WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Horimiya Episode 9, "It's Hard, But Not Impossible," now streaming on Funimation.
Ever since his elementary school days, Izumi Miyamura has been haunted by a past filled with bullying and being socially ostracized. He was perceived as a freak for being so quiet and deeply introverted. Aside from Shindo in middle school, none of Miyamura's classmates ever extended the hand of friendship he needed so badly.
Now he has several close friends, a loving (and wonderfully oddball) relationship with Hori, and has become more outgoing and comfortable with who he is. He's long preferred to avoid his elementary and middle school memories as much as possible. But when that past directly confronts him once again in Episode 9 of Horimiya, Miyamura's restraint and Hori's presence lead to a turn of events that prove the power of forgiveness can overcome even the strongest enmity.
As Hori and Miyamura head home from school one afternoon, a couple of fellow high schoolers almost pass them before one, Makio Tanihara, recognizes Miyamura. Both boys had bullied Miyamura in middle school and immediately start behaving the same way again. Miyamura goes silent as the trio observes his new haircut and piercings while making distasteful comments about both him and Hori.
One of the best aspects of Miyamura and Hori's relationship is how often and naturally it bucks traditional gender stereotypes. The bullies continue to taunt Miyamura and call Hori weak, so Hori takes matters into her own hands and gives the boys a proper beating. Though the couple's dynamic is humorously challenged by Hori's masochistic streak, Miyamura tends to be the gentler, more submissive type while Hori is the more assertive and physical of the two.
Despite his behavior, however, Tanihara's rough exterior masks deep-seated guilt as he remains haunted by his own role in Miyamura's past. Meeting up with Shindo later on, Tanihara asks about Miyamura's high school transformation despite claiming he doesn't care. Later, a vivid dream shows him locked in a tightly enclosed space with Miyamura. He doesn't understand why either of them is inside, but Miyamura explains this is how it feels to always be on the "outside" with no friends or any place that feels truly comfortable.
This dream, combined with Miyamura's visible transformation into a happy and healthy high school student, helps Tanihara realize two things: he was wrong to judge Miyamura before trying to get to know him, and that it's not too late to change who he is. Beneath the bullying and crass comments is a young man who wants to atone for his mistakes. So Tanihara decides to be brave and tries reaching out to Miyamura. But how would Miyamura, who'd been bullied for so long that he had stopped seeing the point of his life, respond?
As it turns out, with astonishing kindness. Miyamura is working at his part-time job when Tanihara shows up at closing time. Despite Hori not being there, Miyamura isn't especially bothered by Tanihara's presence this time. The two share some awkward small talk and Tanihara wants to order some cake, but Miyamura says they've just closed for the night. So Tanihara promises to come back when they reopen. He neither apologizes nor asks for forgiveness, but Miyamura understands the effort Tanihara is trying to make and responds with acceptance.
It is often hard to move on from a difficult past until it's confronted head-on. Though in different ways, both Miyamura and Tanihara were quietly held back by their middle school experiences -- Miyamura by fear of loneliness and Tanihara by guilt. But the desire to change combined with the power of forgiveness allows them to move on to a brighter future in Horimiya.