I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
At school, Kyouko Hori is perfect and popular. She has great grades, she looks gorgeous, and everyone wants to spend time with her. Izumi Miyamura, on the other hand, looks like a gloomy geek. Then one day Hori and Miyamura find out each other's secrets: both of them are very different outside of school. The reason why Hori can never go out with her friends after school is because her parents work all the time and she's responsible for taking care of her brother and all the housework. Outside of school, she never wears makeup and barely bothers to do her hair. And Miyamura is secretly tattooed and pierced.
My gold standard for “students who are different at school than they are at home” manga is Kare Kano, in which the two main characters basically wear perfect masks as school, for different reasons (Yukino because she thrives on praise, and Arima because he feels he needs to somehow repay his adoptive parents for their affection).
By comparison, Horimiya was kind of a disappointment, since neither Hori nor Miyamura (I'm going to refer to them both by their surnames) seemed to have very good reasons for wanting to keep their secrets. I could understand Hori's situation the best – it probably felt nice to be viewed as effortlessly beautiful and perfect by her fellow classmates, and she probably worried that she might lose their affection if she was suddenly less than perfect. Still, it was a little odd that she hadn't at least told her best female friend her secret.
Miyamura, on the other hand, was a mystery. At one point, someone asked him why he'd even bothered to get all those piercings and tattoos if he was just going to hide them. His response? “You know how sometimes you just get it done on a whim...?” Nine piercings and a bunch of tattoos seem like a bit more than a whim. Miyamura was actually less embarrassed to have people think he was on his period (a spur-of-the-moment excuse for not bathing with the other boys during a school trip) than he was at the thought that others might find out he had tattoos and piercings.
At the moment, the best I can come up with is that Miyamura seems to be very shy and wants very badly to fade into the background for some reason. At the same time, he seems to be very lonely. Hopefully Miyamura's motivations are explored more later on.
The premise is so flimsy that I'm a little surprised that this volume worked as well for me as it did. It helped that I liked Daisuke Hagiwara's artwork, but the thing that really carried this series was the adorableness that was Miyamura (and Miyamura + Hori). Miyamura was sweet, gentle, awkward, and a bit clueless. He enjoyed getting to be around Hori and her little brother all the time, but he was also a bit baffled by the relationship developing between him and Hori. Outside of school, they were friends who were completely comfortable with each other, with hints of possible romance on the horizon. At school, they were completely different, to the point that people were starting to notice and wonder about super-popular Hori talking to gloomy Miyamura more often than usual.
This is the kind of series that could quickly fall flat on its face, but so far I'm charmed enough by Miyamura and Hori that I'm willing to read on. It'll be interesting to see where HERO takes things. It's only the first volume, and already one classmate has learned Miyamura's secret, but not Hori's, and one classmate knows Miyamura both in and out of school but doesn't realize they're the same person. Volume 2 could get messy.
There's a one-and-a-half page artist's afterword, a three-page bonus comic featuring Myamura (a tiny Miyamura with cat ears), and some translation notes (which are nearly useless and could have included a lot more).
I debated whether to give this 3.5 or 4 stars. In the end, I gave it 4 stars because it made me laugh loud enough that I probably annoyed my neighbors, and also because I loved Miyamura.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)