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Interview: Horimiya Director Masashi Ishihama

Anime Corner Author

Recently, Anime Corner had the opportunity to interview the director of the “Horimiya” anime, Masashi Ishihama. In this interview, he talks about how he learned about Horimiya and the process involved in adapting the series.

The long-awaited adaptation of the Horimiya series has finally begun this season. The show has already won the hearts of many people with a rom-com theme that revolves around Hori and Miyamura.

The interview was conducted in Japanese and translated into English by Bushido Samurai, a member of our team. We hope you enjoy the interview!

First of all, we would like to ask what kind of impression you got when you first read Horimiya? Did you read it before being chosen as the director for the anime adaptation?

I did not know about “Horimiya” beforehand. I borrowed the first four volumes after accepting the request to be the director from the company. When I read it, I found it so interesting that I ended up buying all the volumes on the same day, from 1st to 13th volume. Every character is charming and I fell for the world.

Horimiya’s anime adaptation has been really anticipated by many romcom fans. What was your initial reaction when you were given the role of directing it?

Since it was my favourite genre, it made me very happy from the bottom of my heart. I remember undertaking this with a lean forward attitude.

After many years, Horimiya finally got a TV anime adaptation. Can you share some of the difficulties that you may have encountered while adapting the source material? Likewise, what did you enjoy most while working on this project?

There did not lie any difficulties. The first point that I was concerned about was the age difference; the source material’s serialization started in 2011, and the gap involves a great deal of change in the times there. The speed of information is different in the school life of the age when smartphones were not widespread than it is today. However, if I did try to fit it in the present world, it would no longer be “Horimiya” and it was obvious that it would lose the charm of the original story.

Therefore, it made me think that I would just have to visualize every single thing according to the original work. It made me think that I would not find anything difficult to make a decision every time. When I reached that point, I came to the conclusion, I said at the beginning, that there were no difficulties. You could say that “Horimiya” is a manga that is quite easy to adapt into visuals. Thanks to the intelligence of the original work’s team and the flexibility of the makers, the anime production has been operating very smoothly.

Thanks to Iizuka Haruko-san being assigned to be the character designer, I no longer have to control the “design” and I am allowed to feel satisfied with the “wonderfulness” of the screen whenever I look at pictures I receive. I really enjoy it. Just as much fun is the voice recording session. The cast are way too professional that almost no direction is required from our side. Each actor thinks over on their own to perform, making it a very enjoyable time.

Horimiya’s anime has produced a lot of positive feedback all over the world. It’s ranked high in the weekly Anime Corner poll as well as in many other places. Do you notice the attention of international fans, and how do you feel about the success of the series?

As soon as we made the first announcement for the Horimiya anime project, we received a large amount of reactions from people overseas, which surprised all of us here in our workplace. It made me realize for the first time that the source material was a monster-tier manga. It is easy to understand why a work that projects a strong sense of Japanese culture would be accepted, but I do not think that “Horimiya” had that much of a unique sense of Japanese culture, and it simply highlights how interesting the original manga was.

CloverWorks is doing a really good job with Horimiya’s anime adaptation. In particular, the colour tones and shadows chosen in the overall atmosphere were so warm and relaxing that fitted the mood perfectly. It’s like adding a new layer to the scene that complements the dialogue. What made you choose this kind of approach?

All the visual direction throughout “Horimiya” is an approach that brings all the impression of the manga directly into the anime intact. You can think of it as the direction, mentioned in the question, which has been used to put the manga in the anime, takes into account the flow of manga panels and the tempo at which the lines are read, as well as the time that readers take to read.

Screenshot from Horimiya anime.
©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project

The colors, backgrounds, and photography, which are all directly related to the visual, are all done within the company. It is amazing how well we operate in sync.

The theme songs were well received by international fans as well, but the opening theme, in particular, was talked about a lot because of its eye-catching visuals. It just looks really beautiful. Was there anything that inspired you to make it?

All of the visual sensations in the OP are born from the accumulation of the various images I see and the life I lead. It is not that I try to create something new, but there are images and spaces available somewhere. I suppose it’s likely to be based on movies and music videos, in particular.

