Horimiya, what an adorable name

Horimiya - Hori and Miyamura at a distance

I always meant to write about manga here some day or another — more than just a quote here and there or an image cropped from one of the various stories which I read. Rather something more akin to a review, since manga is my true entry into the world of anime and manga.

Being stuck on dial-up internet for the majority of my high school life, I wasn't able to attain anime the way most of my friends were doing so and so either relied on their generosity, or never saw anything at all unless I purchased DVDs from JB Hi-Fi (3 episodes all for the low cost of $30!) or local Chinese DVD stores (love the subtitles on those). Manga was a low cost way of entering the world where I got more story for less, and, when the money dried up, where images were much easier to load on 56K internet than videos (don't say you don't secretly do it).

Any images also took up much less space than video (even if what I had was 360p quality), and when all the storage you have either exists on an 8GB Seagate USB or the harddrive of your laptop, this can be quite the consideration. So, thus began my descent into the world of Japanese culture one manga at a time...


A Slice of that School Life

I haven't really 'traditionally' been a fan of Slice of Life works — in fact I try to avoid them when I can which is potentially why I still have not managed to get any further with K-ON! — though that doesn't mean I won't read them if one in two factors are happily satisfied. Horimiya, my current favourite manga of late, achieves this and is what I want to discuss today.

I don't have a favourite genre or necessarily deliberately only search for any one genre (ahemyaoiahem), but I have usually said in the past that I want to read about different worlds, not about school life if I'm living it already.

Having said that, perhaps I'm becoming more interested in it now that I no longer attend school in the strictest sense. It may have even moved into the region of nostalgia now, since that school life that has passed. Nonetheless, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to trying out new genres.

But the two factors that are important to me are art, firstly, and storyline. Let's continue with a heading.

Horimiya - Hori and Miyamura looking in different directions

You don't have to be pretty but you have to look interesting

Art does not have to be beautiful. In fact some of the works I really like sometimes even appear anatomically incorrect to me (what would I know though?). I'll admit that one of the first reasons I decided to look into what the plot of Horimiya was, was precisely because the cover art looked beautiful — simple, yet elegant, and well coloured. Well that and the story on the cover looked like it could turn out interesting, but that's for the next section.

Interestingly though, although the art in Horimiya is certainly elegant and very clean, it also suffers in that at the same time it can appear rather 'vanilla', such that it does not feel particularly distinctive. Each character has some unique traits that we learn to note, but when mixed with other characters from the same cast without the characters calling to each other to identify themselves, can often be confusing because to some degree it suffers from Same Face Syndrome.

All the same, if you're in it for the art, this manga certainly cannot be beat because all the characters are drawn 'prettily', even when the characters within the story describe a character as 'plain' (What are you talking about, she looks the same!).

The difference is the effect is achieved with the necessary amount of detail without overloading the reader, and there is a great use of contrast and line weight — something I have yet to master so have great respect for! The usual 'shoujo' effects are missing, such as the sudden, unexpected blossoms of impossible flowers or the overuse of sparkles and crosshatching. The manga seems honest and to the point — and is also categorised as Shounen.

Well, that explains that.

It doesn't need to be complex to be good

Perhaps this is something I can learn from too, but the story doesn't necessarily need to be complex to be interesting. Horimiya has a relatively simple premise, but the characters and their individual struggles are captivating — perhaps even because we can relate to them on some degree. But for what works couldn't we say that?

Have a look at the description from MangaHelpers before we continue:

Hori may seem like a normal teenage girl, but she's a completely different person after school. In her workaholic parents' absence, Hori has been like a parent for her little brother since she was young herself. Between taking care of her brother, feeding them both, and housework, she doesn't have much time for a usual teenage social life. One day, she meets someone else who does not present his true self at school: a quiet, glasses-wearing boy called Miyamura. She'd assumed he was bookish, and possibly an otaku, but Hori couldn't have been more wrong. Outside of school, Miyamura is a friendly guy with many piercings, and he's not very good at academics. Now the two of them have someone with whom they can share both halves of their lives!

I'm not sure which aspect of that drew me in. Perhaps, as I mentioned previously, it was the cover art selected by some Anon showing a delinquent-looking male with a cheeky female and sent my imagination into overdrive — as one of these was not actually even the main character! Or perhaps I saw a little likeness in Hori of someone, or I admired her strength of dedication, or even perhaps I was intrigued as to what this 'otaku' guy really was if not an otaku. But all the same, I wanted to see what happened.

Why Horimiya? Perhaps it's the intimacy because we know their secrets when no one else does, but that doesn't make it stand out from similar works very much either. The characters drive the story with their charming personalities that couldn't seem more different yet mesh so well. Their interactions are endearing and make me smile and laugh.

That's what you want, really, a story that makes you come out feeling warm and cheerful inside. Not necessarily life changing, but heartwarming.

Horimiya - hugs

But wait, there's more?

A mix of cute art and a story that makes you feel good? Whatever flaws which Horimiya has, it's a story that definitely works for me. I'm sad to admit that I didn't enjoy the original story very much, a 4koma with the same premise called Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, but perhaps I would have enjoyed it if I had not read Horimiya beforehand and become entrenched in the current incarnations of Hori and Miyamura in the newest work.

Although I think Miyamura has gone a bit more 'vanilla' with his most recent change, he as a character has progressed in the story and matured which is intriguing for what may come. I shall be eagerly awaiting the next chapter to see how Hori and Miya(mura) progress their relationship!

Horimiya - Miyamura saying thank you