Even without watching many romance anime, many anime fans are familiar with the tropes that appear in them again and again: overly shy main characters, a stereotypically submissive heroine with an extremely dominant hero, coincidental falling on top of each other, dramatic confession scenes, and painstakingly slow romantic developments. Usage of these far-from-realistic tropes really hasn’t slowed down since their hit in 2000’s shoujo manga, and personally, I strayed away from watching romance anime for this reason.
Creators use these plot devices in order to tell the ideal love story – that is, a story with the purest characters in the most perfect situations with the most perfect timing. Shows like this serve as a great escape from reality, but this also means that they are not made to be realistic. Horimiya is a breath of fresh air in that aspect, and avoids many of the clichés we often find in its genre. Let’s take a look at everything that makes it arguably the most realistic romance anime of all time.
Realistic Complex Characters
One of the most original qualities of the Horimiya anime is that its characters are genuinely realistic. There’s no filthy rich princesses, violently generic tsunderes, cheesy overly dominant males, or characters that are (literally) socially inept. Because let alone world-class prodigies, how many people do we know in real life that overreact at the simple touch of the opposite gender? None of the characters in this show can be described with any one word, and have many complex traits that make them just like your everyday high school students. Miyamura as an example can be awkward at times, but he is much more than your one-dimensional shy and quiet character. He has sides of him that are funny, romantic, playful, and even violent. The same goes for Hori, who can be the most precious and feminine girl one minute, and binge 5 horror movies straight in the next.
The most realistic character in my opinion is actually Remi Ayasaki. From being the useless student council mascot, to sticking her nose in drama, to showing love and support to her less-attractive best friend, she possesses many traits of your average popular high school girl. Not only the main characters – everyone down to the background characters in this anime possesses realistic qualities that we can find in people we’ve met in real life.
No Cliche Background Characters
In almost every romance anime with attractive main characters in a school setting, there is a complimentary crowd that constantly fawns over them. These background characters are commonly depicted to have no life or personality outside of worrying about the main characters, which is simply unnatural. Just because they’re background characters doesn’t mean they have to be one-dimensional. Although there are people that whisper rumors and show interest in Hori and Miyamura during the show, they naturally get over it and quickly move on with their life. This is a small detail that makes the world of Horimiya so much more believable. None of the characters are put on a tall pedestal above everyone else, and the pace in which they grow together is realistic as well.
Natural Pace of Relationships
From the moment they meet, Hori and Miyamura hang out like normal teenagers, get to know each other better, and naturally develop feelings for each other. She never dresses in a maid costume in a bizarre attempt to impress him, and they’re not put in a situation where they’re forced to live together. The most notable thing of all is: it doesn’t take 3 seasons or 200+ chapters for any character to get together. I was pleasantly surprised when it only took 5 episodes for Hori and Miyamura to become a couple, and they did so in such an ordinary way that it was unique. After all, they don’t need to be in a festival in front of beautiful fireworks to have a meaningful start to their relationship. Miyamura simply tells Hori he loves her in her room, and Sengoku tells Remi he likes her at his house. Those self-insertable scenes are more than enough to get the audience’s heart racing.
Nowadays, many manga and anime fans are tired of being dragged along excruciatingly lengthy stories where characters are interrupted or back out every time they try to confess their feelings. Yes I’m looking at you, Rent-a-Girlfriend. Horimiya being only 125 chapters and 12 episodes breaks this norm, and the story ends on a very satisfying note.
Taking it to the Next Level
I’m sure we all know that not all high schoolers are virgins – particularly the ones in a loving relationship. However, very few couples in romance anime take it all the way, and I think that’s because creators want to keep their characters completely “pure”. Looking at it realistically, however, young men and women do have physical lusts, especially towards someone they’re dating. Horimiya is one of the few non-adult anime that addresses that. In episode 7, the main pair passionately sleep together after longing for each other for a whole week. Hori even develops an S&M fetish in the episodes following after, which, as a woman, I will say is quite common in young girls. Anyone who’s been in a committing relationship can relate to how comfortable these characters are with each other.
Change of Feelings
Lastly, another element that is unique to the story of Horimiya is the ability for characters to move on and develop feelings for another person. It seems like almost every romance anime has a best friend character that gets rejected and spends the rest of his or her screen time wondering why he or she isn’t good enough. So, what happens to those characters after high school? Are they just single for the rest of their lives because they can’t move on? Although being loyal is admirable, most people eventually find a new interest after being rejected. This applies to Ishikawa, who is rejected by Hori in episode 1. Throughout the series, he learns to find acceptance with their friendship and by the end realizes he has fallen for Yuki. Not only is that a happy ending for Ishikawa lovers, it also displays a realistic development that rarely happens in other anime.
Horimiya sets itself apart from other romance anime with its portrayal of ordinary characters and natural relationship developments. It avoids many clichés we see in other romcoms and manages to be realistic and relatable, while still exciting and entertaining to its watchers. All of these qualities make it arguably the most realistic romance anime of all time.
All images via Funimation