Roundtable discussion between two of my favourite voices Tomatsu Haruka and Uchiyama Kōki, as well as comedian Iwai Yūki, about the ‘Horimiya’ anime.
Super popular youth-oriented manga ‘Horimiya’, with over 6 million copies in print, will finally receive an anime adaptation in January 2021!
The original web comic ‘Hori-san to Miyamura-kun’ (author: HERO) began serialisation in 2007, with Square Enix publishing it in book form in 2008. In 2011, it was adapted into a manga titled ‘Horimiya’ (author: HERO, illustrations: Hagiwara Daisuke) with new writing and art, which continues to receive much love until today.
At first glance, this story about polar opposites Hori Kyōko, a popular schoolgirl, and Miyamura Izumi, her inconspicuous classmate, seems to be your typical tale of ‘romance’ and ‘friendship’. The charm of ‘Horimiya’ however, lies in how each character’s circumstances and emotions are depicted so carefully and lovingly that it seems natural that readers would be able to empathise with their feelings. The series is popular not just with teens who are from the same age group as the characters in the story, but also among those who are now reminiscing about their school days.
This time, we welcome Tomatsu Haruka, who voices Hori in the TV anime, Uchiyama Kōki, voice of Miyamura and Iwai Yūki of [manzai duo] Haraichi, cheerleader for the ‘Horimiya’ series. Let’s have them chat openly (!?) about ‘gaps’, an important keyword in the ‘Horimiya’ universe.
[Photography: Kawano Yurika, Interview & Text: Abe Yūka
Hairstyling: Katō Yui [Tomatsu], Fukushima Kanako [Uchiyama]
“Super semi-sparkling”: Bonds that may break if there’s too much human intervention
Q: Please tell us your initial thoughts upon reading ‘Horimiya’ and whether it left any deep impressions on you.
Iwai: The series is marketed as being about ‘super semi-sparkling school life’; not ‘super sparkling’ but ‘super semi-sparkling’. That distinction is so good…! (laughs)
Relationships are so fragile that they might shatter if you allow interference from too many other people so they can be likened to being in a state of ‘ultra-light carbonation’. This is a series that depits these undefined, naïve character relationships with the utmost care.
Tomatsu: My first thought upon reading the series: “Oh I miss dumbphones!” (laughs)
Iwai: Ah, that’s true!
Uchiyama: You know how some series turn out to be so boring when you start reading them only after you’ve landed the job offer…
Tomatsu/Iwai: Oh ho ho.
Uchiyama: But when I began reading this series it brought back all sorts of memories of my high school days. It made me think, ‘Ooh, we had those kinda activities as well’ or ‘Ah, I wasted time doing stuff like that too’. We definitely had to change clothes before PE classes and it was always a rush (laughs)
It’s not just the big events, but the mundane daily happenings that help to form a complete portrait of our memories.
Miyamura refuses to expose his skin for certain reasons so he detests pool lessons and is dressed up to the nines even on sweltering days. In junior high, I too, had particular days or classes that I disliked. Reflecting upon those days brings back these memories in more detail and I realise now how trivial my problems truly were.
Heart-warming to see how polar opposites Hori and Miyamura balance each other out
Q: What are your impressions of the main characters Hori and Miyamura? Let’s start with Hori.
Iwai: She’s responsible and takes good care of others. She’s quite insightful even though she’s only in high school (laughs) A type of person I’ve never come into contact before, which makes me wonder whether such a schoolgirl exists – they probably do, right?
Tomatsu: Yeah yeah. She’s really caring towards other people. The way Hori-san treats her father is a bit…ermm… (laughs), but her devotion to her family is to be admired. She’s well-grounded and confident, and her determined personality is cool!
Oh, and Hori-san loves horror movies – I really like them too….!
Q: You like horror movies too, Tomatsu-san?
Tomatsu: Full-blown horror or B-horror, I watch everything enthusiastically (laughs)
Hori-san worries about being perceived as ‘not being cute since she’s a girl who enjoys horror movies…’, so I really get the scene where she tries her best to act scared. There was definitely a point in time where I thought I might be shunned for being a horror-loving girl (laughs)
Tomatsu: I think we’re similar in that sense (laughs). Miyamura doesn’t do too well with horror, so there’s a good balance between the contrasting personalities of Hori-san and Miyamura – it makes me smile seeing them together.
