High School Debut 13 by Kazune Kawahara: A-

VIZ sent this (the series finale!) over a month early! What a great Christmas present!

hsd13From the back cover:
Yoh faces a difficult choice: should he go to university all the way in Tokyo or stay near Haruna? Haruna wants to support Yoh’s decision no matter what, but will her high school romance end with his graduation?

Is it considered bad form to write a review consisting entirely of hearts and sniffles? That’s what the adorable concluding volume of High School Debut tempts me to do.

On the surface, it’s really not much different than an average volume of the series. We begin with Haruna realizing that asking Yoh not to go away to the college of his choice was a selfish act, and zealously trying to convince him that she’s really okay with a long-distance relationship. A chapter in which their friends try to cheer them up by arranging for a ski trip is followed by one in which Haruna meets Yoh’s mom (spazzery ensues, as one might expect) and finally the chapter in which Yoh graduates and heads off to Tokyo.

Grafted onto this framework, however, are some very touching moments between the main couple. It’s easy for Yoh to see that Haruna is putting up a brave front for his benefit, and there’s a really nice moment where he just hugs her and says, “That’s enough,” at which point she promptly breaks into tears. Because he’s worried that she’s going to continue to hide her feelings from him, he next goes around to all of his friends and hers and asks them to take care of Haruna and let him know if she appears to be sad. Aww.

One of the strengths of High School Debut has always been that it doesn’t neglect the feelings of the male half of the relationship, and Yoh’s own sadness, worry, and insecurity about the upcoming separation are given equal consideration. One of my favorite scenes occurs as Yoh and Haruna are on the bus on the way back from the ski trip. He reveals that his vision of the future involves an oblivious Haruna being hoodwinked into dating some other guy. Haruna, meanwhile, spews a detailed, pages-long happy fantasy about how her first visit to Tokyo will play out, leaving Yoh hilariously overwhelmed.

The final chapter is sweet indeed. I shan’t spoil it, except to say that Haruna is Haruna right to the very end. I’m sad to see this series end, but I’m glad that it has done so before it ran out of steam. I’m sure it’s one I’ll often turn to for a comfort reread in days to come.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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