Kyoko Hori lives a secret life she’s never shared with anyone. At school, Hori is idolized and her friends know her as the most popular, stylish girl around; her makeup and clothes are never less than perfect. At home, however, Hori is completely different: her workaholic parents are never home, so the moment she returns from school, she wipes off all her make-up, changes into a comfortable pair of sweats, cleans, cooks, and helps her little brother with his homework. She’s more like a parent than a typical high-school girl—a fact she takes great pains to hide from everyone she knows.
Izumi Miyamura is also hiding his true self from his schoolmates. Hori and her classmates all assume that shy, gloomy Miyamura is a bookish otaku, so when Hori runs into Miyamura outside of school one day, she’s shocked to find out that he’s an outgoing, friendly guy who is covered in tattoos and piercings that he hides from his schoolmates! The two immediately bond over their hidden lives and become fast friends. What follows is a feel-good, opposites-attract story that will please any romance fan.
Though the story follows a predictable pattern—the two characters refuse to admit their feelings for each other though it’s immediately obvious to the reader—the characters elevate Horimiya above other offerings in the romance genre. It’s impossible not to root for Hori and Miyamura, who defy tired tropes in other ways besides their “secret identities.” You might expect Hori, for instance, to avoid or even shun nerdy Miyamura in front of her popular friends. Instead, after some initial awkwardness, Hori approaches Miyamura and is openly friendly to him at school.
Miyamura is also a breath of fresh air. After Hori and Miyamura have become close friends, Tooru, a popular classmate, sets his sights on Hori and “warns” Miyamura that he’s going to confess his love to her. In most other stories, a conflict between the two boys would follow; at the very least, Miyamura would agonize over whether or not he should try to confess first and win Hori’s heart. Instead, in a startlingly progressive turn of events, Miyamura respectfully replies that it’s Hori’s choice who she likes, and he even picks up Hori’s little brother from school so Tooru and Hori can talk alone. Miyamura genuinely cares about Hori’s happiness, and he remains charming and thoughtful throughout the story. Readers will have no problem falling in love with him right alongside Hori.
The story thrives on contradictions and often surprises the reader by going against genre stereotypes. These constant surprises, while not earth-shattering, give a hint of the unexpected to a story that might otherwise have been too simple to hold any reader’s interest.
Horimiya began as a 4-koma (four panel) webcomic called Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, and this version was illustrated and written by its creator, HERO. Later, the webcomic became so popular with fans that it was adapted into a short anime series. Horimiya is the most recent adaptation of the story, and it is by far the superior version. While HERO’s art was serviceable, Hori-San to Miyamura-kun was enjoyable despite its artwork rather than because of it. In contrast, Daisuke Hagiwara’s lovely, delicate artwork is the perfect companion to Hori and Miyamura’s slow, calm romance and elevates Horimiya far above the original work.
Horimiya is rated T for Teen (13+), and librarians in all but the most conservative communities can feel comfortable recommending the series even to the younger end of the teen audience. However, though the romance is tame enough to recommend to young teens, older teens will still appreciate the charm and simplicity of Hori and Miyamura’s story. Give Horimiya to fans of popular slow-burning romance manga like Natsuki Tayaka’s Fruits Basket and Aya Nakahara’s Lovely Complex who are looking for their next fix; they won’t be disappointed.
Horimiya, vol. 1
Art by Daisuke Hagiwara
Yen Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: T (13+)