High School Debut! is like Ore Monogatari!! in the sense that they both have a super likeable couple that you’re rooting for all the way and enjoy watching them experience dating seriously for the first time. Just take away the cartoony character design that is Takeo, the uber cute and perfect female lead Yamato, and replace it with the female lead being ultra determined and sporty while the male lead is more stoic, traditionally handsome, and reserved. You’ll be surprised what both of these series really have in common and why they are similar but both do a different take of first love high school romance.
The Ore Monogatari!! anime was adapted by the manga of the same name, which is something I personally read first before the anime was even announced. The manga was drawn by Aruko while the story was written by Kazune Kawahara. The reason why the story writer stood out to me was because she had written and drawn a very brilliant manga way back in the early 2000s. It was called Koukou Debut, or known in America, High School Debut!
Being a girl who would frequent Shojo Beat titles when I was getting into anime and manga, I happened upon this title back when I was in middle school and still exploring their collection. In case you don’t know, Shojo Beat is an American manga distributer that is own by Viz Media. Shojo Beat translates and distributes manga that is marketed to girls that focus on romance, drama, fantasy, comedy, etc. They’ve published popular titles such as Nana, Vampire Knight, and Honey and Clover. Now they just currently translate and distribute manga volumes of shoujo titles.
High School Debut! on the other hand didn’t reach the kind of popularity like those previous titles I mentioned. Sure, it did get adapted to a live action movie, but other than that, it just got buried under all the other Shojo Beat titles. So if you’re one of those people that loved the sweet and pure-hearted nature of Ore Monogatari!!, but wanted a bit more drama and character designs that aren’t over the top, please keep reading!
High School Debut! is about a girl named Haruna Nagashima. Throughout junior high, all she ever dedicated her time to was soft ball and nothing else, being the best pitcher around for her team. She had a dream though of finding true love like the girls in the shoujo manga she reads (super meta right?). So she decides to quit softball when she makes her high school “debut” and decides to dedicate her time to finding a boyfriend! After studying some teen magazines, she finds the perfect look they recommend that boys would like, and goes into town to wait for boys to flirt with her. Mind you, she’s standing tall with her game face on. Her face is determined, legs spread slightly apart, and her arms crossed.
Naturally, looking so intense and out of place, boys don’t come up to her. While she’s waiting, she overhears boys talking about a girl on TV, one saying “woah, she really did become famous,” to the other boy and proceeds to give convenient exposition about the boy Haruna is about to meet:
This peaks Haruna’s interest and goes after the boy as they walk away. She tries to call him over, but falls over from the heels she’s not used to wearing, but the boy kneels down to help. As the boy is handing her the heel that came off her foot, she just stares in awe at his face. Simply saying “Wow, you’re really hot,” by accident, she runs away out of embarrassment. The next day at school, Haruna complains to her best friend Mami that no boys would come up to her, and Mami suggests to her that maybe she needs a love couch, like having a couch in softball. Haruna agrees, and wants to find the boy from before, but has no idea where she would find him again. Cue said boy appearing at her school!
Turns out they go to school together and spots him walking down the hall. She runs to catch him and asks very bluntly to teach her how to be attractive to boys. He looks deadpan at her and says “no way.” Haruna being the persistent girl she is, begs him more. Then he does the whole, ‘slam hand next to head to appear intimidating and serious:’
After this, Haruna just goes back to studying her magazines, telling herself that “I also know from experience that opportunities…don’t always end in successes.” Then the beautiful girl who was with Yoh finds Haruna and apologizes for the boys behavior, finding out that girls have hurt him in the past and doesn’t want to deal with them anymore. She then introduces herself as Asami Komiyama, and the boy Yoh Komiyama, her brother.
Asami admires her effort, and tells her that she can come over to her home so she can aid her in the fight to getting hit on by leading her some of her clothes. Yoh is present and judging the clothes his sister is giving Haruna, and tells her why it’s wrong for her (only because Haruna opens a jar for him with her highly-trained strength).
Yoh slowly starts to change his mind about being her coach after talking with her at school the next day about how finding love is hard, but she assures him that she can take it. What does get Yoh to say yes in the end is seeing Haruna play softball on a tape that she loaned to Asami. It’s a regional championship game, and her team lost. He sees her crying on the mound from the lost, but sees how strong she was to get to that point.
He goes to this park where Haruna is over-dressed and giving her usual intense look waiting for boys to hit on her when Yoh tells her the news. He has one condition though. She isn’t allowed to fall for him. That being said, you can see where High School Debut! ends up going.
After reading the set-up for the series, you can see the parallels to her current work, Ore Monogatari!! They both have characters that are very passionate and determined to find love, but are very respectful towards them. Both Takeo and Haruna don’t try to overstep their boundaries but keep trying to win their affection. Even though Takeo finds his love pretty quickly when he starts high school (I guess Haruna was kind of right about obtaining a partner your first year?) Haruna works at it, and it’s very inspiring to watch her! It’s similar to the sort of persistence and optimism that Takeo has.
