Hirano has been looking out for his younger roommate Kagiura (Kagi-kun) at high school just as a senpai is expected to do. But he hadn’t anticipated that Kagi would fall for him. Now he doesn’t know what to do for the best; he doesn’t want to hurt Kagi’s feelings and spoil the easy-going relationship of two guys sharing a room in the school dorm. He’s felt responsible, as Kagi’s senpai, to make sure that the younger boy settles in well to life in high school, away from home and family for the first time. But he’s done his job a little too well.
As for Kagi, he keeps confiding in his long-suffering classmate Niibashi (Niibashi’s become a kind-of unwilling confidante). Eventually Niibashi asks Kagi, “Do you want to kiss him?” and Kagi begins to realize that his crush on Hirano might be rather less platonic than he’s been able to admit to himself. (Even though he’s still expressing it as a wish to marry Hirano because he wants to have what his own parents have, which is really rather charming if a little naïve.) Meanwhile, the yearly routine continues. There’s a Christmas party in the dorm, Kagi’s birthday, then at New Year, Hirano and Kagi go to the shrine together. When they’re tying their New Year’s wishes alongside the many others at the shrine, Kagi experiences a moment of revelation. Yes, he does want to kiss Hirano. There’s no going back for him now.
The third term gets underway and as the school year is coming to a close (March), the end of the two sharing a room looms very large in Kagi’s mind. Hirano will be entering his final year and will need time and space to study. It is what impels Kagi to ask Hirano, “Can I put my head in your lap some time?” to which Hirano distractedly agrees. When an opportunity arises, Kagi reverses the request and Hirano, caught off-guard, agrees, but jokingly complains that Kagi’s thighs are rock-hard. Then it’s Kagi’s turn but he’s so overwhelmed by the experience that he retreats, blushing furiously. I still feel like I’m… doing something wrong…
No surprise, then that Kagi has difficulties sleeping and ends up in the nurse’s office. But just as it seems that his wish to stay with Hirano for another year will never work out, there’s a crisis in the provision of accommodation as another boarding house used by the school has to close. Could there still be a chance for Kagi and Hirano to stay together after all?
Hirano and Kagiura is all about misunderstandings and how a simple act of friendship or two can easily be misinterpreted to mean so much more. Or is it just friendship? Is Hirano deceiving himself and is his brotherly affection for his younger roommate deepening and changing into something else? Shou Harusono’s best-known manga, Sasaki and Miyano, explores a rather different relationship between two boys with a similar age-gap at the same all-boys school (fear not, Sasaki fans, we still occasionally see Sasaki in these chapters!). The ‘joke’ about the first title was that the BL in the description was ‘Boys’ Life’ not ‘Boys’ Love’ but the same can’t be said about Hirano and Kagiura; poor Kagi-kun is well and truly smitten with his scary-looking senpai, dyed hair and pierced ears and all. It’s lucky that Hirano is an understanding senpai and that Niibashi, Kagi’s classmate, has some sincere and kind advice to give just when Kagi is feeling at his most desperate. “There is nothing wrong with it!” he tells Kagi. “Love is totally normal… I’m rooting for you.”
However, Shou Harusono shows us how difficult a path Hirano is forced to negotiate when Kagi-kun tells him straight out that he likes him and he tries to tell him back that he can’t reciprocate his feelings. Cue the infamous (yet undeniably cute) Kagi-kun pout. The mangaka has a gift for showing myriad different feelings in her characters’ expressions and body language, so this might be a slim volume, but there’s a lot packed into these short but intense chapters. There’s also a little gentle humour so it’s not all pining and angst, especially when Hanzawa (the 2nd Year Dorm RA with the inscrutable smile) is around.
There’s a side story ‘Pictures’ featuring Hanzawa and a Bonus ‘Touching His Ears’ which is where Kagi asks if he can put in the earrings he gave Hirano as a birthday gift. In Hirano’s ears, not his own, that is. Yup. There’s absolutely no sexual undertones there, absolutely not, no way. There’s also Chapter 10.5 which follows the final chapter of this volume but is only two pages in length.
Leighann Harvey continues to deliver a good translation of Shou Harusono’s manga for Yen Press and the lettering (covering everything from phone conversations to innermost thoughts) is expertly done by Winster. There are translation notes, an afterword from the mangaka and two unused sketches for the cover art. Volume 3 is due out in July 2023 (the series is currently up to four volumes in Japan). As with the mangaka’s other volumes, the cover art displays her striking use of colours really glows, as do four colour pages inside; another bonus with this attractive series.
Even though the TV anime series only gave us the briefest of glimpses of Kagi-kun, there’s a short anime connected to the latest animated film: Sasaki and Miyano: Graduation which is based on Volume 7 and will be available via Crunchyroll later this year.
Nothing is resolved at the end of this volume and there just seem to be even more obstacles put in Kagi-kun’s way. As for Hirano, Hanzawa and Sasaki, they have final exams and their futures to worry about as they move into the third year. This beautifully drawn spin-off series continues to prove itself both an amusing yet touching look at everyday life in an all-boys’ high school.