Uchiyama: Hori-san has a breezy personality that puts people at ease….I wish I had someone like her working at my agency (laughs) It’d be nice to have someone like Hori-san around when everyone’s tired – she moves about cheerfully and seems like she’d have the power to light up a room.
Tomatsu: That’s so true! (nods vigorously)
Uchiyama: She looks like the kind of person who’ll succeed (to a certain extent) in the future no matter what she tries to do.
Q: What then, are your impressions of her polar opposite Miyamura?
Iwai: Miyamura-kun is someone who, at first glance, you think of as merely being a ‘shadow’ but it turns out he’s difficult to grasp due to his situation and surprising aspects of his personality.
The truth is that living, breathing humans have differing characteristics which means they shouldn’t be pigeonholed. Miyamura-kun’s the type of character who can’t be defined in one word. It’s a good kind of complexity to have.
Tomatsu: I think Miyamura’s adorable; his aversion to horror included. Hori-san goes through a lot of emotional ups-and-downs and her feelings can gravitate towards the dark side at times; it’s Miyamura who has the heart and compassion to embrace of all of that.
I think these two balance each other out very well. So if there’s one word to best describe Miyamura-kun, it would be ‘kindness’.
Q: Uchiyama-san, as the voice [of Miyamura] would you say you agree with Iwai-san and Tomatsu-san’s impressions of him?
Uchiyama: I do feel his kindness. Though sometimes, it backfires and he ends up at loggerheads with Hori-san. On the other hand, as Iwai-san says, he’s quite the complex character; you can see that he’s elusive.
Everyone in school sees him as quiet and timid but you’ll see a different side to his personality as you get to know him better. He behaves differently in front of his junior high classmates too. There’s a huge contrast between how he appears in school and outside it.
As an actor, it’s easier to play characters who are oriented in a certain way. Miyamura however, experiences a lot of changes so the answer isn’t always clear – depending on the scene, it can be quite trial-and-error for me when it comes to deciding how to voice the role. Amongst the many considerations I have to make, I think of his ‘kindness’, as Tomatsu-san mentioned, as a foundation.
Don’t overthink the gap when voicing a character
Q: When the cast was announced, I felt that both of you were totally perfect for your roles and I wanted to watch the anime as soon as possible! But hearing what you have said, it seems that you do have your own worries regarding your performances.
Uchiyama: When I saw the manga art and the character designs for the anime, I did wonder what type of voice would be suitable.
Classmates such as Hori-san and Ishikawa (Toru, CV: Yamashita Seiichirō) are virtual strangers to Miyamura at first before they get acquainted and gradually become closer. I spent time considering how to portray the emotions behind his dilemma of being hesitant to take that first step of reaching out to someone else.
I feel the same way when I work with someone for the first time – how should I communicate with them; how much should I say? I may no longer be a high school student, but as an adult there are always starting points for new relationships and I find myself picking up hints [through this series].
Q: How about you, Tomatsu-san? Apart from a shared love for horror movies, did you find any other aspects of Hori-san easy to grasp or close to your heart?
Tomatsu: When I read the manga, there was so much about her that I could relate to. Not that I’m similar to her, but she resembles some of my friends. An honour student who always helps out friends with their homework? I do recall having friends like that…. (laughs)
These recollections gave me some ideas as I was considering how to play Hori-san. She’s the model ‘friend you wish you had’ so it wasn’t completely impossible for me to visualise what she’d be like even if I don’t personally know someone like her.
Though my family is structured differently from that of Hori-san’s, she’s the type of character who I can naturally act out without feeling awkward. I didn’t have to set out deliberately thinking ‘Let’s make her this way!’; rather, I was able to play the role without overthinking it.
Q: Both Hori and Miyamura possess ‘gaps’, or inconsistencies in their personality that you don’t get to see when they’re at school. Is there anything that you’re careful with in your approach towards voicing such characters?