Her character reminds me of Tohru from Fruits Basket, where Haruna isn’t really capable of hating anyone. Sure, Haruna does get mad more than Tohru does, but it’s normally at her breaking point if she gets really mad at someone. But like Tohru, she doesn’t hold grudges and will forgive anyone who is truly sorry. They are also both hard-working and extremely kind. They also have a need to protect and help them, because both Tohru and Haruna are slightly air-headed. For instance, Haruna wouldn’t know a boy she would be talking to had an interest in her unless said bluntly. Even though she has reads shoujo manga religiously, when it comes to her real life, she is oblivious to any sort of subtlety of boys taking any sort of interest in her.
High School Debut! parallels Ore Monogatari!! in a sense of the main couples. Haruna is like Takeo, while Yoh is like Yamato.
Haruna and Takeo are both physically strong since they both did sports growing up, even though Haruna quits when she hits high school. Although, Haruna’s physical strength is still present when you see her later work at a grocery store and see her lift boxes upon boxes of produce and stock with ease. They are also both resilient and think of others before themselves. Haruna is also an inspiration for girls like Takeo is an inspiration for boys. Even though Haruna isn’t delicate, elegant, or soft by any means like girls around her strive to be, Haruna completely owns who she is and works with it. She doesn’t buy cute clothes, makeup, and accessories to change herself. She does it to enhance herself (even if what she ends up is completely wrong for look). Even though she doesn’t know that she’s trying too hard, her confident position for when she is waiting for boys to hit on her is very admirable.
The reason why she even asks Yoh for help is that she doesn’t know how to look good for boys since boys never responded to her normal look. Which brings me into Yoh and Yamato. Of course, they are different in every way personality wise with Yoh being stoic and observant with Yamato being adorable and a bit oblivious. But they both care for their partner in similar ways. For instance, I always felt like Yoh texted Haruna more to check up on her and communicate like how Yamato would always send her uber girly texts to Takeo. They both care for their well being a lot and check on the other, cause they both know that their partner is so caring of other people, they forget to take care of themselves.
REALISTIC ROMANCE TRIALS
Unlike Ore Monogatari!!, Haruna goes through quite the uphill battle to find her boyfriend compared to Takeo meeting his girlfriend by chance. She deals with courting, heartbreak, backstabbing, eventual flirting of boys courting her, boys trying to take advantage of her, rivals, and even discovering how sexually ready she is. The reason why this manga is so great compared to other shoujo mangas is that we see Haruna grow up in high school and learn with her how modern dating really works, which is great for young girls to read!
With Yoh, his trials are even harder due to his popularity and how handsome he is. It’s similar to how Kyohei Takano was treated in The Wallflower, but more subtle. Even though hundreds of girls weren’t trying to knock down his door for his affection, Yoh had real life issues with girls trying to steal him away, stalk him, and attempt to get rid of or harm his current love interest. It talks about the difference between infatuation, love, and obsession very seriously. Of course, people say “boo-hoo, being popular and loved by all is so hard,” but for people like Yoh, it’s genuinely hard to find someone who likes you more than your looks and to connect with them on a personal level. Relationships is all about equality, wanting to date someone you consider very attractive, but comfortable enough that they’re like your best friend. Which is why people like Kyohei and Yoh are so harsh to girls who see them so superficially.
THE ART/OTHER CHARACTERS/FINAL THOUGHTS
Lastly, if you didn’t like the character designs for Ore Monogatari!! with Takeo looking too out of place and giant-like, and Yamato being too cute and perfect, will like the art done by Kazune Kawahara herself in High School Debut! Unlike Ore Monogatari!!, she did both the writing and the art, so you’ll see the obvious differences. All the characters in High School Debut! are all drawn like normal, shoujo characters. Sure, they are all attractive in their own ways, with Asami having a similar esthetic to Yamato, but it isn’t a distraction. Even though people see Yoh as this beautiful creature, it isn’t played in a cartoony sense, like whenever we Yamato you see all these flowers and sparkles.
These are teen characters similar to a well-written teen drama show. They’re attractive, but exhibit personalities and experiences similar to real-life issues that teens handle on a day to day basis. We’ve met a popular girl who thrives off of attention, especially from her boyfriend like Asami. We’ve seen down to earth girls who are naive, but determined whenever she sets her mind to something like Haruna.
Yoh is something else though. Even though in the beginning, he’s a ‘too cool for school,’ aloof, bitter guy, he has his reasons. Girls have hurt him in the past while more than dozens of other girls idolized and bothered him as well. Because he’s so handsome, he has to deal with beautiful but superficial people often. Yoh may seem like a know-it-all, but since he keeps to himself so much and has sworn off dating, being with someone like Haruna is a whole new experience for him.
With Haruna being so outgoing and wears her heart on her sleeve and Yoh being aloof and reserved, they have a perfect ying-yang relationship. Haruna brings her sunny personality to the dark Yoh, while Yoh is able to save Haruna from social situations she’s unfamiliar with and protects her. They are both awkward in their own ways when learning how to be in a committed relationship, which makes them way more human but entertaining to watch to see these two strong personalities clash. They even each other out and need each other for different reasons.
If you liked Ore Monogatari!! for it’s positive, optimistic characters but want something more true to life but uplifting, cute, and inspirational in terms of experiencing first love, than please go read High School Debut!