Thursday, January 15, 2015

High School Debut by Kazune Kawahara

Title: High School Debut (Kōkō Debut, Koukou Debut)
Author: Kazune Kawahara
Volumes: 13 (completed)
Volumes (English): 13 (completed)

Original Run: 2003 - 2008

When Haruna Nagashima was in junior high her life consisted of playing softball and reading comics. But now that she's going to high school, Haruna decides to put all of her energy towards getting a boyfriend and having the high school romance of a lifetime. To help in her quest, she enlists cute upperclassman Yoh Komiyama to coach her as she eschews her jock tendencies and turns herself into the kind of girl who can catch a guy. Yoh agrees, with one catch: Haruna had better not fall for him!

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All the spoils! If you want to avoid them you should really skip to the bottom.

High School Debut is one of my all time favorite manga series! This is a series that I reread when I need a laugh, a swoon worthy moment, an escape from reality, or an escape from boredom. It has everything a shojo should have: an unlikely, but quirky premise, a plucky heroine, a sexy, yet aloof love interest, meddling friends, and unconventional antagonists.

1. An unlikely, but quirky premise.

High School Debut has a fun, quirky premise that seems ludicrous on the surface, but works well in moving the plot along. Haruna Nagashima has spent her entire junior high career focusing on softball. Once she enters high school she decides to give it all up and focus on finding a boyfriend.

Unfortunately for Haruna, she has poor fashion sense and doesn't really understand how to attract the opposite sex. She takes several trips to the local hangouts trying to pick up guys with no success. On one of these outings she meets Yoh Komiyama when she loses a shoe. This chance encounter shapes the rest of the series rather delightfully and might be one of my favorite first meetings ever.

Later Haruna sees Yoh at school and is eventually able to convince him to become her "love coach," but on one condition, that she not fall in love with him. If you've read any shojo, you know this rule is going to be fact you're anticipating their eventual relationship from their very first meeting. Watching their relationship develop is a pure joy and the hilarity that ensues during their courtship and coupling is highly entertaining!

2. A plucky heroine.

Haruna Nagashima is an endearing character who is a combination of naivete, eternal optimism, and perseverance. She's one of those characters who you root for regardless of the circumstances. This determination is what ultimately draws Yoh to Haruna and convinces him to coach her.

Haruna isn't a delicate heroine who needs a handsome prince to come to her rescue. In fact, she is more likely to do the rescuing. One of my favorite scenes is when Yoh and Haruna are locked up in the gym supply closet and Haruna sets out to rescue him. In the end they rescue each other, which just about sums up their relationship.

3. A sexy, yet aloof love interest.

I LOVE Yoh Komiyama! Haruna and Yoh are my OTP and I was shipping them before the end of the first volume. They're the couple I want to have a happily ever after forever type of relationship. I love Haruna and Yoh together. Her optimism balances out his cynicism in the best possible way. They each bring out the best in the other.

My favorite part in the series is when Haruna cries with Yoh about his leaving and they're so caught up in the moment and their emotions, but unsure how to express their feelings. It's the most beautiful scene in the entire series and their commitment for one another comes across really well during this scene. Their love truly seems endearing and I can't help but hope that they beat the odds.

I like how Yoh's dork side comes out more as he dates Haruna. Most of the time he's cool and sexy, only with Haruna does he let his guard down and relax. He doesn't have to put on a show with her and she doesn't have to for him either. They both accept each other as they are, flaws and all, but more importantly they value each other.

4. Meddling friends.

This series has some of the most entertaining and outlandish secondary characters I've come across in a manga series.

Yui Asaoka - He's one of my favorite characters in the series. His mischievous nature and perverse sense of humor makes scenes with him immensely entertaining. One never quite knows when he's being serious or not. He develops feelings for Haruna, but his constant teasing leads Haruna to think he's joking when he finally confesses to her. His attraction to Haruna causes tension between Yoh and him, leading to a hilarious sports competition. The thing I like about this sort of love triangle is that Asaoka moves on when Haruna doesn't return his feelings.

The author hints at an attraction between Mami and Asaoka by the end of the series. Mami is the only character who can tell whether or not he's being serious. I would have liked for the author to have done more with their relationship and I'm not insistent that it need be a romantic one. I thought Mami and Asaoka would have made great friends. My all time favorite scene with Asaoka is at the end of the "date" he goes on with Haruna and he tries to kiss her to make Yoh jealous. He is completely unapologetic when Yoh finally admits he's been following them.

