High School Debut, Vol. 11
By Kazune Kawahara
Published by Viz Media
As this volume begins, Miyabi, the girl in Yoh’s prep class who was very obviously developing a thing for him in the previous volume, starts pushing herself between Yoh and Haruna. Though it is unclear in the beginning how much is intentional, as the volume goes on, she moves into bona fide psycho territory–sending fake messages from Yoh’s phone, blocking Haruna’s calls, and so on. Fortunately, just as this arc is becoming a bit too much to bear, things lighten up with a story in which Haruna’s lack of understanding about the significance of an overnight trip with Yoh runs them both around in circles, bringing the series back into its comfort zone (and me with it).
I won’t lie. I really disliked the first half of this volume. I have very little patience for the too-common portrayal of physically unattractive characters as obvious villains. I’ve long accepted that manga characters–especially shojo manga characters and always the romantic leads–are going to be uniformly beautiful people, even when they begin as ugly ducklings. The idea that people must be (or become) beautiful in order to be loved pervades all media, not just manga, and I’ve learned to clutch my Charlotte Brontë novels closely to my chest, deal with it, and move on.
It is really irksome, then, that in this rare instance in which a character with a plain face and unconventional body type is introduced, she is an angry, loathsome, seriously unbalanced stalker, threatening to steal the good-looking hero away from his cute, perky heroine. (Though even the heroine becomes overweight and unattractive while being kept away from her man–look what happens to a girl deprived of love!) I realize I’m ranting at this point, but I honestly found this story line to be pretty repugnant, especially in a series aimed at teen girls, many of whom may be seeing a young, female character who they can relate to physically for the first time ever in the manga they read, only to find her portrayed as a complete monster.
It is a real testament to the charm of this series, however, that by about ten pages into the next arc it had already won me back. Haruna is adorably innocent, Yoh is adorably devoted, and all is right with the world. I suspect most readers will not have the same extreme reaction to the beginning of volume as I had, but for those who might, take heart! Though the first half of this volume loses some of the fun inherent to this series, by the end it has returned to its usual, delightful self. High School Debut, I still love you.
Volume eleven of High School Debut will be available on September 1st, 2009. Review copy provided by the publisher.