Shojo Beat Quick Takes – Midnight Secretary Vol 6 and Dengeki Daisy Vol 14

Midnight Secretary Vol 6 by Tomu Ohmi

This volume of Midnight Secretary shows the relationship between Kaya and her vampire boss Kyohei on firmer footing, but the manipulations of the vampire clan start to interfere with the couple. Kyohei takes Kaya to a party as his date, and there’s a bit of unexpected fallout from the action. Kyohei’s vampire mother shows up to warn Kaya off of becoming involved in a human/vampire relationship. Kaya has a bit of a pregnancy scare, and she’s worried about what would happen if she had a vampire baby, because the vampire clan would swoop in and claim any vampire child as one of their own. It turns out that Kaya’s not pregnant and Kyohei tells her that he has no intention of marrying her or having children with her, simply because of the way their relationship would be stressed with outside interference as soon as it takes on the appearance of being serious. While he doesn’t want Kaya to be manipulated by the vampire clan, she’s soon deluged with marriage offers as the clan takes steps to separate her from Kyohei. Vampire politics soon becomes even more of a focus of the volume, as the head of the clan shows up, looking less evil than one would suppose! Throughout the trials and tribulations in this volume Kaya and Kyohei’s relationship remains strong, but we’ll have to see in future volumes if they can withstand the forces that are seeking to drive them apart. This series continues to be very entertaining. I’m always amused by the combination of heartfelt romance, the paranormal elements, and boardroom politics.

Dengeki Daisy Vol 14 by Kyousuke Motomi

Dengeki Daisy is still going strong in its 14th volume. I have to say, I don’t really care about the latest hacker drama that is occupying all the characters, it is really the way that they interact with each other when dealing with the high stakes world of computer viruses and conspiracy theories. In their search for “M’s Last Testament”, the group has finally found out more information about the mysterious hacker Akira, and learned how exactly he became so twisted. One of the reasons why I like this series so much is that the reactions of the characters seem so much more authentic and less reliant on what I’d expect to see in a shoujo romance. When Teru learns the truth about Akira she can see why her other friends feel an obligation to help him, but her own suffering at his hands has left her wondering if he’s a person without any hope of redemption. In a more typical series, the disclosure of a character’s tragic past would prompt people to immediately move towards forgiveness, but Teru isn’t able to get over the past and she’s very forthright about her feelings. This drives a bit of a wedge between her and Kurosaki, as he moves on with the rest of the team even though he understands Teru’s reasons for not wanting to participate. In true Dengeki Daisy fashion, this first crisis of their relationship is solved with text messaging, in a nice bit of circular plotting that echoes back to the beginning of the series. Motomi could really just call each new hacker MacGuffin 1 or MacGuffin 2 and I’d still love reading this series just because it is so well executed and the characters are very memorable.

Dengeki Daisy, Vol. 12

Dengeki Daisy Volume 12 by Kyousuke Motomi

It occurred to me as I was reading volume 12 of Dengeki Daisy that more shoujo titles should feature yacht kidnappings as standard plot points. Think about it! Instead of evil male models, frenemies, and surprise fiances, there would be random kidnappings taking place on luxurious ships! Wouldn’t it lend a bit of excitement and suspense to most manga?

I enjoy Dengeki Daisy so much because it portrays a slightly unconventional romance with some elements of techno thriller action. As you might guess, volume 12 features a yacht kidnapping, as Teru and her hacker/school janitor/almost boyfriend Kurosaki team up with the rest of the Scooby Gang to rescue Rena from her evil fiance Morizono. They storm the party in a variety of disguises. Kurosaki pretends to be a clueless foreigner. Teru gets all dolled up and stages an elaborate and hilarious distraction by pretending to be Morizono’s spurned lover. Hasegawa disguises himself as a waiter. As the group secures Rena, Kurosaki stumbles across yet another hacking conspiracy. Akira’s presence is almost negligible, as Kurosaki works to foil the plan to sell the Jack Frost virus and encounters someone else from his past – a person who started the tragic actions that lead to the creation of the Jack Frost virus in the first place and the death of Teru’s brother.

Dengeki Daisy always manages to cover a wide variety of emotional scenes in an effortless way. There’s the fun caper of the team storming the yacht where Rena is held captive, followed by a celebration afterwards where Rena and Hasegawa start inching towards the development of a new relationship. Nothing is ever simply happy in Dengeki Daisy for long though, as Kurosaki is horribly affected with his encounter with the mysterious new hacker. Kurosaki is in many ways the exact opposite of the cool shoujo hero, and the level of vulnerability he displays to Teru shows the reader just how traumatized he is as well as how much he trusts her. They’re one of my favorite shoujo manga couples of all time, and each volume of the series tends to show a new aspect of their relationship. Even though each conspiracy tends to lead to yet another conspiracy and I am wondering why every hacker that shows up in this manga has long bangs, after twelve volumes of Dengeki Daisy I’m still looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Dengeki Daisy Volume 10

Dengeki Daisy Volume 10 by Kyousuke Motomi

The tenth volume of Dengeki Daisy has a bunch of the elements that sparked my initial enthusiasm in the series. Not that the most recent volumes weren’t good, but the ongoing storyline and the changes the characters were going through prevented some of the joking asides and meta-commentary on the shoujo genre that made me initially assess Dengeki Daisy as a good shoujo series for people who hate shoujo. Dengeki Daisy is so delightfully quirky due to the twists that Motomi will put on standard shoujo plot devices. Teru and Kurosaki are back at school and Teru is cramming for final exams. The varying reactions of Teru’s friends to their impending exam doom serves to highlight the personalities of the supporting cast. When a fellow student attempts to blackmail Teru for a favor, threatening to expose Kurosaki’s secrets, Teru tells him to do his worst and promptly reports back to Kurosaki. In a more typical shoujo manga a blackmail storyline would be drawn out over a volume or two instead of promptly resolved in a few pages. Teru’s always been a strong heroine, but this volume really showcases her maturity. When her erstwhile blackmailer confesses that he was threatening her because he was desperate to get her help studying for a Japanese Literature exam, Teru decides to give up a rare movie date with Kurosaki in order to help him.

