miyamura) with two side characters (Toru Ishikawa and Yuki Yoshikawa), none of the backgrounds, lighting, colors, or physical presence add up. They’re all in the same classroom, and same class, but don’t exist in the same space.

For a series that is all about the gap between one’s private and public life, this opening sequence is the perfect visual introduction.

Due to a similar focus on this gap, Horimya is most commonly compared to Kare Kano (His and Her Circumstances). For lack of a better term, I think Horimiya is a lot simpler and more intimate as a result.

Where Kare Kano focused on the upfront rivalry that Yukino Miyazawa has with Soichiro Arima, Hori’s perception of Miyamura lacks the same animosity and effort. Their classmates’ perception of who Hori is come from her genuine dedication to her schoolwork and natural attractiveness, but she isn’t actively trying to cultivate an image of perfection like Kare Kano‘s Miyazawa. When Miyamura stumbles upon Hori’s home life, Hori isn’t embarrassed that her perfect façade was cracked, she’s embarrassed that she failed to recognize Miyamura in the first place. And although there is a certain darkness that follows Miyamura (both visually in the series due to the direction and figuratively) keeping his piercings and tattoos hidden is more of a necessity due to school rules than an attempt to hide who he is. These aren’t secrets that either character are terrified of others’ discovering, but the natural way that they slide into the perception that others’ have of them at school is pragmatic (and in Miyamura’s case, a facet of his lack of self-worth).

The use of lighting in Horimiya, coupled with framing and the use of colored shadows that extend from Hori and Miyamura during key moments, there’s a lot going on with these two but it never seems forced. This is their private life and the casual intimacy of their relationship is already apparent at the end of the first episode, despite the lack of more traditional romance benchmarks that populate the majority of high school romance anime. Ishihama’s direction only adds to the intimate nature of their relationship on screen. Instead of wondering whether they’ll get together or how, we’re instead watching the private lives of two people casually merge together in a surprisingly realistic way.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in regards to my new broadcast job and my online existence in general. Within the frame of the camera, my life looks orderly and neat. The oddest things in my background are: a whiteboard with basic Korean verb conjugations organized by most-to-least used, a pencil drawing from my own drawing practice that I tacked up onto the wall, and Korean pop group Stray Kids memorabilia. These are all fairly curated. Nothing is going to appear in frame that I don’t want others to see (unless it’s a rare accident). Barring some sort of camera mishap, no one will know if the kitchen counter is covered in extra lighting equipment or that the computer rig itself takes up half of my living room area, with various cords already in an impossible snarl after just one week of use.

Similarly, this blog exists outside of my job, and frequently people don’t know that the Emily Rand who talks about League of Legends is the same person who blogs at Atelier Emily about Japanese cartoons. This is a purposeful separation, but not because these parts of my life are secret or meant to be hidden from each other. It’s just something I don’t mention because it doesn’t fit in that particular box. Someone who knows me intimately as a friend will know the reality of both of these boxes as well as what an idiot I am, or how I sometimes talk over people in a bad way, or my own massive self-esteem issues. Even writing about them here doesn’t cover the scope of who I am.

The other day, one of my friends shared a photograph of her life with her partner with the question of whether everyone else’s relationship is weird. The answer is almost always yes. Close relationships (platonic and romantic) are always “weird” to anyone not in that relationship with an intimacy that doesn’t translate to others. This, above all else, is what Horimiya understands.

One comment

  1. I think this article shed quite a bit of light on the directing of Horimiya that I hadn’t thought about, but I don’t feel that sold on it. I especially like the beginning ––– regarding the framing in the OP sequence. I haven’t been watching intently during OPs and EDs in recent seasons, so I did not pay much attention on that first screenshot, where all the main cast are misplaced despite being in the same classroom. I find that to be a nice touch, as the four did not seem like they would fit together in the beginning of the story. I also enjoyed reading how you compared Miyamura and Hori’s private, unseen life to your own. It certainly made me reflect not only on how messy my desk is (lol), but how my own compared to the outward image.

    In a different manner, I find that myself have two sides in their lives, the one that people see and the one that the self sees. People would probably comment on my passion towards hobbies and such, which are indeed part of the ideal self, yet I see myself more of the slob that ends up spending the weekend gaming and without any progress in anything that I have to do or actually want to try doing. I guess everybody’s like that somehow.

    However, I did not like the coloured silhouettes and white background as the second screenshot at all. Sure, I get that both their private lives are very different to what it might seem, but that doesn’t warrant such blatant imagery imo. It feels both unnatural and too obvious to be a nice hint of symbolism for my taste. Also, I think somehow the art of the characters make them stand out of the background scenery in a bad way, like they don’t belong, like that last screenshot.

    Maybe I’m getting too picky, or maybe it’s just because it’s one of my all time favourite manga back in secondary school that I want it to be absolutely perfect. My younger brother also commented it being great (and he started to read the manga himself:D), but I have reservations and am not prepared to call every part well executed or natural.

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