High School Debut, Volume 1 – Manga Review

High School Debut, Volume 2 Cover

Romance coach for hire … when standing in front of a mall isn’t enough.

Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat Manga)
Author: Kazune Kawahara
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T
Release Date: Now Available

When it comes to looking for love, most of us are clueless. How else do we explain the existence of dating services and dating advice columns in fashion magazines? In High School Debut, Volume 1, a very clueless tomboy is looking for love only her idea of finding love is waiting for it to hit her in the face. A girl like this needs a coach and who better to guide her than that hot guy that doesn’t want anything to do with romance. Yup, this is recipe for disaster … or is it?

The first volume introduces readers to Haruna Nagashima, a girl who had, in junior high, dedicated herself to softball and very little else aside from reading (and memorizing) romance comics. Now that she’s in high school, however, her priority has changed and her one desire is to find romance. The trouble is that thanks to bad advice from fashion and beauty magazines, her idea of what guys like in girls is warped and her sense of fashion is a complete disaster.

In the beginning of the manga she is hilariously trying to get hit on with no success whatsoever. Realizing she is doing something wrong, she meets the handsome Yoh Komiyama who helps her when she trips and loses a shoe. Her first instinct is that – like softball – she needs a coach. She needs somebody to instruct her on how to be attractive to guys and land a boyfriend. Unfortunately, Yoh is a somewhat bitter high school student who wants nothing to do with romance. In fact, Yoh is bitter towards girls.

It isn’t until Yoh’s sister, Asami, convinces her brother to aid Haruna on her quest for love that Yoh discovers that the tall, buff Haruna will be very hard to be presentable to other guys. He accepts to take on this hard task under one condition … that Haruna must not fall for him even a little. Now, what to do for a girl who has no idea of what looks good? For one thing, her outfits are so outlandish that they’re laughable. Yoh is quick with the harsh criticism but much of what he says makes complete sense to Haruna that she is glad he has become her coach.

The heart of High School Debut is in its protagonists, especially Haruna who is one of the most completely likeable characters who will not fail to make you laugh and cheer her on. We witness as Yoh takes her shopping for clothes, attempting to pick something out that fits her body type, hair color and tanned skin. While she listens to everything Yoh tells her, her first time out with him she disobeys his advice when she finally does get hit on. Unfortunately, Yoh knows a player when he sees one and on the day of her date with this new guy she overhears how embarrassed she is to be seen with a girl like Haruna. He even attempts to kidnap her until Yoh comes to her rescue.

Constantly worried that her handsome coach will ditch her. Haruna tries to hilariously try to impress Yoh and only ending up embarrassing him in the process. While he’s a critical young man with a deep and hurtful past, Haruna realizes that Yoh has a good heart. Even when she is embarrassing him, Yoh never leaves her side and he always guesses what she’s thinking. Not bad for a guy who harbors a distaste for most women.

It isn’t until Haruna meets Yoh’s two male friends that she comes to know the blonde and handsome Fumiya. Bumping into him at the batting cages, she suddenly realizes that she likes being around the kind and funny guy. She even looks forward to seeing him in Yoh’s house. When she loses an arm wrestling match with him, Haruna comically runs away realizing that she’s in love. The volume ends with her waking up Yoh early in the morning to tell him that she might just be in love. We also come to learn that Yoh might just have feeling for Haruna. No surprise there, coach.

A delightfully-told tale that will be familiar to most fans of the genre, High School Debut, Volume 1 is not a bad start for a series but not a completely original one either. Still, there’s much to say about the characters that do manage to stand out beautifully and you won’t be able to help but love clueless Haruna. Trust me when I say that you will be cheering for her all the way.

REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B
A most amusing and often comical tale of awkwardness in the pursuit of love, High School Debut is, well, a nice manga debut. You won’t help but feel that we seen this all before but Kawahara tells the story well and her characters are actually engaging.

ART: B+
Kawahara’s art is absolutely gorgeous and she fills the panels with her vivid characters and lush backgrounds. Part of the reason you will fall in love with the characters is how expressive they are and Haruna’s reactions will not fail to put a smile on your face.

OVERALL: B
We’ve seen shojo like this before and we’re no strangers to the romance coach scenario but High School Debut’s first volume manages to be at least likeable and a fun read. If anything, it’s Haruna who steals the show and the reason you’ll see the volume to the very end. As predictable as the outcome will surely be, however, it’s the road to the inevitable that is charming, funny and sweet enough to follow.

 

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