The series follows the relationship between Haruna Nagashima, an enthusiastic former softball star, and Yoh Komiyama, the cool boy she convinces to coach her in romance. It has been praised by reviewers as a standard shōjo manga premise made highly entertaining by Kawahara's handling of the characters, particularly the romantic leads, and artwork.
Haruna Nagashima gave her all to softball in middle school, now that she has made her high school debut, she has decided to give her all for a new goal: getting a boyfriend and falling in love. However, she has one small problem—since she never paid any attention to fashion or trends in middle school, she has no idea how to go about attracting her yet-to-be-found love. But a chance encounter with the popular Yoh Komiyama provides her with the opportunity she needs. If he coaches her in how to become attractive, surely she can find herself a boyfriend.
He agrees to coach Haruna after her great persistence but on one condition: she mustn't fall in love with him. However she does end up falling in love with him and Yoh reciprocated those feelings back. Throughout their relationship they have to overcome several obstacles, such as the return of Yoh's ex-girlfriend, Haruna's several male admirers and a stalker who is very keen on breaking them up as she believes Haruna is not adequate. Although despite the obstacles, they are still deeply in love each other. In the final chapter Yoh had to move in order to attend university and they are still happily maintaining their long distance relationship he did so.
A high school girl who played softball and was devoted to manga in middle school. She is known to be a very dense person, a personality similar to Yoh's friend Fumi. Shortly after entering high school, she becomes determined to find a boyfriend under the influence of all the shōjomanga she reads. She accidentally meets Yoh after a failed attempt at being "picked up" by guys. Shortly after that, she finds out Yoh goes to the same high school as Haruna and asks him to coach her on how to be attractive. After being rejected, she meets Asami, Yoh's sister and they become friends. Soon, Yoh reluctantly accepts to be Haruna's coach with one condition — she is not to fall in love with him. Yoh helps her daily with clothes and such, and gives her advice on what to do when she falls in love with one of Yoh's friends. Haruna can be described as simple-minded and doesn't seem to pay much attention to her surroundings, though she is very kind hearted and cannot refuse anyone who needs help. Her friend once stated that she is "pure-hearted to the point of being scary". She eventually ends up liking Yoh and they go out.
Yoh Komiyama (小宮山 ヨウ, Komiyama Yō)
A good looking boy who's in the grade above Haruna. He knows the ideas on how to impress men from a woman's point of view. Although a little shy and easily embarrassed, he represents a figure of cool demeanor, he was confessed to by most of the girls in his class. In the beginning when Haruna asked him to tutor her about profession in boyfriend-making he warned her not to fall in love with him or cry around him. Until she confesses to him one night while acting strange and he agrees to go out with her, they become a couple and face many trials but they never break up.
Asami Komiyama (小宮山 麻美, Komiyama Asami)
Yoh's little sister. Although she's pretty and admired by many boys, she often shows her conceited side. She has a serious brother complex. She wants Yoh and Haruna to be together, but she sometimes tries to protect her older brother when she thinks Haruna is trying to get to Yoh sexually. Often, when Haruna goes to her when she's having a problem, Asami says it's going to be "fun" but quickly replaces it with "trouble". She likes Fumiya but wants to test him to see if he would wait forever in the snow for her. Haruna helped her notice how kind Fumiya was, and they have been going out. She gets angry at Fumiya when he didn't take any notice of her, even when she tried her cute poses. She has a mischievous side which can cause others trouble. Yoh once accused her of being "mischievous and evil." Her response was "No, I'm just mischievous."
Fumiya Tamura (田村 史也, Tamura Fumiya)
Yoh's friend, also known as "Fumi". He's a bit on the slow side, not getting some things straight they are right before his eyes. His caring demeanor was turns vicious when women and children are being bullied or harassed. His nickname is "Sleeping Bear" which was given to him when he used to do judo.
Yui Asaoka (朝丘 唯, Asaoka Yui)
Yoh's friend. He has a part-time job at a restaurant and, like Fumiya, he is calm and caring (fortunately, he has some common sense and is not as dense as Fumiya). Yoh says that ninety percent of what Asaoka says is out of kindness and that whoever goes out with him would be happy because of all the kind words he says. He once went on a date with Haruna to make Yoh jealous. When Yoh finally appears at the date Yui tells her that he was acting. He hides his true feelings in jokes, but when Mami tells him "You're always deceiving yourself by passing things off as a joke, so...now you don't even know yourself what your true feelings are." After that he told Haruna that he likes her, but she thought that he just was acting.
