High School Debut 3 by Kazune Kawahara: A

From the back cover:
What does Haruna do when she finds herself liking Yoh? She starts acting weird and avoiding him, that’s what! When he confronts her about her strange behavior and encourages her to be honest with him, will she quash her feelings or confess her love?

Man, this series is so good! This volume starts with Haruna working up the nerve to tell Yoh how she feels about him. I haven’t read pre-confession deliberation this good since the first volume of Kare Kano and that’s a pretty big compliment. In the chapters that follow, they begin going out, Haruna is bullied by some older girls who want her to break up with Yoh (Awesomely, she beats them up!), and she and Yoh begin to learn how to interact as a couple.

There are so many things I love about this series. Both Haruna and Yoh are great characters, for one. I like them a lot separately and together. I like the reasons they like each other, too, like when Yoh lists Haruna’s good points as staying strong under pressure and giving her all to her endeavors. The art is great, and the story is original, sweet, and funny (the sidebars, too). I also like that Yoh actually talks about things with his friends, which is kind of unusual in a shoujo manga.

I didn’t expect them to become a couple quite so soon, and I hope the story doesn’t devolve into a mass of shoujo clich├ęs as story ideas dwindle. There’s one scene that gives me hope that that won’t happen, though. Yoh, himself ignorant in the ways of dating, has just asked Haruna what happens in the shoujo manga she’s so fond of when a couple finally gets together. Here’s her reply:

Haruna: Hm… Sometimes a love rival pops up! Or the couple gets separated. Or they find out they’re actually related. That kind of stuff!
Yoh: … That’s not really what I meant.

High School Debut is seriously very, very good. I recommend it to all and sundry.

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