Haruna is really great at sports. In junior high, she spent most of her days as the star of the girls’ softball team and spent all her free time reading shoujo manga, which might explain why she has some weird expectations when it comes to boys. Romance is what Haruna wants more than anything—it’s just too bad she has no idea how to dress, how to flirt, or what boys find attractive. When she hears that Yoh, a handsome upperclassman, has good taste in women, Haruna begs him to coach her in the art of attracting men. Reluctantly, Yoh agrees under the condition that Haruna promises not to fall in love with him.
Spoiler alert: she does.
As a character, Haruna is a bit more endearing than Yoh. Her trusting nature and optimistic attitude are nice, but she has some serious misconceptions about dating. She makes it clear that her goal is to find a boyfriend and at first this means any boyfriend. At times, she fails to see the difference between being hit on and being harassed. In contrast, Yoh is a bit of a “bro.” He’s considered attractive by the girls at school, but his personality is quite guarded and he is also extremely blunt. While he means well, some of Yoh’s remarks to Haruna could be considered hurtful; on the other hand, he develops protective feelings towards her which become genuinely tender. I was bothered by some of Yoh’s physical criticisms of Haruna, but he later corrects this, insisting that she should be herself. Yoh’s initial attitude might turn off some readers, but standoffish men are a standard love interest in this type of manga.
Haruna is drawn as an athletic girl, which is a nice change from the diminutive, willowy female protagonists we often encounter in shoujo manga. Yoh is mostly expressionless; he smiles, but it isn’t often. He’s tall and has cute dark hair, but his stone-faced gaze is still his most distinctive feature. The art isn’t poor by any means, but it doesn’t pop, either. The mangaka does include some amusing notes on the sides of the pages in which she describes various events in her life.
This isn’t a bad shoujo manga, but it is pretty standard. The fact that Haruna falls in love with Yoh is not even a real spoiler; not only is it very obvious from the setup, but there is a drawing of Yoh and Haruna embracing one another on the spine of the book. High School Debut is like one of those 80s movies where the popular kid takes on a nerdy “charity case” and the two end up falling in love despite their vastly different social standings. It will gain readers for this reason alone. Still, if shelf space is an issue, you might want to skip High School Debut as it doesn’t break any new ground in the genre. However, this compact omnibus edition binds three issues into one, and if your library has an avid fanbase for shoujo high school romance, you can’t go wrong. This is a series that gives its audience what it wants.
The volume is listed as appropriate for teens, but aside from a scary scene in which Haruna is almost abducted by one of her love interests, the sexual content is light.
High School Debut (3-in-1 Edition), vol. 1
by Kazune Kawahara
VIZ Media, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 12-17