by Kazune Kawahara; adapted by Gemma Collinge
published by Viz; $8.99 US
Even when tackling standard shojo situations — in this volume, boyfriend Yoh gets sick, and Haruna is left alone to care for him — High School Debut puts its own unique twist on them.
First, there’s the way Haruna takes everything incredibly seriously. The terror on her face when she hears the news … her energy and concern contrasted with Yoh’s sister’s blase “you take care of him, I’m going out” … how completely unprepared she is to take care of anyone … all add up to good comedy. She’s worried he’s going to die. Then she’s worried that there are certain expectations that go along with two dating teenagers being home alone together when one of them is already in bed.
Yoh’s concern is touching, although he may have an ulterior motive for sending her home. He says it’s because he doesn’t want her to catch whatever he’s got, but anyone who knows her knows that she’s as likely to harm as heal in her enthusiasm. Then, Kawahara manages to change the mood naturally to one of tender revelation, which provides depth and meaning to the lighter moments.
Yoh’s sister Asami is a particularly nuanced character. At first glance, she’s the typical popular flirt, but her compulsion to have anyone, even Haruna, fall under her seductive spell hints at a deeper-seated need to fill some kind of emotional lack. She’s a thrill-seeker, even when she knows it’s stupid and destructive. She’d rather be treated badly than feel bored.
Asami’s behavior hints that she’s looking for someone who care enough about her to tell her “no”. She’s also young and immature enough that she thinks quantity matters more than quality. Haruna, although knowing little about love, has a fundamentally decent heart and hates seeing any of her friends get hurt.
There was one point in the story where I thought to myself, ah, writer sledgehammer to get the plot moving. Haruna texts back to a friend confirming that they’re meeting at a particular location at a particular time, only she mis-sends it to her boyfriend. She conveniently includes all the details in her response so he can track them down. However, she’s such a clueless goof sometimes that it’s barely plausible.
It’s a shame that no one points out to Asami that playing games is a bad idea, and honest conversation is better in building a relationship. Perhaps her fright is enough to get that message across.
As the book ends, the teens are getting ready to face a new school year. Time keeps passing, as their relationships deepen. I’ve previously reviewed Book 6.