Tuesday, May 6, 2008

High School Debut: In which I get some macho back

Another review: Iron Man: Viva Las Vegas #1, over at Comics Bulletin. And then there's this:

High School Debut, volume 2
By Kazune Kawahara

Good lord, I think reading this book made my Y chromosome kick back in. While some things get me feeling all girly, I must have an estrogen tolerance limit or something, because while I wouldn't call this book bad, it was just a bit too feminine for me. No, it's filled with nice, slick art, and some pretty well-defined characters, but the angsty romance (or rather the teenage stumblings toward it) just got tiresome; I almost starting yelling at the main character to just act on her feelings already and spare me having to sit through the indecision.

So here's the deal (with which I already was familiar, after having read the first chapter when it was previewed in Shojo Beat; I feel like I didn't miss much, skipping to the second volume): Haruna was an athletic tomboy in junior high, but now that she's in high school, she's decided to be more girly and try to get a boyfriend. But she's terrible at attracting boys, so she ends up recruiting Yoh, a handsome, quiet guy who swore off girls after a bad breakup, to be her "love coach" and tell her how to get guys to like her. Which sounds pretty mercenary, but it's got a good message, of the "be yourself, rather than what you think people want you to be" variety. Yoh pushes Haruna to be more outgoing and shows her some good fashions and hairstyles and such, but he doesn't try to make her into anything she's not. How wholesome.

So at the beginning of this volume, Haruna has decided that she's in love with Yoh's friend Fumi, so she gets Yoh to hook them up. This leads to an amusing date in which Haruna is too petrified to talk, so she has Yoh watch from nearby and keep texting her with what to say:

Ah, to be a teenager again. Yeah, this only emphasizes how much those years sucked for most of us (or maybe just me).

So, yeah, good times, but then the drama kicks in, because Yoh's sister Asami, who had helped Haruna out by offering encouragement and lending her clothes, turns out to be a backstabbing bitch, swooping in and stealing Fumi out from under her. Damn, girls can be mean to each other. This leads to a bunch of angst and crying, along with a possible subplot about Asami's mental health problems. But Haruna eventually gets over it, just in time to fall for Yoh himself. Which is a problem, because Yoh forbid her from doing so, saying he wouldn't be her coach anymore if she did. So, more angst, as Haruna tries to deny her feelings and freaks out about not being Yoh's type. This is where I get frustrated, as it's page after page of the internal drama and indecision:

But it's probably great, if that's the sort of thing you're going through in your own life. It just drives me crazy, being male and adult.

So while it's not for me, I would recommend it for somebody closer to the age of the characters. It's got nice characters and good plots, and some spiffy art. I really dug the depiction of Haruna doing her softball fast-pitch:

Yeah! Kick-ass! Be yourself, Haruna! That's the way to get Yoh to like you!

...Okay, I think I need to go read some Lone Wolf and Cub now.

This review was based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

1 comment:

  1. Hm....

    I am female, and I'm always up for angsty shojo, so I guess that might be why I'm so much in love with High School Debut. I think the manga is very honest, if you've ever been a girl and gone through the types of situations she's gone through. Waiting to late, not wanting yourself to like someone you know is unavailable somehow (has a girlfriend, ect). Haruna's reactions are really, and she doesn't ponder and fake and drag her feet like the usual shojo heroine. But since you're not a girl, these types of situations might be a bit much...Since the heart of the manga is its art, funny situations and characters. No points for originality though. And it's not overly dramatic since you know everything's going to be alright.

    I know the book came as a complimentary copy, but if there's any way you can get High School Debut 1, that might be a better choice. There's less angst, and more just the two getting to know each other and funny moments.