Mami Takahashi - Mami is Haruna's best friend and probably one of the most intuitive characters in the series. She's one of the most decent characters in the series as well and I admired her loyalty to her friend. No matter how ridiculous the situation, she always managed to retain some sense of decorum. Throughout the series it's obvious how much Haruna cares about and respects Mami, but you don't get a sense of the depth of Mami's feelings until they go on a school holiday together and Mami admits a betrayal. The best part is that Haruna instantly forgives her, saying there was no betrayal (and she's right, Mami shouldn't have been feeling guilty).

Asami Komiyama - Yoh's sister is a hard character to like. While I don't hate her, I usually found myself wanting to punch her in the face. Asa basically likes causing as much mischief as long as she isn't put out by it. She's not a good person and is incredibly selfish, but to her credit she knows this. She also has a serious brother complex. I cheered aloud when Haruna calls Asa out on it. Haruna is probably one of the only people to accept Asa for who she is, but also isn't afraid of confronting her when she's acting inconsiderate, especially in her relationship with Fumi.

Fumiya Tamura - Fumi is probably one of my least favorite characters. It's not that I hate him, he's just kind of boring. He's a bit dim, but with a gentle nature. Haruna and him get along quite well and he was her first crush. His hooking up with Asa helps push Haruna and Yoh together so I wasn't complaining when Asa snaked him from Haruna. He's a bit of a pushover and honestly needs to break it off with Asa and find someone better. I think that's the main reason I don't like him; he's willing to stay with someone who treats him like crap and refuses to recognize it's happening.

5. Unconventional antagonists.

The antagonists in this series range from love sick to deranged. (But in the best possible way.)

Makoto - Yoh's ex-girlfriend and one of the more interesting plot twists. She's an unhateable character...even Haruna likes her. True to Haruna form, she rescues Makoto from unwanted advances while riding the subway (might be train) and they become instant friends. Haruna goes so far as to encourage Makoto to try and win back her ex-boyfriend. Of course Haruna has no idea she's Yoh's ex, so it's quite funny watching Haruna unwittingly play matchmaker with Yoh and his ex.

While Makoto a bit weak and acts like a damsel, she's still an interesting character. One of my favorite moments in the series is directly because of this character trying to win Yoh back. A truly swoon worthy moment, Yoh meets with her for closure and after basically saying that the reason he is someone Makoto could even want to be with again is because of Haruna, he runs back to Haruna and affirms his feelings for her. (It was even snowing! C'est très romantique !)

Leona - Haruna's nemesis turn kind-of-friend. Her sole purpose when transferring to Haruna's high school is for a rematch. She wants to prove that she's the better softball player and when she finds out Haruna isn't playing any longer she tries other means to get her revenge. I loved this character and I loved the scenario she created in her head when she locked Haruna and Yoh in the gym closet. Yoh's comment, "It seems as though even her enemies are from some alternate dimension" defines Leona's character perfectly. She's quite intense and persistent.

Miyabi - Leona is merely bizarre, Miyabi might be psychotic. She's one of Yoh's classmates in cram school who develops a strong obsession towards Yoh after he basically treats her like a human being. Miyabi is a clever, yet plain and overweight girl, who hates herself and everyone around her. Her attitude at first is combative towards Yoh, calling him shallow and then proceeding to insult Haruna. Her attitude towards him does a complete 180 after Yoh comes to her aid when she is hurt. It's one thing to crush on someone, it's another thing to stalk them.

Miyabi does everything in her power to break up Yoh and Haruna, even going so far as sending a breakup text to Haruna from Yoh's phone and then deleting Haruna's number and changing it to her own number. It's some crazy shit. Even with all the crazy, I can't bring myself to hate Miyabi. I relate to her self loathing and the need to feel loved. Instead I feel a mixture of pity and hope. I pity her current mental state, but the end of her arc gives me hope that she's reevaluating her life and trying to put it back in order.

Another reason I can't bring myself to hate her, is that I have a soft spot for her brother Akito. Akito is a freshman who has a bit of a crush on Haruna and a misunderstanding, exacerbated by Miyabi, leads Yoh to think Haruna might be into Akito as well. I also hope that Akito and Miyabi can finally grow close and have a better relationship now that Miyabi is actually trying to improve her life.

The ending of this series was perfect! From the airport departure scene to their reunion in Tokyo. I loved every moment of it. Yoh's reaction in Tokyo to the newly grown up Haruna brings the series back around to it's beginning.

Final Thoughts

This is one of my favorite manga series! I love everything about it. I've lost count of how many times I've read this series. It's one of my go to comfort series when I'm feeling down or feeling bored. It's a fun read that never fails to make me happy. I highly recommend this series.

