Article first published as Manga Review: High School Debut Volume One by Kazune Kawahara on Blogcritics.
High School Debut Volume One is a manga by Kazune Kawahara, and it was published in North America by Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint in 2008. The series is rated “T” for teens; after reading this volume, I would agree with this rating.
Haruna Nagashima was a top athlete on her junior high’s softball team, and she enjoys reading girls’ comics. Now that she’s starting high school, she has decided to quit being an athlete and trying to get a boyfriend. Unfortunately, Haruna is relying very heavily on magazines for fashion advice, and is obviously trying too hard; this means that the boys are avoiding her like the plague.
One day, she meets a popular boy named Yoh Komiyama, and wants him to become her “love coach” in order to be able to get a boyfriend. After some initial resistance, he agrees to under one condition: that she doesn’t fall in love with him. Haruna agrees to this condition. While working with Yoh, she meets Yoh’s sister and his two friends.
I have to admit that when I saw the premise for this manga, it seemed to be rather shallow on the surface. However, as I read this volume, I realized the story wasn’t as shallow as I thought it was going to be. In some respects, I found myself relating to Haruna. While I wasn’t as extreme as she is back when I was in high school, I also went through that time of my life wanting a boyfriend and wanting to fit in. My 15-year-old daughter, who also read this volume, said there were ways that she could relate to Haruna as well.
For a male protagonist in a shojo series, I thought that Yoh was a more complex character than you would normally expect to find in this kind of a series. I also thought that what happens at the end of this volume felt rather natural, and wasn’t forced in order to add some complexity to the story.
While the story is a higher quality than I would expect from a shojo title, I can’t say the same for the art. I can give Kawahara credit for trying to give the characters rather distinctive designs, but she relies too heavily on the lines on the cheeks that are supposed to show embarrassment. There are some panels where this works, because the characters are truly embarrassed, but there are other panels where this effect is used for a character isn’t embarrassed. Overusing this trope ends up drawing a little too much attention to it.
Overall, I have to say that High School Debut is pretty decent for a shojo manga. The story features believable characters in believable situations, and the reader finds that they have come to care about the main two characters by the time they finish this volume. I think that High School Debut will have the most appeal to teenage girls who enjoy reading shojo manga series that feature high school students as the main characters.
I wrote this review after reading a copy of High School Debut Volume One that I checked out through the King County Library System.