Tomatsu: Hmm, gaps…the Hori-san you see at school is slightly different from the Hori-san you see when she’s at home with Miyamura, but I wouldn’t say that I’m particularly thinking about making one distinct from the other.
The scenes where Hori-san’s making an effort to be more girlish and cute can easily be discerned from what you see on screen. Even in scenes with no background music and only sound effects to complement Hori and Miyamura on screen, the animation alone sets the tone so I hope that [viewers] too will see how the worldview and mood flow naturally as they are watching.
So…hopefully, you’ll be able to tell the differences when you see Hori-san having fun with a group of friends in school, or how she enjoys poking fun at Miyamura, or how she gets a little nervous when she’s alone with Miyamura. Don’t you think she gets a bit jittery when it’s just her and Miyamura and there’s a lull in conversation? (laughs) I hope you’ll observe how girlish Hori-san is in realistic scenes like this.
Q: Uchiyama-san, you say it was trial-and-error for you. What was it like voicing the contrasting sides of Miyamura?
Uchiyama: Lately, I’m all about not being overly calculative or overly deliberate…about not producing work that sounds stereotypical. That’s what’s been on my mind.
Tomatsu: Ucchi, what’s wrong….!?
Uchiyama: I’ve made good progress in my ability to perceive what staff want from a piece of dialogue in terms of mood, so I tend to think that I should produce something that’s different from the norm, or something more refined. I’m not referring to this series specifically; it applies to other works as well.
Which is why I’ve been facing this problem recently – ‘how far ahead should I read the source material’? I used to think that it was standard procedure to read the entire series but when I did that, I’d find myself backpedalling all the time.
Iwai: I see.
Uchiyama: For example, if you know what happens to a character in the future, you start to contemplate whether you should express certain lines in certain ways; something like foreshadowing. It can prove to be counterproductive and sometimes, I ponder how important it is to keep track of the overall flow [of the storyline].
Q: Tomatsu-san, what’s your view on this issue of ‘how deep should you dive into the source material’?
Tomatsu: I’ve never actually thought about it. I read it normally without even connecting it to my acting (laughs) So when I hear Ucchi talking about ‘backpedalling’ I’m thinking ‘Oh wow, that’s interesting!’
Obviously I’m mostly reading with my focus on the actions and facial expressions of the characters that I voice so I’m not thinking about things super objectively; my main takeaway from reading is whether something is ‘interesting’ or not.
(glancing at Uchiyama) You’ve been getting a little philosophical lately though, haven’t you?
Uchiyama: Hahahaha, ya think so?
Tomatsu: We were doing another feature for ‘Horimiya’ recently and he was talking philosophy too. Like…about the universe. I was thinking…well, (right now) is the time to think, isn’t it?
Q: So how far into ‘Horimiya’ have you read, Uchiyama-san?
Uchiyama: Ah, so it comes…
Uchiyama: Not all of it. I’ve read the parts that the anime will cover.
Because they’re polar opposites, they get to discover worlds previously unknown
Q: ‘Horimiya’ weaves a heart-fluttering romance story between ‘the most popular girl in class (Hori)’ and ‘the most inconspicuous guy in class (Miyamura). What do you feel about the coupling of such contrasting characters?
Iwai: It seems special but not entirely special. They see, and are attracted to each other as individuals – ‘No matter what you are, you’re still you’; it’s a straightforward love they have. It feels like they’re looking at each other’s personalities without prejudice.
I read BL works myself and I do think it’s very good getting to see the romantic aspects without focusing too much on the ‘same sex’ factor. After all, relationships aren’t formed based on superficial impressions.
I view ‘Horimiya’ similarly. While it’s true that they’re drawn to the sides of the other that they don’t allow to show at school, I don’t think that Hori-san and Miyamura-kun are attracted to each other specifically because of those ‘gaps’. It feels pure to me.
Tomatsu: It’s comforting to see these two contrasting types get together. They both possess something that the other lacks and when they’re together, establish a relationship where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
On the flip side, what if you have a pairing where one talks and the other’s silent? It’s a thought that’s occurred to me (laughs). All couples are bound to have something interesting about them but Hori-san and Miyamura are to me, pieces of a puzzle that fit together perfectly.
