*High School Debut Book 1 — Recommended

A typical shojo plot — young woman desperate to get a boyfriend as she starts high school — is made highly entertaining through dynamic characters and art.

Haruna is used to working hard to get what she wants. She’s a softball player (and girls’ manga fan) who thinks that slavishly following teen magazines for fashion and behavior suggestions will gain her a guy. She doesn’t understand what works specifically for her body type and personality, though, so she’s been a failure so far… and an amusingly scary one.

High School Debut Book 1 cover
High School Debut Book 1
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Kawahara’s art is impressive and emotional, with Haruna giving off a palpable air of desperation through the pages. Her body language is aggressive and determined, alternating with the confusion of a young teen rushing too fast into areas she doesn’t understand. She’s attractive, with the changeable appearance of a typical girl, very pretty when she picks the right look, very sporty when she’s working out.

I think it’s funny that she thinks that there’s one right thing that guys like, and if she works hard enough at it, she’ll achieve it. Just as the reader learns to understand how special and unique Haruna is, hopefully, she’ll learn the same about boys, that each one is different and wants different things.

Anyway, she decides that she’s reached the summit of what she can teach herself, so she seeks a coach to identify her weaknesses and help her improve them. She bumps into a handsome upperclassman who understands popularity but hates girls (because he ends up hurting them when they care more than he does). Haruna begs him to help her, and thanks to the intervention of his lovely younger sister, they work out a deal.

There’s a lot that’s refreshing about this series. Haruna doesn’t regret the hard work she put into her athletics; she’s just ready for a different challenge now. Her discipline and determination are positive qualities, enhanced through her earlier sports practice. She takes advance of opportunities when they come along, seizing the moment without twittering or second-guessing herself. She’s learning to think about others and realize that love might hurt, too, when jealousy and rejection get involved.

Most important to me as a reader, I couldn’t figure out from the beginning which guy I wanted her to end up with. There are multiple good choices, each with their own strengths. Her coach’s one condition was not to fall for him, so that, combined with the natural tendency to find someone attractive who pays that much attention to you, make him a temptation.

She and her coach each have things to teach each other. Her naive appreciation of love, fed by too many romance comics, will sand off some of his jaded exterior, while his observations about fashion choices and behavior really are helpful and instructive. He also respects what makes her her instead of trying to turn her into a faddish version of whatever’s popular. There are a lot of good things to learn about male/female relationships here, but they’re subtly presented, which makes them all the more enjoyable.

Find out more at the publisher’s website. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)


  1. […] Camera Camera at the Manga Maniac Cafe. At Comics Worth Reading, Johanna Draper Carlson enjoys vol. 1 of High School Debut but is less enthusiastic about Pop Japan Travel. Greg Hackmann gives vol. 1 of Aventura a qualified […]

  2. […] already covered (and recommended) High School Debut. After hearing good things, I have copies of Sand Chronicles and Honey and Clover on the way, and I […]

  3. […] I’ve previously reviewed Book 1. […]

  4. i love High School Debut! i’ve read all the books that have come out. there are a lot of unexpected twists that will keep you on edge

  5. […] series keeps growing on me. (I’ve previously recommended Book 1 and Book 2.) I like that the twists move quickly, but not too much so. Concepts are explored […]

  6. […] High School Debut is very very good at what it does, and by turning the usual characterizations on their heads (the girl is sporty and doesn’t understand relationships; the boy does although he’s been hurt in the past), it stays fresh and funny. It also comes out quickly, with six volumes this year, one every couple of months, which helps in building and keeping interest. […]

  7. […] read a lot more Shojo Beat titles, and the same is true of them. Here are just some samples: High School Debut Book 11, September 1, $8.99 — Book 12, November 3, $9.99 Sand Chronicles Book 6, September 1, […]

  8. […] things had to change once Yoh and Haruna got together — but I sometimes miss the humor of the early days, when Haruna was trying so hard to balance what she wanted with other people’s […]

  9. manga is sooo amazing!
    best shoujo ever!

  10. I love this manga it’s my favorite by far! I miss the early days before Yoh and her got together too… it was hilarious to see Haruna try so hard and Yoh tell her she was trying too hard.

  11. Oh, man I loved this manga to bits. Made me pull all-nighters to finish, too. Like you said, the heroine was refreshing, and the male-female relationship was explored nicely, much better than most shoujo that simply have the heroine think the guy’s so “cool” and therefore will be the perfect partner.

  12. Micro noob12

    Pretty much the whole series rocks but, my favorite Manga is soooooooooooo Shaiwase kissa Schoume a.k.a. Happy cafe. :3

  13. […] enjoyed reading this shojo manga series when it ran in single volumes five years ago. It’s cute and funny and not overly sweet, about […]

  14. […] very much enjoyed the shojo manga series High School Debut, so I have mixed emotions about this omnibus news. On the one hand, I’m glad more people will […]

  15. […] based in character only. That’s much like writer Kazune Kawahara’s previous series, High School Debut, which also featured a well-meaning but clueless student wanting to fit in and find […]

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