To add to the previous question, we saw the characters and especially Miyamura being isolated in the opening. Was there a major message you wanted to convey with the sequence?

The more I listened to the OP song, the more it sounded like a song about the heart of Miyamura and nothing else.

Screenshot from Horimiya anime.
©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project

I wondered if I should give such a biased impression as the OP of “Horimiya”, but I decided that the image that would bring out the song the most would be Miyamura’s deepest thoughts, and that is how I ended up with that visual. I tried to visualize Miyamura’s feelings of being dragged through school life, unable to break away from everything.

A lot of fans wondered if the studio was working on adapting a fixed number of chapters per episode. Approximately, how many chapters do you think the anime could cover?

There are many episodes with roughly four events.

Since the anime is still on-going, is there anything in particular that you would like the fans to look forward to?

It is the feeling of a community warming up all at once. There are more characters to come. I hope you enjoy it, because the way they get closer feels refreshing. Now for the final episode, I want you to feel that this is where “Horimiya” will end.

The voice actors and actresses behind the characters do a great job with their assigned roles. Did you have any specific requests or recommendations for someone to voice a character?

I made some requests. However, I put an emphasis on the image that the two creators of the original work had. It is to my understanding that I wanted an “answer” in a sense. But the range of the image the two original creators had was very wide, which brought home to me how well-structured the characters were in the first place. Their acceptable range of voices were pretty wide.

Among the characters in Horimiya, do you have a favorite one? Is there one of the character’s qualities that you personally like?

I mainly like the male characters. If I have to give one name, it would be Ishikawa Toru.

Screenshot from Horimiya anime.
©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project

It felt tremendously refreshing to see him being able to build trust with Miyamura quickly without prejudice. It would be quite hard to create such a refreshing character.

If you were in Miyamura’s position, having permanent earrings and tattoos, would you hide them from others?

I would hide my tattoos. I would not hide the earrings.

Screenshot from Horimiya anime.
©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project

Horimiya is a romantic-comedy, which has been one of the most popular genres in the anime industry lately. What are your thoughts on this genre and its future in anime?

It is unfortunate to say, but I do not have the impression that it is the “most popular genre” in Japan, which makes me hope to see much more of them. That being said, I would hope not to see them being churned out just because the genre is selling well. I would be glad if there could be more explicit romcom anime in high quality.

Hori and Miyamura’s love story is so sweet and unique that the probability of it happening in real life is incredibly low. Does it make you wonder if it has actually happened to someone, or perhaps, do you know someone who actually experienced a love story similar to it?

I have never really wondered if it actually happened. I regard it as a man and a woman moving around in the mind of the creator, HERO-san, happened to end up like this. This is just my prediction.

Screenshot from Horimiya anime.
©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project

I believe that there are as many ways of being in love as there are stars, so I would not be surprised if there are couples who fit the description of Hori and Miyamura.

By watching the episodes on an official platform like Funimation, international fans support the anime. Other than that, are there any more ways for the overseas fans to show support?

There is no doubt that watching the anime a lot on the official platform is the most helpful way to support. As a creator of animation, even only words from fans overseas make me happy and help to move forward. It is also a huge support that you spread a lot of your words through social media.

To end this interview, is there anything you’d like to say to the overseas fans of Horimiya?

I really appreciate you all for the warm words. I am doing my best to produce the anime so that I won’t betray the feelings. I would like you to follow the anime until the end. I am convinced that you will finish it with a smile.

Screenshot from Horimiya anime.
©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project

With this, the interview comes to an end. We’re thankful to Masashi Ishihama for giving us the chance to have our questions answered!

The series set a new record for the most watched Romantic Comedy premiere on MyAnimeList. “Horimiya” also frequently ranks very high in the fan-voted poll conducted by Anime Corner every week.

Funimation has licensed “Horimiya” anime for official streaming, and international fans can use their platform to watch weekly broadcasts of new episodes on the same day as Japan.

North American publisher Yen Press has licensed the manga. You can hold it in print or digital through their website.

The key visual of Horimiya has been used as a thumbnail for this article. All other images used in this article are screenshots from the anime.

©HERO, Daisuke Hagiwara/SQUARE ENIX, “Horimiya” Project


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