Uchiyama: There’s no guarantee that sparks will fly between opposite types but if you have someone close to you whose personality, way of thinking and values are different from yours, it might actually be a fun relationship where you discover worlds previously unknown.
This also applies to things I wasn’t interested in at all: when you first approach a subject that happens to be one that your friend considers as a hobby, it’ll open up your eyes to new worlds, broaden your horizons and help you see things from a different perspective. It helps enrich your life. I think that’s a good thing.
Q: Do you have a favourite pairing in ‘Horimiya’?
Tomatsu: The pair that brings me most joy is Ishikawa and (Yoshikawa) Yuki (CV: Kozakai Yurie). I love their relationship, both as friends and anything that goes beyond that. I sense that they’ll always be good friends no matter what happens. They’re a solid pairing.
Uchiyama: Voicing Miyamura allows me to savour the joyful atmosphere of the Hori household. Whenever he’s visiting and and the Hori family members are all present, he gets a good look at how unique each one of the 4 personalities is. I personally enjoy watching the scenery that is the Hori family.
Iwai: As long as (Kōno) Sakura-chan (CV: Kondō Reina) is happy, any pairing would be fine for me… (laughs)
What kind of ‘gap’ do you favour? Their answers are…
Q: ‘Horimiya’ features various characters with certain personality ‘gaps’. So let’s hear it from you: what ‘gaps’ are you partial to? Do you like any specific ‘Horimiya’ character’s ‘gap’?
Tomatsu: Personally, my favourite character in ‘Horimiya’ is Yanagi (Akane, CV: Fukuyama Jun)!
My first impression was that he’s ridiculously good-looking but it turns out his eyesight is so bad that he becomes the butt of all the jokes (laughs). Gotta say I’m vulnerable to that kind of ‘gap’.
Whatever the series, discovering that your favourite character is not quite as conventional as you think they are does get you thinking ‘Woah! Are they really taking them there?!?’ Or ‘You seem them maybe once every 10 chapters so I’m super happy whenever they appear!’ (laughs)
Tomatsu: This type of character does tend to have ‘gaps’ and I’m a bit of a sucker for people like him (laughs). Kinda tsundere in the way he’s normally super cool but is actually a family-oriented guy. The fact that he shows us such a side that already has me falling for him.
Uchiyama: Gaps? I….hmm…
Q: There certainly will be people out there who think ‘I’m not interested in gaps’. What’s your view?
Uchiyama: Characters with ‘gaps’ are pretty common, right? Normally, they’re calm but get all heated up when triggered by a certain something. When it comes to those type of characters in anime and manga, I can’t help but to view them from an acting perspective.
Like, ‘so this person has a certain characteristic so if you make it too obvious then it might project future developments. I have all these boring habits…I can’t see things with a fresh pair of eyes (laughs)
In ‘Horimiya’, Sawada-san (Honoka, CV: Asakura Momo) is the interesting one for me. She’s a bit of a firecracker and flashy to boot, but she’s got a lot of things going on in her life. I think she’s pretty deep.
Q: What about you Iwai-san? What ‘gaps’ are you weak to?
Iwai: What gaps I’m weak to….? (at interviewer) Well actually, would you say that you have a favourite kind of ‘gap’? (laughs)
Q: I like characters wearing glasses so my heart skips a beat when they remove them.
Iwai: Ahh~! I like glasses-wearing characters too but my preferences are the opposite of yours.
I don’t think about it much, but I must say I like characters who make me think ‘Oh they look cute when they put their glasses on! It suits them!’. Sometimes they’ll stop wearing glasses and put contacts in instead and I’ll think ‘that looks wrong!’ (laughs)
So yeah, my favourite in ‘Horimiya’ is Sakura-chan.
Q: You’re right, there’s something appealing about characters who look cute when they wear glasses…but what about non-superficial ‘gaps’?