I also recommend reading the one shot Enren Debut. When I first read this, I had to rely on the online scanning sites because it hadn't been translated into English. Luckily for you, it's finally being translated into English and is going to be published early February!!! (Fangirling so hard right now!) What's even better about this, is that the other one shot she wrote, that's never been translated into English (even on the online scan sites) is going to be published as well!!! So excited and so buying this volume when it comes out!

Follow Amy Gideon's board High School Debut=Koukou Debut on Pinterest.


  1. I just finished this one and I did really like it, though I found the ending a bit rushed and unsatisfying -- I wanted to see more (maybe like something at the very least like at the end of Ouran HS Host Club). Though I could have done with even more from that one too! I've actually yet to find a manga where I completely love the ending...but maybe that's good as it says, "hey, I want more" though I really did want to get some closure with Yoh and Haruna.

  2. I liked the ending, but I do agree it's rather abrupt. One of my favorite things about Ouran High School Host Club is that you do get some closure (never as much as I want though). Did you read any of the one shots that were recently published in High School Debut (3-in-1 Edition), Vol. 5? It follows Yoh and Haruna during her last year of high school. I would LOVE for there to be some one shots that show them in college together or even after, but I also understand the whole "leave them wanting more."

  3. I did see the one shot where she was supposed to go visit him but someone's cat was dying and she gave up her ticket, but then Yoh wound up visiting the cafe she was working in. It was good -- but still basically left them in the same place. I suppose what I wanted is some kind of wrap up view of the future; after they've graduated University, Haruna coaching at some school, etc. As a writer I do totally get that you can't wrap up everything but I think one of the interesting things about manga is that some of them literally feel like they go on for ages and a normal novel you don't generally get that chance. I mean, Skip Beat is over 30 volumes now and still no end in sight! So with that many volumes, you have a chance to actually *really* wrap everything up. It's just such a different form.

    Anyway, I rather liked Yoh in particular. Compared to a lot of guys in similar mangas, he's a standout.

    I checked out Honey Hunt and am actually rather glad it went on hiatus because I wanted to scream at the characters. ;)

    1. I feel like Skip Beat! is going to continue on forever! :p And if it does ever end I'm worried that I won't actually get real closure. It's probably my biggest worry with Skip Beat! after spending so many years with the series.

      I'm a huge fan of the epilogue (if even being a fan of a literary device can be a thing), so I love it when we're given a glimpse into the future of a series. I'm not sure if it's possible for an author to give fans of their characters enough. I find it hard to say goodbye to characters I love, so even if the ending was perfect I'd still pick up anything the author wrote after that if it contained information about the characters I've grown to love.

      I haven't picked up Honey Hunt and from what you said maybe that's not a bad thing. Talk about not having closure. Nothing I hate worse in a manga series is getting invested and then the series goes on hiatus or just gets cancelled. I've lost count of how many times CLAMP has done this to me. :/

  4. I do hope she can wrap up Skip Beat well. It would be a shame if she cuts it off too short after so many volumes!

    Definitely don't do Honey Hunt. It's a bit of a takeoff of Skip Beat (the whole going into showbiz for revenge thing) and given where it ended on hiatus, it's just a frustrating thing. I can see how it would probably end if she ever does finish it, but I doubt if she will. It had really nice art though.

    I finished Otomen recently and that was pretty good, though another one where the ending really didn't go on long enough to be satisfying. But overall it was fun.

    Oh, and I picked up that special 13-14-15 volume of High School Debut. Good, but still leaves things not wrapped up! Too much of it was "extras" rather than real story. And I'm not sure what happened to the art -- there's such a huge difference in how Yoh and Haruna were drawn in the beginning compared to the end (they both looked better in the early volumes). But Yoh is still very lovable.

    I'm learning, though. I need to start checking to see if a series is completed (or nearing completion) before I start it!!

    1. It's official! I'm going to have to give Otomen another chance. I read the first two volumes and while I didn't dislike it, I couldn't get into it. You're the third person to recommend it, so I think I need to give it another try. (Last year, I stopped reading Love Com at the second volume because I really wasn't feeling it, but picked up the rest of the volumes recently and was glad that I did. Absolutely loved it!) So I think Otomen deserves another try.

      I will never not love Yoh! One of my favorite manga crushes. I'm not sure what happened with the artwork in the extra volumes. I assumed either someone else was creating the artwork or maybe she had a rushed deadline, so it wasn't as finished as the other volumes. The one shot about Yoh making a friend in college looked as if the artwork was done by a completely different artist though.