An author with a finely honed sense of sarcasm is a rare thing in shoujo manga, so I was particularly amused when the concept of winter break “a time that makes a girl’s heart quiver with excitement,” was introduced over an impossibly idealized image of Teru and Kurosaki in a panel filled with Christmas trees, presents, and ribbon. Turning the page, instead of being confronted with Teru stressed over what to buy Kurosaki for a Christmas present, we get the blunt narration that break is over and the third semester of school has started. Teru’s clutching a drink and looking glassy-eyed and her friends are interrogating her about homework and yelling “This is a shoujo manga, how can you skip the entire break!?” Teru indulges in a bit of naval-gazing about her relationship with Kurosaki, but she manages to be very sensible and true to herself while she wonders what the next step is. The knowledge that the dangerous hacker Akira is still out there casts a bit of a damper on a relatively peaceful time in this manga, and any Kurosaki fans who have been missing out on his occasional tough guy antics will find those desires ably met by the end of this volume. Overall, this was a very satisfying volume of Dengeki Daisy. Ten volumes in and I’m not getting bored or even wanting the story to wrap up!

Dengeki Daisy Volume 9

Dengeki Daisy Volume 9 by Kyousuke Motomi

This volume marks a turning point in this series. Orphaned high school student Teru and hacker/janitor Kurosaki have been defining their relationship by dancing around the truth. At first, he hid the fact that he was Daisy, Teru’s confident and protector that was reachable by cell phone. Then, Teru found out Daisy’s identity and proceeded to pretend that she was still ignorant. Then Kurosaki knew that Teru knew who he was, but he wasn’t going to tell her that he knew she knew. Teru found out the details of Kuosaki’s past and the burden of his guilt, and he promptly took off, thinking that he was protecting her by avoiding her. In this volume, they finally have a conversation with each other with no secrets or pretense designed to protect each other from the emotions they are both feeling, and the payoff is big for the readers. Of course, they don’t get to this confrontation without some drama and slightly twisted antics.

Teru is determined to track Kurosaki down. She hears all about his past from his colleagues and comes up with a devious plan. She’s going to tell Kurosaki that she’s going to meet the evil hacker Akira in order to discover his location. She knows that if Kurosaki thinks she’s threatened, he will come to save her. Kurosaki meets her at a beach and when he realizes that she’s tricked him he turns around to walk away. Teru keeps him around by making him angry. She starts reading Daisy’s most mushy messages, goading Kurosaki into a confrontation. They finally hash things out and talk, without all the secrets that have been serving as emotional armor. Teru shows herself to be much wiser than her years in the way she deals with Kurosaki. She knows that his guilt is so overwhelming that he wouldn’t be comforted if she tells him that she forgives him, so instead she tells him “thank you.”

So many shoujo series end up spinning out a central conflict between a romantic couple for many volumes, where not much really happens in terms of character growth until the very end. At nine volumes Dengeki Daisy isn’t a short series any more, but it feels like the characters are genuinely changing and moving forward in a way that makes this series seem fresh. Not only does the relationship between Teru and Kurosaki change slightly after their conversation on the beach, they are shown dealing with the aftermath in various ways. Teru doesn’t want to give up her texting relationship with Daisy, but Kurosaki can’t keep playing the role anymore. They have to carve out new ways of communicating with each other, but it seems like they are moving forward with a stronger foundation. Of course, there’s plenty of evil corporate spy antics going on in the background to keep things exciting. This was a very satisfying volume of Dengeki Daisy, and this series continues to be one of my current favorites.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dengeki Daisy Volume 8

Dengeki Daisy Volume 8

This volume contains a good dose of back story, as Teru finally learns how her brother Soichiro and Kurosaki met. She also learns why Kurosaki is filled with guilt over her brother’s death. After the events in the last volume, Kurosaki has decided to absent himself from Teru’s life. She’s depressed after hearing Kurosaki’s confession that he killed her brother, and devastated about the hostile text message that Akira sent in her place. In true Dengeki Daisy fashion the thing that snaps Teru out of her funk is a fist to her stomach, delivered by her friend Kiyoshi. He yells at her, “Stop acting like a victim looking for sympathy. Turning your back on him just because getting involved takes committment…that’s just plain horrible. You don’t do that to someone dear to you.” After a long lecture, Teru delivers a fierce uppercut to Kiyoshi and says with a smile through her tears that she feels better.

Teru decides to dedicate herself to finding out the truth behind Daisy/Kurosaki’s “sin”, and to do that she decides to fully inquire into his past. She gathers together all of Kurosaki’s old co-workers and protectors and begins to learn the truth behind Kurosaki’s development of a classified encryption program called “Jack Frost” and the people at Soichiro’s company who worked for the government. Kurosaki is now hunting down “Jack Frost” on his own, in an attempt to protect Teru. This volume was a little heavy on the exposition side of things, but I found I didn’t mind that so much because after 8 volumes, I’m really invested in finding out what will happen to these characters. It was also nice to see Kurosaki and Soichiro together in simpler times. Even thought the mystery of Kurosaki’s past is cleared up somewhat, there’s still plenty left to explore in the present as it is unclear who all the players are in the current hunt for Jack Frost and what they’ll do to get their hands on it. Dengeki Daisy is always fun to read, but I hope that Teru and Kurosaki get back together in the next volume!
Review copy provided by the publisher.