High School Debut (known as Koukou Debut in its native Japan) is a romantic comedy manga written by illustrator/author Kazune Kawahara. The series follows the exploits of teenage tomboy Haruna Nagashima who has spent most of her young life playing softball. Inspired by the mushy stories featured in her favourite shojo comics, Haruna decides to retire from the sporting field, upon commencing high school, to focus her attentions on acquiring a boyfriend. Her tactic of standing around in outlandish outfits, waiting for a budding Romeo to hit on her, isn’t however bearing much fruit. With this in mind she decides to abandon the ineffective advice printed in fashion magazines in favour of seeking out a coach who can guide her in the ways of romance.
Enter Yoh Komiyama the dreamy senior who, despite being popular with the ladies, is presently single as his bluntness has a knack of reducing beauties to tears (either that or he cannot resist peeling onions whenever a girl is in the vicinity.) After a chance meeting brings to pair together, Yoh agrees to help Haruna out with her courtship dilemma by providing her with dating tips along with some suggestions on how to improve her aesthetically challenged wardrobe. All Yoh asks in exchange for his services is that Haruna abides to one condition… do not fall in love with him. Hmmm I wonder where this story is going.
Although High School Debut is targeted toward female readers I must confess to enjoying this first book in the series. The artwork isn’t the most detailed thing you will find in a manga, but its still manages to be pleasing on the eye and benefits from Kawahara’s ability to draw expressive faces. Story wise the book succeeds in avoiding the less desirable tropes associated with the romantic comedy genre by sparing readers from overly dramatic nonsense as well as not stringing things along. The narrative advances at a good clip so by the time the final page is turned Haruna is already in a relationship and looking forward to spending the upcoming Christmas season with the new love in her life.
I think the main reason why I liked the manga is because Haruna is a fun heroine to spend time with. Even if she is guilty of being a tad dim and naive she isn’t annoying thanks to her bubbly personality and proactive approach to problem solving. Her interactions with the more sombre Yoh are always cute, especially when she manages to fluster him with compliments. The rest of the supporting cast are also amiable, if not as well fleshed out, with the only dislikeable character being Yoh’s self centred sis Asami. Unmanly as my opinion may be I have no hesitation awarding this first book four stars. Anyone seeking a sweet story with plenty of chuckles could do a lot worse than picking up High School Debut. This VIZ Media release collects the first three volumes for just a tenner, which is terrific value.