Mangaka: Shou Harusono (@harusono_org)
Publisher: Yen Press (@YenPress)
Translator: Leighann Harvey
WHAT IS IT?
A bright-eyed athlete starts crushing on his bad-boy roommate in this spin-off of the hit boys’ love slice-of-life series, Sasaki and Miyano.
Think Heartstopper with a sports-anime twist (a la Haikyu!!)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Bad boy Taiga Hirano has a special thing he does every single morning. He wakes up his younger roommate Akira Kagiura, who simply refuses to get up on time, which doesn’t bode well for his budding athletic career. Kagiura likes this about Hirano. Scratch that, he likes everything about Hirano, and he doesn’t quite know why just yet. As these two unlikely roommates continue to get to know each other through the turbulent days of high school, Kagiura suddenly realizes he’s falling head over heels for his laid-back yet attentive new friend, and thus begins the story of a young basketball player and his life rooming with his high school crush.
This highly anticipated spin-off of the hit BL series follows these fan-favorite side characters as they start their own journey of self-discovery, romance, and friendship. You can read my review of the OG series here!
Harusono’s iconic series is a worldwide fan-favorite for a reason. The simplistic storytelling, coming-of-age antics, and wholesome romance make the fun slice-of-life narrative an instant classic. It has a realistic sense to the storytelling that makes it approachable. It is relatable, cute, and an easy to jump into for manga fans of all levels.
The artwork is soft and harkens back to classic shoujo* titles with its light shading, thin line work, and sparkly backgrounds. The light, easy-breezy style adds a dreamy and idyllic nature to the story, which only enhances the feelings of young love that bounces off of the panels.
Harvey and DK are quite familiar with this series, having worked on Sasaki and Miyano, so you can feel the care and time put into the translations and lettering. The small footnotes, inner monologues, and thin sound effects are handled appropriately, are easy to read, and fit in perfectly with the lighthearted nature of the story. And, as always, the translation notes in the back are a lovely bonus.
While they are a connected series, you can absolutely read Hirano and Kagiura first without having ever picked up Sasaki and Miyano. Harusono wrote this volume in a way that it can stand alone without needing to be familiar with the characters and universe (though you definitely appreciate it more if you are).
Kagiura’s athletic passions adds a bit of fun sports-anime flair and fast-paced panels that gives a bit of intensity to the story that is a welcome change. The basketball games, while only shown in brief glimpses, act as tangible precursors to major turning points in the story, which fans of titles like Haikyu!! will love.
Harusno really utilized the full extent of each page in this series. While previously having small strips filled with footnotes and mini drawings along nearly every page, Hirano and Kagiura takes full advantage of the layout to focus on the details and story, leading to a richer and deeper experience.
The relationship between Hirano and Kagiura is adorable. It is innocent and spends a lot of time developing, though the two are more aware of the situation than their counterparts, so it doesn't lean heavily into the "will-they/won't they" trope. It feels a bit more mature and intentional, but still has that sweet air of an adolescent first love about it.
There are a few little bonus comics and character bios in the back of the manga, a staple of Harusono’s work, that are absolute treats. You can tell that Harusono cares a lot about this story and the characters by the way the little details like this are handled.
Several characters from Sasaki and Miyano make cameo appearances, which is a fun way to connect the two titles and bring back jokes and moments from the original series.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
This volume does contain some language but, overall, is fairly PG.
This title is definitely fan-service for hardcore fans of the OG series. When compared side-by-side with Sasaki and Miyano, it does feel a bit like a copy+paste debut volume that follows similar beats, monologue, and character development, only with a more experienced approach. You won’t be getting much originality here, but if you’re a fan of slice-of-life titles or the franchise, then you’ll enjoy it.
Hirano and Kagiura is similar to the Sasaki and Miyano series when it comes to volume length and price point. Sitting at barely 130 pages, but set at the regular $13 price point (for the physical edition), it definitely leans into the hype and popularity of the franchise. It's a bit expensive for what you get.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT
While the story of Hirano and Kagiura actually began with a ten page bonus comic in volume two of Sasaki and Miyano, followed by a light novel of the same name (also now available from Yen On!), this manga adaptation of their story is a fun new addition to BL fans’ libraries both new and tenured. With a light and easily digestible story that is low-key and fun, Hirano and Kagiura is an instant comfort title that you’ll want to return to again and again. The light comedy and adorable cast of quirky young men will have readers falling in love with the world Harusono has created and put so much care into.
This long-running franchise is a must for anyone who loves BL, slice-of-life/coming-of-age stories, and feel good reads that leave you feeling joyful. Pure, wholesome BL titles like this are a wonderful thing to invest in, as the lighthearted nature makes it a perfect gateway title for new readers and a refreshing read for long term lovers. An authentic tale of first loves and high school life, Hirano and Kagiura is a cozy new series you definitely don’t want to miss.
HOW DO I READ IT?
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*shoujo is a genre of manga known for its cute characters and romance lean