The flashy Kyouko Hori and the gloomy (and maybe even otaku?) Izumi Miyamura seem to have nothing in common, but when secretly plain-jane Hori has a tattooed Miyamura turn up on her doorstep, a charming tale of their time together begins!

Kyouko Hori seems to have it all; she has a reputation for being smart, attractive and popular, with all the boys on her tail. Izumi Miyamura on the other hand is gloomy and unremarkable, preferring to go unnoticed at school. Unbeknownst to her classmates, Hori is secretly a homebody, spending her time taking care of her little brother Souta and minding the house rather than hanging out after school. Hori works hard to hide her plain home-life, but one day a tattooed and copiously pierced Miyamura accompanies Souta home to Hori’s shock and begins coming over more often on her request. As time flies by, Hori and Miyamura start to realize how special seeing the side of one another nobody else sees is.

If you’re a fan of more subtle and realistic romance stories you’ll love this series. Horimiya occupies an interesting middle ground despite being categorized as a shonen series - fans of shonen romance should definitely take note, but shojo fans will also find plenty to like.

Subtlety is not one of the romance genre’s strongest suits by any means. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a dramatic love story from time to time, but there is something incredibly refreshing about a simple, yet undeniably charming story about two teenagers getting to know each other. Horimiya is about exactly this - the story of a boy and girl who feel they have to hide a side of themselves and are delighted to find someone to share it with. While they aren’t sure of their feelings or even the nature of their relationship yet, they aren’t particularly pressed by this and are content to just spend time figuring each other out.

While author HERO could have done a better job coming up with a more plausible premise (how did Miyamura manage to hide all those tattoos for years? How is Hori a plain-Jane for just putting her hair up?) this quickly takes a backseat towards the gradual building of their relationship, and this is what makes Horimiya just so sweet. You’ll find no dramatic confessions at the train station in this volume, but Horimiya excels because of its confidence in creating a relation between Hori and Miyamura that feels remarkably grounded.

The draw of Horimiya is the way that it depicts the smaller, more subtle moments between Hori and Miyamura that not only feel real but definitely got me invested in their relationship. I appreciate HERO’s commitment to “showing rather than telling”, resisting the ever-present temptation to wave the “LOOK HERE READER THEY’RE FALLING IN LOVE” flag that is fairly typical of this genre and actually taking the time to build a foundation for both Hori and Miyamura’s feelings. It’s extremely notable that both of their lives also don’t just revolve around falling in love, feeling instead like realistically developed teenagers in the sense that they have actual lives and personalities that aren’t just incidental to them trying to win the other one over.

Horimiya does a great job at rounding out its cast by including a number of other likable characters, notably Hori’s little brother Souta and their friends Yuki and Ishikawa. I really enjoyed that these characters didn’t feel at all like they were tossed in to give readers a bit of a breather from the main couple or distract from the plot. Instead, each of them contributed in their own way to both Hori and Miyamura’s development, displaying an excellent focus on the main couple while keeping things fresh. Additionally, they added some great comic relief, and while this volume doesn’t emphasize comedy I really enjoyed the way that Hori and Miyamura’s interactions with each other and everyone else felt naturally funny without pandering to the audience.

In adapting HERO’s original story, mangaka Daisuke Hagiwara did a great job creating pleasing and character designs which convey each character’s emotions effectively. He infuses the art with a sense of style that remains understated throughout, while subtly adding flair that complement certain scenes without ever becoming a distraction. Additionally, he inserted well timed chibi scenes every now and then for humour which helped to keep the tone light.

Eschewing the dramatic for the subtle, Horimiya Vol. 1 tells a sweet and earnest story, pleasingly setting up the beginnings of Hori and Miyamura’s time together. While you might read this volume and wonder “so what’s the actual story here?”, I loved that this series is confident in putting emphasis on the journey rather than the destination. Judging by this first volume, it’s definitely going to be a sweet and charming journey worthy reading.

What do our scores mean?

Horimiya Vol. 1 was published by Yen Press on October 27th, 2015. Authored by Hero and illustrated by Daisuke Hagiwara based on HERO’s original web comic, the series is currently ongoing and published by Square Enix’s GFantasy magazine.

Volume 2 was published in English on January 26th,2016.


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