By HERO and Daisuke Hagiwara. Released in Japan by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine GFantasy. Released in North America by Yen Press.
There’s been a strong market recently for repurposed web novels and webcomics licensed by major publishers and redone more professionally. Sword Art Online was originally published (fittingly) online. One-Punch Man was based on a webcomic band now has the Eyeshield 21 artist giving it a more manga feel. And then we have Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, a webcomic by HERO, which not only was popular enough to have Square Enix release the comic itself in 10 volumes several years ago, but now has a reboot with a new artist, running in Square Enix’s ‘we don’t have a shoujo magazine, so here it goes’ title GFantasy. And I’m happy that we’re getting it as well, as Horimiya is a delightfully fun and relaxed shoujo series about two people who find they can show each other their true selves, and how they then start falling for each other as well.
Fans of Kare Kano may find the premise a bit familiar, but as you dig into it the differences stand out more. Kyouko is a bright, pretty, popular girl at school, but doesn’t hang out with her friends after as much as you’d expect. Izumi is a somewhat otaku-ish guy who always wears long sleeves and long hair no matter what, and who tends to keep to himself. The plot kicks off when Kyouko finds out that outside of school, he’s actually a pretty handsome guy with tattoos and piercings. And Izumi finds that Kyouko is actually a pretty diligent big sister who has to essentially raise her little brother while her mom is away for days at a time at work. Both of these are things they need to hide at school (though admittedly the whole “without my makeup I am plain and don’t want anyone to see this is how I relax” thing made me roll my eyes a bit), and Kyouko’s little brother really bonds with Izumi, so the two of them end up hanging out after school… and possibly more.
There’s no immediate hook to this series the way One-Punch Man had. It’s a standard shoujo with two likeable leads who are clearly going to end up together, it’s just a matter of when, and their friends who are slowly going to learn the terrible secrets contained within. But it’s one of those series that’s just very well told. The two leads are not overly naive and idealistic or sullen and rude, as you find in so many shoujo series these days. They’re just kids. The mood reminds me a bit of Love at Fourteen, only here they’re a couple of years older. The humor arises from the characters and situations, and sometimes made me laugh out loud. There’s even a good cliffhanger where Kyouko realizes that, despite being a nice kid, Izumi is indeed a teenage boy who might (gasp!) be sexually attracted to her.
Horimiya is a strong debut, and I recommend it not only to Yen’s followers but also to any Shojo Beat fans who might miss it because it’s from a different publisher. I eaglerly look forward to the second volume.