Horimiya Volumes 3-4
And now we’ve reached the point where the series settles down into a more typical groove in order to maintain for the long term. (The most recent book out is number 11.) They’ve introduced the friends, with each having someone to talk to at school, and the trio on the cover of volume 3 are the student council members. Those characters expand the social circle while providing some people to speculate on what the two leads, Hori and Miyamura, are to each other.
That ties into the theme of this volume, which spends most of the time trying to clarify the relationship between the two. Who’s going to be the first person to admit “I like you”? Who’s willing to take the risk of losing the friendship they have by putting feelings on the line? Typical of and suitable for a high school romance series, this struggle is extended through multiple chapters as all the emotional ramifications are unpacked and rolled around.
I miss, a bit, the more stand-alone chapters about the contrast between who the characters want to be and the image they struggle to portray, but that kind of thing couldn’t have sustained this long of a series. We still get chapters such as the one where Hori wants to make Miyamura a special dish, but the one he picks causes struggles for her. Or the classic “taking care of someone when they’re sick”.
The creators Hero and Daisuke Hagiwara excel at picking small, amusing moments to illustrate feelings. Hori, pretending she doesn’t care about other girls fawning over Miyamura, for example, breaking her school supplies. Or a longer scene where fetching drinks for the group allows for gossip and chit-chat. Another substantial section, with plenty of flashback, introduces Miyamura’s pushy friend from middle school.
His unwillingness to be subtle is an important goad for Miyamura to push forward his relationship with Hori, as we see in volume 4. That book introduces an even more outrageous character and one even more out-spoken: Hori’s long-missing father. He says whatever he’s thinking, blunt and exaggerated. He exists to push other people into doing things; I have a hard time believing that someone like that would exist in real life, but as a cartoonish character for plot and entertainment purposes, he certainly livens things up.
The fourth book also has a nice little side chapter where two of the student council members discuss personalities. Remi refers to herself in the third person and plays off being cute and a bit dumb. Her friend Sakura likes someone, but she doesn’t want to share that with Remi, because Sakura thinks Remi has no problem talking to boys. The two are not much like each other, but they can still encourage each other.
Although the characters are getting sharper — Hori has several moments of aggression in these books, demonstrating how easily she can snap — and the premise of the series softer, the underlying good-hearted nature of the story and the relationship is what keeps me reading.