Side note before I begin: today’s essay just so happened to coincide with the release of the final chapter of the Horimiya manga. Complete accident on my part, but a happy little accident nonetheless.
I don’t get the chance to talk about manga here as often as I should, and that’s mostly for good reasons. Most of the manga I read has either already been made into an anime like Kaguya-Sama or My Hero Academia, or I began reading it only for the anime to get announced a month later, like Jujutsu Kaisen or Record of Ragnarok. So far, I’ve only had the chance to review Chainsaw Man, only for the first part of the series to end a week after writing and an anime announced shortly after.
Despite that, I enjoy manga a lot, and I am desperately trying to cram more of it in my diet, and now is a perfect time to explore both the manga and anime of Horimiya. This small-time slice of life is currently cleaning up in the seasonal anime, running circles around bigger sequels like Slime Isekai and Quintissential Quintuplets, and even Re:Zero. This is no simple romcom.
I could go on at length about the appeal of Horimiya, and I did go into some depth on it in my review here. The characters are endearing, the stories are cliched yet charming, and its sense of humor is impeccable. However, I try to only make an anime the focus of an essay if I believe I can approach it from a different angle. What does this particular series do that others do not? Well, Horimiya excels as an adaptation.
When adapting one medium into another, large revisions are expected. Plot lines, characters, and entire fan bases can be lost when a book makes the jump to the cinema, but anime is more faithful to its source material, right? Not exactly, the anime that steers off the trail laid down by its manga is a tale as old as Fullmetal Alchemist, but screenwriters often encounter a different problem than outpacing their manga counterparts; not having enough manga to fill the gaps.
A manga chapter usually runs about 20 pages counting covers and inbetweens, while an anime runs for 24 minutes counting an opening and an ending. To fill a broadcast timeslot, an anime episode is going to have to adapt more than one chapter, or even create new material. Some anime cut the excess, to the chagrin of the manga’s fans, or add new scenes, to the chagrin of fans. Production committees have their work cut out for them when adapting a beloved piece of art.
Horimiya is heavy on dialogue and light on tangible action, so most chapters simple can’t fit the runtime of an anime episode. So when your series relies so heavily on conversation between characters and internal monologue, you could do something similar to Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, and adapt three or more chapters for a single episode. Taking self-contained chapters that were initially unrelated and stitching them together where they might be thematically fitting is a surprisingly effective strategy. It means that a single episode can be dramatic and emotional, silly and with low stakes, or pack in some meaningful character development, and it will be built in to the narrative.
Horimiya has adopted this strategy in its anime adaptation, and it is absolutely burning through chapters. The most recently aired Episode 8 reveals the beginning of Sengoku and Ayasaki’s relationship, which is the primary story in Chapter 70. At the beginning of the season, fans theorized commonly that the huge story moment in Chapter 37 would be reserved for the climax of the season. It was adapted in to Episode 7.
Characters have been cut, like Sota’s friend from school, Yuna, or gags that span across multiple chapters, like Miyamura being unable to swim in school due to it being his ‘time of the month’. The whole trip to Kyoto was skipped over, and it has not slowed down the series’ pace at all. The reason for this is clear to see, in retrospect.
As a manga, Horimiya sprints past the material that most romantic comedy anime spend their whole runtime on. It quickly wraps up the flirting and wayward glances and its two leads soon make things official in record time. After that, though? The series contentedly moves through its chapters, playing out different scenarios with different combinations of its varied cast of characters. The sense of urgency that pervaded its love story is gone, and has been replaced by an easy vibe, lackadaisically enjoying these people and their antics. It’s a sweet slice of life manga, with each chapter possessing the warmth and comfort of a honeyed cup of tea.
As an anime, that pace would seem glacially slow. They would be forced to plod through the story at maybe two chapters per episode, even though most of the chapters are unrelated to the one that comes immediately before or after it. So the writers had to adapt and pick which episodes would flow best together.
The anime’s handling of its source material has been controversial among fans of the manga. It’s natural that a popular manga receiving even minor changes could provoke backlash from its passionate fan base. The big question lies in whether or not it serves the story.
Personally, it’s executed superbly, and it doesn’t invalidate what the original did. In fact, one of the worst fates of a manga is to be outdone by its anime. If an anime adapts every scrap of material and does good by it, then there’s little reason left to read the manga. An anime has the advantages of color, voice acting, music, and motion to entice an audience, so an anime risks invalidating its source material by adapting it verbatim.
Besides, when looking at how a director, screenwriter, and studio turn a manga into an anime, we often ignore that it is a creative project in its own right. Creating a 1:1 translation from page to screen is creatively dead, and that’s ignoring the natural tendency to include artistic flourishes and stylistic choices. It also means that the two different pieces can be viewed individually and appreciated for their unique strengths and approaches to the same story.
True, a majority of the people who watch Horimiya will enjoy it and look no further, but those captivated by the story and the characters will go on to read the manga. When they do so, there will be a wealth of material to enjoy that’s shut off to people who move past a show once the credits roll. That’s a lot of the appeal of manga, that it feels like an intimate and tightly-knit community when talking with your fellow readers. It’s one thing when an anime can feel like an event that unites so many people, but there’s a lot to be said for the in-depth conversations you can have on smaller subreddits and forums.
Horimiya is a wonderful manga that takes a slow and methodical approach to showing how its characters behave in all kinds of situations with different people, plugging each of its characters into a scene like variables into a formula with its own unique answer. As an anime, it is a focused experience that delivers the biggest emotional beats from its source material in a concise and satisfying package. The two strive for different goals, and can be appreciated in completely different ways.
If you like the manga, that doesn’t mean that the scenes and stories that the anime cut cease to exist. And if you like the anime, that means that a treasure trove of fresh content is just waiting for you even after the show finishes airing. It’s no easy decision to cut material from a story, especially one with fans as passionate and vocal as they are here, but the fact of the matter is that for all their similarities, anime and manga are fundamentally different. When translating one medium into another, compromises have to be made to spare the integrity of the work as a whole.
A completely faithful adaptation would be a bloated disaster, and if you want your favorite manga to be a popular anime, then the only way to do that is concede that some cuts must be made. Like I mentioned at the start, this is going live the same day as the last chapter of the manga. Cheers to anyone following Hori-san and Miyamura-kun’s journey to its end, it has been fun. Even if it is over now, it is awesome to see how much attention the manga has received in the wake of its anime adaptation, and I wish the Horimiya fandom years of longevity ahead of it.
If you liked this essay, feel free to throw me a like, it means you’re willing to sign my petition for a Horimiya sequel titled 2 Hori 2 Miya. You could also follow the Otaku Exhibition to get post updates every time one goes live. You can even follow me on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku where I review every single type of Old Spice deodorant.