Mami Takahashi (高橋 真巳, Takahashi Mami)
Haruna's best friend since middle school. She is notably calm and collected, being able to read Haruna like an open book. Their friendship is close and Haruna has described how Mami first became her friend by helping her with her pitching. She has a part-time job at a video rental shop and was the captain of their middle-school softball team. Haruna often has a very high opinion of Mami believing that she is 'amazing.' She describes Mami as kind, clever and calm, which is often replied to by the statement that Mami is a 'nice girl' or a 'good girl'. It has been revealed that Mami really values her friendship with Haruna, even going to the extent of saying that she 'betrayed' Haruna for not believing and trusting in Haruna's pitch, which had lost them a game in third year.
Mami has proven at several times that she is highly perceptive, especially concerning Haruna. Haruna, in turn, demonstrates her affection for Mami by trying to help her find her own love.
Two sequel short stories called "Enren Debut" ("Long-Distance Love Debut"), set in the months after the conclusion of the series, were published in the March and May 2009 issues of Deluxe Margaret.
In March 2011, a new volume of the series was released - "Far Love Edition" or "Love Edition - Far High School Debut" - issued 25 March 2011. This sequel of October 2013, already published two volumes, including this. Another volume 15 issued 25 July 2013 called "Far Love Knitting" was released.
The series has also been adapted as a series of six light novels written by Yū Kuramoto (倉本 由布) and illustrated by Kazune Kawahara. They were published by Shueisha under its Cobalt imprint starting in June 2007.
High School Debut was among the best-selling manga in Japan during publication. Volumes 9, 10, and 11 reached number 2 on the Tohan best-seller list, and volumes 12 and 13 both debuted at number 3. Volume 13 was the 34th best-selling manga volume in the six months before 17 May 2009, selling over 360,000 copies.About.com's Deb Aoki lists High School Debut as the best shōjo manga of 2008.
Volumes one and two of the English edition were named as two of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens of 2008 by YALSA. A reviewer at About.com named the English translation a favorite new manga of 2008, calling it "well-crafted and lovable"; a reviewer from PopCultureShock similarly described it as a series that "just make[s] you happy".School Library Journal described the series as "standard fair for younger manga readers" and "a good purchase for schools and libraries." Joanna Draper at Comics Worth Reading called it her "favorite shojo series running" for being entertaining and inventive.Otaku USA criticized the first volume for the predictability of the story.
Kawahara's art was praised for its clean style and layout, dynamic figures, and emotional expressions, and was compared by one reviewer to Yoko Kamio's.
Reviewers consistently hailed Haruna as a comic heroine and a key to the series' appeal,[better source needed] but Kawahara's handling of the other chararacters was also praised, particularly with Yoh and his sister Asami. They also praised Haruna's relationship with Yoh, which is presented as a pairing of friends and equals. Some critics noted that the story's initial makeover theme was more deftly handled than a short summary led them to expect, though some still expressed reservations about it.
^Aoki, Deb. "High School Debut Volume 1". About.com. Archived from the original on 12 March 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2009. Kawahara also sneaks in a few laugh-out-loud moments that make fun of every half-baked dating or fashion tip you've ever read in teen magazines. Add in her likable artwork and well-paced story, and you have a shojo romantic comedy that's already on the short list of my favorite new manga for 2008.
^Aoki, Deb. "High School Debut Volume 2". About.com. Retrieved 25 January 2009. All in all, an excellent second installment that's as consistently good as the first. I wish all shojo manga was this well-crafted and lovable.
^Krygier, Sarah. "High School Debut Vol. 1". School Library Journal. Retrieved 26 January 2009. High School Debut is standard fare for younger manga readers. With a clean plot and only the stereotypical female temper tantrum for added drama, it’s a good purchase for schools and libraries.
^Carlson, Johanna Draper (11 August 2008). "*High School Debut Book 3 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 26 January 2009. [T]his is my favorite shojo running, because it’s entertaining and involving and funny and cute. Very well-done and always satisfying.
^ abCarlson, Johanna Draper (20 January 2009). "*High School Debut Book 7 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 28 January 2009. 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.
^Dacey, Katherine (11 January 2008). "On the Shojo Beat: Crimson Hero, High School Debut, and Love*Com". PopCultureShock. Retrieved 29 January 2009. The artwork, like the motherly advice, is another strength of High School Debut. The layout flows nicely, with Kazume Kawahara artfully varying the detail and density of her panels instead of cramming every inch of the page with super-deformed reaction shots and muttered asides.
^Carlson, Johanna Draper (27 December 2007). "*High School Debut Book 1 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 26 January 2009. 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 ... Kawahara’s art is impressive and emotional, with Haruna giving off a palpable air of desperation through the pages.
