Shojo Beat: Nana 20, Love*Com 15, High School Debut 12

Let’s catch up on some of my favorite Shojo Beat titles from Viz. All books were provided by the publisher and retail for $9.99 US each.

High School Debut Book 12

High School Debut Book 12 cover
High School Debut Book 12
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by Kazune Kawahara; adapted by Gemma Collinge

Haruna and Yoh are on their first overnight trip together. Although Haruna isn’t sure she’s ready for their relationship to go further physically, she’s psyched herself into thinking that she owes it to Yoh. But she doesn’t know what he’s thinking, so she’s jumping to conclusions based on what every boy must want. Plus, she’s freaking out simply seeing him half-naked in a swimsuit. It’s clear that she is not at all ready for sex.

They do have fun together when they’re racing in the pool. But she obsesses over when he’s going to hit on her, and then when he doesn’t (which should make her happy), she thinks she’s not desirable. It’s a realistic portrayal of how mixed up teens can be about making out, but I don’t feel that it accurately captures how unique Haruna is. Her reactions aren’t usually typical, which is what makes her such an interesting character.

I’m going to spoil things (since the book came out a couple of months ago) by saying that they don’t do it, thanks to the stereotypical manga device of having a gang of their friends show up to join them. That prevents them from getting down and dirty without either of them having to actually say no. Which is kind of a shame — I’d rather they make strides on their lack of communication by talking about what they want and feel instead of being saved by their buddies. At least they made a start towards it before they were interrupted.

Then Asami, who I thought was a friend to the two while being Yoh’s younger sister, throws a jealous fit, trying to make Yoh choose between her and Haruna. While it could be a natural storyline, with the proper setup, here, it comes out of nowhere to get the characters yelling at each other. There’s also the requisite class trip away for the girls. At least the art is still nicely done, with lots of emotion, and Haruna’s hilarious in her exaggeration.

The series ends with the next volume, and I kind of wish the conclusion had come earlier, since the stories have become more generic and the characters less special. The mixups in this volume could have happened in almost any shojo series. The cliffhanger is similarly typical: how will Haruna and Yoh handle being separated by their college choices?

Love*Com Book 15

Love*Com Book 15 cover
Love*Com Book 15
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by Aya Nakahara; adapted by Shaenon K. Garrity

Events in this volume make sense within the wacky world of the story, but don’t stop and think too much about how they’d work out realistically. At least they provide excuses for a wide range of different things to draw, whether dresses or scenery, and Nakahara approaches them all with energy.

Seiko is a friend of the title characters. Although she appears as a cute girl, she’s physically a boy. She’s all excited about going on a date with a new guy, only her voice starts changing. Much as Seiko doesn’t want to, she tries to go back to being a boy, hating it all the time. Although it’s a tad idealistic, given physical realities, it’s refreshing to see how Seiko’s friends accept her no matter her appearance. Seiko’s attempts to be masculine also provide amusing commentary on gender expectations through comedy.

Then the gang goes to a tropical island for their teacher Mighty’s wedding. (Maybe I can buy students going to a teacher’s wedding, but traveling alone to do it?) That’s really just a setup for the same story as that from the book above: what will the young couple do when they’re alone together in a hotel room for the night? It doesn’t go well, although once again, no one fools around. As the couple points out later, something always goes wrong when they travel together. That doesn’t surprise me — going somewhere these days is a hassle, and too often people put too much stress on things being different or perfect when they’re in a new location, not realizing that they’re the same people with the same concerns. And a young couple going to someone else’s wedding… no wonder they’re confused and upset.

The last story is unrelated, a piece showing Otani’s strengths as he inspires the basketball team. The kids are getting ready to graduate, fitting in “one more thing” before school is over. The series feels as though the author is doing the same thing, with only two more books to go.

Nana Book 20

Nana Book 20 cover
Nana Book 20
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by Ai Yazawa; adapted by Allison Wolfe

Ah, saving the best for last. I don’t know what’s going on half the time, with lengthy flash-forwards to older versions of the characters. I assume that it will all make sense sometime in the future, or maybe when I reread the books in larger chunks. Even in present day, the cast is large and the interconnections complex, especially since various combinations of the characters are broken up or on the outs with each other. There are different kinds of withdrawal portrayed, too.

There’s so much going on that the story is a like a large, multi-faceted crystal. Depending on how you look at it or the environment you see it in, you’ll notice different things. Although this volume is short, there are a lot of turning points and decisions made. I suspect this will have a lot of meaning once we’ve read more of the series in future, and then we’ll notice all the foreshadowing.

I wish I had more to say about this series, because it’s really good. Simply saying that doesn’t seem enough.


  1. I keep reading that first cover as “High School Hair Cut”.

    Subliminal much?

  2. […] Johanna Draper Carlson looks at some new Shojo Beat releases at Comics Worth Reading. The Manga Recon team has a new set of Manga Minis to start the new year. […]

  3. […] previous volume didn’t quite click with me (but compare the covers), but here, with things wrapping up, I was […]

  4. […] a return to the emotional power of the earlier stories. The feeling of dragging things out just to continue the series is gone. High School Debut Book 13 […]

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