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A largely light-hearted series for anyone who can't get enough of slice-of-life comics, Horimiya is the manga adaptation of the webcomic Hori-san to Miyamura-kun. On top of a sweet school romance, Horimiya has lovely art, and compelling characters with surprising depth, and it doesn't take a decade for the main characters to fall in love.

 

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

Kyoko Hori is one of the most popular girls at her high school. Smart, bright, and funny, she's able to make friends with almost everyone she meets. However, Kyoko has a side of herself that she doesn't let her classmates and friends see: she takes care of her younger brother Souta and the house while their parents are busy with work, and once she gets home from school she sheds her glossy image so that she can do her errands, unnoticed by classmates that live in the area.

 

Square Enix

 

Her classmate Izumi Miyamura has his own set of secrets. Bullied and shunned by his classmates in junior high, the young man that shares a classroom with her starts out with a reputation for being weird. At first, no one in their current class knows anything about Izumi, assuming that he's unfriendly and an otaku obsessively into action figures, but by the end of the first chapter, Kyoko realizes that there's a lot more to him than she expected. It's not just the piercings and tattoos, which he uses his overlong hair and a heavy winter uniform to hide; Izumi has spent so much time being rejected that Kyoko is really one of the first people to actually see him.

As the two characters get to know one another, Izumi and Kyoko not only wind up becoming friends, but falling in love.

WHO'S IT BY?

Horimiya is a collaboration between the elusive HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara.

While not much is known about HERO, her webcomic Hori-san to Miyamura-kun was such a sensation that Square Enix asked to turn it into a manga with Daisuke Hagiwara on art, adapting HERO's story. You can keep up with HERO on her personal website and on Twitter.

The artist tapped to bring HERO's story to a wider audience, Daisuke Hagiwara, is another talented enigma, and I can't get enough of their expressive, adorable art. Outside of their work on Horimiya, they've worked on a handful of anthologies as well as the one-shot Back to the Jack. You can find them on Twitter, and keep up with updates on their personal site.

 

Square Enix

 

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?

If you go into Horimiya expecting a relatively typical high school manga with a slow-burn romance and faintly forgettable characters, you'll soon learn that it's so much more.

HERO's original story combines with Daisuke Hagiwara's artistic talents to form a story that intersperses light and fluffy moments with a look at several different, realistic characters as they struggle to balance their present lives with their hopes and fears for the future. Throughout the series, you come to actually care about the characters --- not just Izumi and Kyoko, but all of the friends and relationships they make. By the end of the first volume, you should find yourself falling for the entire cast of characters well.

Amidst the generally cheery high-school setting, the story manages to shows the main characters as relatively fleshed out, and facing with familiar issues. It's a high-school romance, but it's also a series about teenagers dealing with anxieties about how they're perceived.

For starters, Izumi is still dealing with the effects of being ignored and neglected by his peers for years. That bullying got to a point where he self-harmed by doing his own piercings with safety pins as a response to his pain. Horimiya shows him healing as he comes into his own through his relationship with Kyoko and his friendships with the rest of their group, but he doesn't magically get over the emotional trauma just because he gets a girlfriend.

 

Square Enix

 

With Kyoko, we see how insecure she is despite the confident image she puts forward. She worries about taking care of her little brother, and about whether or not she's the right "fit" for Izumi (because she can be mean; she's into violent horror movies, and kind of a sadist). At the same time, she's also worried about what comes after high school because she doesn't see herself actually having a future.

For the most part, Horimiya is a funny, light series, but it has several moments that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

WHO SHOULD READ IT?

If you're a fan of Young Adult romance novels, Horimiya should be right up your alley. It's not a slow-burn romance, so it's great if you lack the patience to wait hundreds of chapters for the main couple to even acknowledge their mutual attraction.

Fans of Kimi ni Todoke or Say I Love You should consider checking Horimiya out because of the similarities between their settings, the lovely art, and the way that the romance unspools.

WHERE CAN I READ IT?

Publisher Yen Press has released five volumes of Horimiya, with at least another two scheduled for release in 2017. Every Horimiya volume is released in ebook form as well as in print.