Waxing Philosophical: Piercings as a Form of Self-Harm in Horimiya

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I’ve been going back over and re-reading one of my favorite manga series the past couple weeks, Horimiya. It’s one that I feel has a lot of aspects that are both entertaining and make you think in certain ways, and this last read-through has gotten me thinking about the nature of self-harm. I’ve thought about it a little bit before in the context of this manga, but I figured this time I’d try and get some of my thoughts down on paper in a more concrete form. I know this might be a bit of stretch, but I feel like it makes sense in the context of the manga given the characters and story, so hear me out.

Horimiya is a romantic comedy manga that takes place in high school. It has your standard high school worries: making friends, keeping up appearances, romance troubles, and bullying. One of the main characters, Miyamura, has been ostracised from his classmates since childhood for looking gloomy and nerdy with his long hair, glasses, and quiet demeanor. People began to see him as this unapproachable otaku and thus began bullying him. It’s not until a chance meeting between him and the other main character, Hori, that we see another side to his character, one where he becomes a stylish man with dozens of piercings and tattoos. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that speaks to how people, especially young adolescents, manage public and private personas given the situation. But I think it also has another connotation given Miyamura’s history of bullying: self-harm.

It’s through Miyamura’s own words and those of the characters around him that we are led to believe he enjoys his piercings and the collection of accessories, and that his excess amount of tattoos are due to him not giving enough thought to what he is doing. However, if we examine how the creation of his ear piercings are displayed in the manga, I think we begin to see that at least back in his middle school years, piercing his ears may have had a different meaning for him. Take chapter 10 of the manga. It’s here that we see a flashback into Miyamura’s childhood and experience in school. We see him get bullied and ignored by his classmates, but we also get to see him creating his first piercings side-by-side to those events. In this way, the act of piercing his ears comes as a response to the bullying.

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On one particular page we see a panel of Miyamura bleeding from the lip after just having pierced it saying, “School life is so hard. I really don’t know how to deal with these things.” It’s a very clear juxtaposition pairing the pain and act of piercing his body with the troubles he has at school. Whether he’s doing it for the pain or for some way to justify to himself that he isn’t as gloomy as everyone things he is, I’m not sure. But the manga does show his history of depression quite clearly, especially later on. There’s one scene where we see Miyamura talking to his younger self, telling him all the good things that will happen to him, and his younger self responds, “Nobody needs me. Can I just die?” It’s a powerful cry for help, a very overt way of showing just how much he was suffering back then and how much gaining friends and relationships have helped him improve over time.

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Self harm can be a tricky thing to talk about since there are so many reasons why someone would hurt themselves. Sometimes the pain of harming themselves lets them confirm they are actually alive through the haze of depression, sometimes it’s an act of self-inflicted punishment, and sometime it becomes an endorphin addiction. I’m not going to diagnose Miyamura’s case of self-harm. I just wanted to point out and discuss something that’s been rolling around in my head for a little while, coming from an otherwise funny series. It’s an interesting way of looking at something serious through the lense of something that most of us would consider trivial, like piercing your ears. Originally, I was considering adding in Nifuji from Wotakoi to this as well, but I felt that instance was a little different and more benign than this one.

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Let me know what you thought about this short analysis post in the comments below. Have you noticed any other interesting things in the Horimiya series that are worth talking about? And sorry about the abrupt absence the last week. I was planning on getting a review scheduled for last Wednesday but then I caught a cold and moved to a new apartment, so all my plans kind of went out the window. But I’m back and should more or less be back onto a regular schedule. As usual, keep an eye on my Twitter for all updates.

~~Thanks for Reading!~~


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3 thoughts on “Waxing Philosophical: Piercings as a Form of Self-Harm in Horimiya

  1. I love Horimiya, and I love how you drew attention to the importance of those piercings! I wouldn’t have remembered many of these darker moments from the manga if you didn’t bring them up again.

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