^Carlson, Johanna Draper (20 August 2008). "*High School Debut Book 4 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 26 January 2009. The art is in keeping with the season and the mood — snowy parks, seasonal decorations, and impressionistic backgrounds to capture overwhelming emotion.
^Douresseaux, Leroy (20 December 2007). "High School Debut: Volume 1". Comic Book Bin. Retrieved 28 January 2009. Kawahara’s art is very good – quite pretty, in fact, but her strength is in emotionally evocative faces. It seems as if she learned a 1001 ways to use delicate line work on facial features and tossed hair in order to suggest emotion and mood in her characters and in the story.
^Aoki, Deb. "High School Debut Volume 2". About.com. Retrieved 25 January 2009. Haruna proves to be a shojo manga heroine who is truly heroic. Despite being dealt a betrayal that would leave a lesser person angry and bitter, Haruna doesn't stoop to playing mind games or wallowing in self-pity. She is always willing to learn from her mistakes.
^Carlson, Johanna Draper (22 March 2008). "*High School Debut Book 2 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 26 January 2009. And good-hearted Haruna takes even pain as a learning experience! I’ve known people like that, but they’re few and don’t come along very often. She’s inspirational in her determination and her optimism. That makes her growth even more believable.
^Jones, Erin (10 February 2009). "High School Debut Vol. #06". Mania.com. Retrieved 6 March 2009. Her main appeal has always been that she is too sweet and simple to make any attempts at being conniving ... Haruna's worrisome nature is always entertaining to watch.
^Douresseaux, Leroy (20 December 2007). "High School Debut: Volume 1". Comic Book Bin. Retrieved 28 January 2009. Although her manga seems like a one note concept, manga-ka Kazune Kawahara weaves the supporting characters of her small ensemble in out of the narrative while Haruna and Yoh shine. ... The supporting players have a pleasing way of getting things going – creating moments of comedy and conflict with nothing more than a few words or a mere appearance.
^Carlson, Johanna Draper (21 October 2008). "*High School Debut Book 6 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Archived from the original on 22 January 2009. Retrieved 28 January 2009. Plus, the art supports all this well with authentic emotion on the characters’ faces. Yoh, especially, is a tough challenge. In lesser hands, he’d seem like a stick or a brick, someone with no feelings — here, though, he seems reserved, as he should, someone with hidden emotion that he chooses not to share.
^Aoki, Deb. "High School Debut Volume 1". About.com. Archived from the original on 12 March 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2009. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, High School Debut would have a lot of predictable, sexually-charged hijinks before Yoh and Haruna fall in love. But instead, Kawahara lets this mismatched pair develop a true friendship
^Smith, Michelle (16 January 2008). "On the Shojo Beat: Heaven's Will and Otomen". PopCultureShock. Retrieved 29 January 2009. I think the main thing I love is the open communication between Haruna and Yoh. He tells her what he likes about her, for instance, and they both immediately sense problems in the Asa/Fumi relationship and discuss what they ought to do about it. I really dislike it when a prolonged misunderstanding is used as a plot, so it’s such a relief to me when characters actually talk about things with each other.
^Carlson, Johanna Draper (11 September 2008). "*High School Debut Book 5 — Recommended". Comics Worth Reading. Retrieved 26 January 2009. Plus, their role reversal — Haruna jumps into action to save Yoh — is refreshing, especially since it’s not treated as a behavior pattern that has to be fixed. Instead, it’s accepted as who they are.
^Aoki, Deb. "High School Debut Volume 1". About.com. Archived from the original on 12 March 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2009. Unlike some other makeover manga, Haruna's transformation doesn't happen overnight, and it's not about making her into something she's not. In fact, Kawahara lets Haruna's quirkiness, inner strength and good nature shine through, such that even pre-makeover, she comes across as someone who deserves true love.
^Dacey, Katherine (11 January 2008). "On the Shojo Beat: Crimson Hero, High School Debut, and Love*Com". PopCultureShock. Retrieved 29 January 2009. Reading the jacket copy for High School Debut predisposed me to disliking this manga. Its powerful-boy-makes-over-hopeless-girl plot seemed retro and more than a little sexist, not to mention rather stale—She's All That, anyone? I was pleasantly surprised to discover, however, that the underlying message of the book is deeper and wiser than “Makeovers make everything better!”
^Dacey, Katherine (11 January 2008). "On the Shojo Beat: Crimson Hero, High School Debut, and Love*Com". PopCultureShock. Retrieved 29 January 2009. I still have reservations about High School Debut. Any series with a Pygmalion-esque premise is bound to raise some uncomfortable questions about gender equality, no matter how smart or sporty the Galatea stand-in may be.