      She has another series being released right now called My Love Story and I just picked up the first volume in it. It has a unique premise for a shojo.

      There are series I know I want to eventually read, but won't start until I know they're complete or have a definite end date. I have enough ongoing series to be getting on with. I refuse to add another!

  5. Ugh, I know. It's painful how long some of these go on! Right now I'm waiting on Skip Beat, Kimi ni Todoke, Love Stage, Monthly Girl's Nozaki-Kun (funniest manga ever), Say I Love You, Wolf Girl & Black Prince...actually I'm going to stop counting them up because it is depressing. I'll have to check out My Love Story. I would like another *completed* one though!

    1. I'm waiting for most of these too, except for Love Stage and Monthly Girl's Nozaki-Kun. I'll have to add them to my to-reads list, completed or not.

    2. Love Stage is a Yaoi one, just to warn you. It's good and actually the only BL one I've seen where you don't want to kill at least one of the characters (well, other than one scene early on, but the character actually atones for it, rather than the normal). Monthly Girl's Nozaki-Kun also has an anime, which is what started me on it. It is by far one of the funniest things I've read (and I say that as an author who specialises in mostly funny books). I don't remember the last time I laughed out loud so many times while reading. It does start a tiny bit slow, but don't let that worry you. I will be buying all of them as soon as I can (haven't been able to find any of them yet).

    3. Thanks for the warning;I'll still check it out. I'm always looking for something different. I'll probably start Monthly Girl's Nozaki-Kun first though. And now that you've told me there's an anime, there is a good chance I'll check it out as well. ;)

    4. Oh, do! It's on Crunchyroll. I've got a free pass for that, if you want it. Just let me know. They keep giving them to me and I don't have anyone to pass them on to. It really is seriously funny and sweet and crashes through all kinds of tropes in a really unique way.

      I do really like Love Stage too. It's worth a try. I'd tried The World's Greatest First Love because I'd seen it recommended in so many places and was SO annoyed at that one. I don't care about the sexual orientation of the characters -- I just want a good story -- but I don't want to be subjected to what basically amounts to abuse in the name of love.

    5. Thanks! I'm already using Crunchyroll and am bombarded with free passes I can't get rid of either. I just added it to my watch queue.

      Thanks for the warning about World's Greatest First Love. It had been recommended to me, but I think I'm gonna pass on it. I hate when abuse is used for a vehicle of love in books and movies. All it does is normalize the behavior and give a warped idea of love.

    6. WGFL is insanely rape-y. It's three different couples and two of them have relationships that basically revolve around the dominant guy forcing the other one *every single freaking time*. The anime has other issues too -- all the characters look the same! You can only tell them apart by eye and hair colour. I don't understand why that one gets recommended all over the place. I honestly think I wound up watching it all the way through because I kept thinking they had to redeem themselves somewhere/somehow or else why do so many people recommend it??? It was a bit like watching a train wreck and reading the comment threads and going "WHYYYYYY????"

      Love Stage is also on Crunchyroll too. I do recommend that one!

  6. My Love Story sounds a bit like Toradora from the description of the main guy character...?

  7. Aw! I binge read a few online. I have to buy that one when I can! Looks like Viz will be releasing them. So sweet!

  8. Do you have any other suggestions? Especially for completed ones? I did read the Maid Sama one and Ouran...

    1. Some of my favorite completed shojos include Strobe Edge, We Were There, Love Com (Lovely Complex), and Sand Chronicles. I also liked Special A, I am Here, Absolute Boyfriend, and MeruPuri. If we're just talking manga in general, Death Note and Full Metal Alchemist are favorites as well.

    2. Thanks! I've heard of a few of those already. I was debating about picking up Absolute Boyfriend. I can't seem to find Special A anywhere though!

    3. I picked up Special A from my local library because there are about 17 volumes in the series. I actually borrowed Absolute Boyfriend as well. My local library has an awesome manga collection!

    4. Sadly, my local library only seems to carry stuff like Naruto. I've heard that one is good, but I haven't been in the mood for that type of thing. I'll have to check some of the other libraries to see what they have. My shelves are filling up as it is! I've got Skip Beat through volume 33 and waiting on the others to release. I think they come out a bit slower over here in the UK than in the US. Am going to buy the My Love Story one though after reading some of it online. Really sweet story.

    5. ha! And apologies for completely hijacking your comment thread on this post. ;)

    6. No worries! I've had fun talking manga with you.