Iwai: A gyaru who’s an ex-yankee is cute. To me, there are two types of gaps for gyaru. The homely type of gyaru, and the ex-yankee gyaru.
The latter group is inwardly strong, and holds more appeal for me. It makes you feel like they’re not just messing around when they try to rationalise something. That kind of gap is good (laughs)
“It might be difficult to talk to Miyamura…”
Q: If you knew someone like Hori-san or Miyamura in real life, how would you approach them?
Iwai: A top-tier girl like Hori-san wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence though…I know Hori-san is a kind person but she has plenty of friends already so why would she bother to befriend me? I might get along well with someone like Sakura-chan though (laughs)
Iwai: And Miyamura-kun would probably find my blabbering annoying. That’s how I feel when I try to evaluate how compatible we would be.
That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be able to get on. I’m sure they’d try to make friends [with me] but there would be others who’d be a better ‘fit’ for them than me…that’s my view(laughs)
Tomatsu: Hori-san can get along with anyone and everyone so I think she’d definitely be the one who approaches others first. Personally, I’d be happy if a shining star like Hori-san would come talk to me. Having someone like Hori-san in your class would brighten it up for sure; maybe even unite everyone! She’s not the type to care about social hierarchies.
As for Miyamura…. (ponders worriedly) I know his good sides because I read the manga but if I was actually in the ‘Horimiya’ world I might be going ‘how I should approach him…?’ (laughs) Though from a ‘Horimiya’ outsider’s viewpoint I’d be thinking ‘Miyamura’s such a good guy though! And he’s got such a fun personality ‘gap’!’.
Iwai: Yeah yeah.
Tomatsu: I’d love to start a conversation with him but it might be tough to do so without an excuse. The first thing I’d get stuck on would be be ‘how should I address him?’ and then, ‘what would I say and how would I say it?’. I’d lose track of time pondering all that and my chance to speak to him would have slipped away…and after a year we’d probably be even farther apart (laughs)
Miyamura doesn’t particularly give off an aura that makes others think he’s open to a chat. If anything, he seems like the type to slam down a brick wall to shield himself. It’d be nice if I could effortlessly socialise the way Hori-san does, but I’d get nervous and shy….so you’ll likely see two flustered people putting the halt to a conversation that never even started (laughs)
Q: What about you, Uchiyama-san?
Uchiyama: From my current perspective? Or from when I was 17 or 18?
I still hang out with my high school friends nowadays but if I had to list down why I get along with any of them, I’d come up with all sorts of trivial reasons like I talked to them ‘cos they were sat in front of or behind me in class (our seats being arranged in alphabetical order), or because we were in the same club, or they were a friend of a friend. So it might be that you start talking to someone for no real reason.
Q: Finally, do please leave a message for the ‘Horimiya’ anime viewers!
Tomatsu: It’s not just a simple love story, but one that goes much deeper than that…you get to see more than just ‘Yay fun! Pitter Patter!’ moments, and it’s something that anyone can enjoy regardless of sex or age. I’m sure you’ll find parts that you can relate to, whether you’re a high school student like our protagonists or even if you’re older.
Its broadcast begins in January, and I hope it will keep you warm this winter. ‘Summer’ may be the season that reminds you the most of youthful romance, but I think ‘winter’ is what suits ‘Horimiya’ best. It’s a series that will warm your heart, so please look forward to it.
Uchiyama: This series started off life as a web comic ‘Hori-san to Miyamura-kun’ before transforming into ‘Horimiya’, gainings fans along its journey towards receiving this anime adaptation. It’s a tall order, but I hope that we can meet the expectations of fans of the source material.
The series is set in the era of dumbphones and although that doesn’t necessary mean that things have changed all that much since then, I must say I’m curious about how the high school students of today will feel when watching ‘Horimiya’.
It’s a series that covers a broad range of subjects, delving into male-female relationships in quite a lot of detail and I would like this show to reach as many people as possible. I also do hope that viewers will be inspired to read the manga after watching the anime.
Iwai: I may be the official cheerleader but I’m in the same position as all you viewers, so let’s be enjoy watching the show together. Look forward to the January broadcast of ‘Horimiya’!