Review by: Faith McAdams
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shojo Beat Manga)
Author: Kazune Kawahara
Genre: Shojo (Graphic Novel)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T (Teen)
Release Date: Now Available
Friends, foes and everything in-between.
Christmas was like a vivid dream to Haruna. All the things she wished Yoh would say to her were said and everything she planned for that date went down smoothly until they reached the restaurant where Yoh’s friend Asaoka worked. After that night, Haruna found she couldn’t talk to Yoh and this, of course, was a major problem.
Somehow, Haruna mustered all her courage and ran after Yoh and she told him that she loves him. It was a moment fans of the series just couldn’t help but cheer … but the question remained. Will Haruna ever get to talk to Yoh normally again?
The answer is yes and in Volume 5 we find the couple just as we had seen them before the Christmas date disaster. Yoh even planned a weekend of snowboarding with Haruna to make up for the long days of “therapy” that took up their winter break. It’s a prospect that has Haruna so excited that she doesn’t really pay much attention in class until her teacher introduces a new transfer student named Leona Matsuzaka. As beautiful (and somewhat buff) Leona is about to take a seat, her jaw drops and her eyes widen at the sight of Haruna.
Wondering why this new girl keeps staring at her and following her around, Yoh jokingly suggests that maybe Leona admires Haruna. Yet somewhere deep in Haruna’s mind she feels that she has seen Leona before somewhere. It isn’t until one day when Leona actually confronts Haruna that she finds out that the girl was in a rival softball team in junior high that played against Haruna and Mami’s team. Back then, Leona had a great batting average and a bright future in softball until she went up against Haruna who can pitch like nobody’s business. As a result, Leona feels cheated of her once-impeccable record and seeing our clueless gal makes her determined to ruin Haruna’s happiness and relationship with Yoh.
So, once again, Haruna is on a mission to protect her boyfriend … a fact that has Yoh feeling like he is the girl in the relationship. It’s hilarious to watch Haruna jump to strange conclusions and thinking that maybe Leona is deranged enough to poison Yoh’s juice box. Leona does, however, carry out a trap quite successfully … although the outcome isn’t what she expects. Leona manages to trick the couple and then lock Haruna and Yoh in a custodian’s closet in school. Fearing they might freeze to death, both Yoh and Haruna don’t freak out about their dilemma but rather grow even closer because of it. It isn’t until Mami and Asa come along to save them that Yoh realizes that he wouldn’t have minded staying locked in there with Haruna a bit longer.
Leona’s threats to Haruna’s happiness don’t last very long, though, thanks to an impromptu rematch out in the park. Later in the chapter she even focuses her need for revenge on somebody else in Haruna’s pack of friends so she doesn’t remain a constant threat to Haruna nor does she become a continuing rival. Still, it comes to Yoh’s close friend Asaoka that Yoh doesn’t fully appreciate Haruna and the great lengths she goes to make him happy. He’s quick to point out that Yoh hardly even compliments her.
What does threat their relationship in this volume is Haruna’s determination to set up her friend Mami with Asaoka seeing as Mami was always there for her when Haruna has a problem. Reluctantly, Yoh helps out but it’s clear that neither one wants to be hooked up at all. With Yoh no longer wanting to step in and help with the matchmaking, a disagreement soon has the two not talking to each another. Up until now, Haruna has never raised her voice to Yoh and this being their first real fight it would have felt out of place in their series if it wasn’t for Kawahara’s natural gift for balancing drama with her brand of comedy.
The real drama occurs in the last chapter when Asaoka tells Yoh that he’s going to ask Haruna out. Knowing his friend probably has good intentions, he lets him do it and so the two go on a date. As always, Haruna isn’t quick to pick out what exactly is going on but she trusts Asaoka and knows this is probably a trick to get Yoh jealous enough to apologize and express how much she means to him. It isn’t until towards the end of their “date” that Asaoka tells Haruna something that actually stuns her. Yoh does finally show up but it’s Haruna that feels like maybe there was some truth to what Asaoka told her.
The conflict that arises in Volume 5 of High School Debut mixes things up a little and Kawahara does a marvelous job maintaining the familiar vibe that makes this series such a pleasure to read. Watching the relationship between Haruna and Yoh develop was fun but watching it become strong enough to survive two crisis in one volume is pure gold. With the series ending with the twelfth volume, it’s surprising to see how well this series continues to develop.
After the Christmas fiasco, Haruna is finally able to speak to Yoh but now that they can a person from Haruna’s past threatens their happiness. Oh, aside from that there’s yet another character who feels that Haruna deserves somebody better. Yep, Volume 5 has it all.
Kawahara’s art does the trick nicely and her characters really stand out. I don’t want to say she’s gotten sloppy in the final chapter of this volume but Haruna’s facial expressions towards the end are a bit, well, sloppy.
Haruna and Yoh relationship is put to a test in this fifth volume and line is crossed by a familiar face you would never expect. In short, Volume 5 is a surprisingly compelling read that keeps up the same pleasant humor intact despite the rivalry that threatens a relationship we’ve been rooting for since Day One. Missing this one is not an option.