Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
At school, Kyouko Hori is primped and perfect and Izumi Miyamura is slow and gloomy. But when the day ends, she's a homebody who enjoys taking care of the house and her little brother and he's a pierced and tattooed free spirit. Both feel that they have to hide their true selves from the rest of the school, but once they discover each other, a bond is formed. Is it just friendship? Or could it turn into something more?
You could be forgiven if, after reading the synopsis above or on the back of the book, you assumed that Horimiya is just another name for Kare Kano. And while that's not a total fabrication – after all, both series rely on the device of a boy and a girl presenting themselves as someone else while at school – it also isn't entirely fair to HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara's shounen romance, which is certainly strong enough to weather the comparisons and stand on its own.
Based on a 4-panel series both written and illustrated by HERO, Horimiya follows two high school students, Hori and Miyamura. Although in the same class, neither have ever really interacted with each other; Hori is the very picture of a put-together, relatively popular young lady while Miyamura's unkempt appearance and glasses make most of his classmates assume that he's an otaku. Their worlds collide, however, when Hori's much younger brother Souta attaches himself to Miyamura after he falls and hurts himself. Miyamura becomes Souta's knight in shining armor when he walks the little boy home, and Hori is aghast to find that the boy with multiple piercings in his ears and one in his lip is actually drippy Miyamura from school...and now he's seen her in her domestic form. Miyamura is perhaps not equally horrified that Hori now knows his secrets, but he would rather she kept things to herself...and since Souta is so attached to Miyamura, it doesn't look as if they'll be forgetting about each other any time soon.
Despite appearances, Miyamura is neither a thug nor an otaku – he's just a kind of freewheeling fellow who does things (like get tattoos, which he also has and are most definitely frowned upon in a Japanese high school) without really thinking about it. There's a gentleness to his character that's very appealing, and he quickly falls into the rhythm of Hori's life – he helps her pick up groceries, take care of Souta, and just sits around with her to chat. Since this domesticity is what Hori is most comfortable with, their relationship is one of the nicer ones in romance manga regardless of the demographic. Both Hero and Hagiwara do a good job of showing us how relaxed the two teens are together. They feel like a couple already, even though Hori clearly has no idea that they do, which leads Miyamura to question both their relationship and his status within it. Egging this on is the fact that another classmate, Ishikawa, has a major crush on Hori. He notices how the two have started hanging out more and talking to each other when previously they appeared barely aware of each others' existences, and, worried, he flat-out asks Miyamura whether or not the two are dating. While we're not sure if Miyamura's mind was leaning in that direction previous to being asked, it certainly does make him start to think about just how he likes Hori. It's amusing that he might not have gotten to that point so quickly had not Ishikawa brought the possibility up to him, and from the moment he mentions it through the rest of the book, it's clear that Miyamura is trying to figure out just where he stands with Hori...and where he wants to stand with her. For her part, Hori seems a bit slower on the uptake where any potential romance is concerned. We can read her panics over her school friend Yuki notices (but fails to recognize) Miyamura with his hair pulled back and develops a crush on him and the fact that she doesn't know his first name as indicative of her burgeoning feelings for Miyamura, but Hori herself hasn't quite come to this realization yet. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to make a move in advancing things and whether the easygoing Miyamura will be up to convincing much more excitable Hori that they have a chance.
There really isn't anything particularly special about Horimiya's first volume, but there really doesn't need to be. It is simply a good story about two people who become friends and start to head somewhere else, peppered with light humor, nice artwork, and a lot of charm. Sometimes a series doesn't need to be innovative or reinvent its genre in order to be a good one. Horimiya's strength is that it recognizes that and is a nice read all on its own.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B
+ Sweet, unpretentious, and at times quite funny. Art is generally nice to look at...
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