Dengeki Daisy Volume 7

Dengeki Daisy Volume 7 by Kyousuke Motomi

The cover design of this volume perfectly represents the odd combination of plot lines that end up getting featured in Dengeki Daisy. Kurosaki is tenderly kissing a tearful Teru’s hand on the front cover, and the back cover features the deranged Akira with a maniacal grin and a creepy red eye. The warm and fluffy part of this volume occurs when Teru and Kurosaki A mysterious man keeps popping up near Teru and she and Kurosaki gradually realize that it is the elusive and dangerous attacker Akira.

The first part of the book shows Teru and Kurosaki fighting off a manageable foe – one of the teachers at the school has decided that Kurosaki is a bad influence on Teru and is determined to separate them. Teru vows to prove that her grades won’t suffer because of the time she spends helping out with janitorial tasks and makes an impulsive bet involving her class standings and Kurosaki’s hair, only to abruptly fall ill the night before the exam. A boy Teru saw at the bus stop and was curious about because he reminded her of her brother abruptly kisses her, and she’s devastated. Kurosaki as Daisy sends her an emotional text, then quickly backs away. It is fairly typical of the dance that these characters do, as they grow closer but still maintain the polite fiction that separates them. The kissing bandit is of course Akira, and he engineers a situation that results in Teru learning a new piece in the puzzle about her brother’s death.

Despite the fact that the central mystery behind Teru’s brother hasn’t been fully explained and the series is now up to volume seven, I’m still interested in seeing what happens next in this manga. The relationship between Teru and Kurosaki is one of the more original pairings in shoujo manga, and despite the gulf in their ages and personalities I can’t help but hope they get together in the end. I’m perfectly happy reading an almost indefinite number of volumes before that ending appears.

Review copy provided by the publisher

Dengeki Daisy Volume 6

Dengeki Daisy Volume 6 by Kyousuke Motomi

I have to admit after six volumes, the storylines in Dengeki Daisy are getting a bit predictable. Fortunately Motomi is such a skilled author that I don’t really care! The slowly developing relationship between plucky orphan high school student Teru and grumpy janitor/hacker Kurosaki is still moving forward at a glacial pace. Teru and Kurosaki are both pretending that she hasn’t discovered that he’s her mysterious guardian known as Daisy. I think one of the reasons why I tolerate the slower plot developments in Dengeki Daisy is that Teru and Kurosaki’s inaction about their relationship is tied in to their emotional states. In more predicatable shoujo manga, there would be plenty of outside forces popping up to prevent a couple getting together such as the sudden appearance of a long-lost fiance or an evil male model. Teru and Kurosaki both aren’t in an emotional place to deal with being honest with their feelings, so everything goes unsaid even as they face danger yet again.

I have learned now through this manga that school nurses are even more dangerous than male models. Teru investigates the possible guilt of Arai in a stabbing incident centered around the ex-school nurse Ms. Mori. It turns out that while Arai is guilty of some things, he’s really being set up as a patsy. Teru places herself in danger yet again, but she trusts that Daisy will be able to save her. While this scenario might make it seem like Teru’s a typical captive heroine, she does actually fight back and continues to use her cell phone strategically in summoning help. When I was reading this I was struck again by how well Motomi conveys the vastly different moods of the characters. There’s cynicism, playfulness, repressed emotion, and gloom. Teru and Kurosaki seem to go through so much in this volume, but their relationship is summed up in a scene where she’s perched on the monkey bars at school and he coaxes her to jump down in to his arms. Kurosaki thinks about the guilt he bears over her brother’s death and how much better off his life is with Teru in it. She thinks he’s acting strangely and wonders if he’s drunk, and he makes a crude joke about her youthfulness. So in just a few panels we go from reflection and intimacy to reinforcement of the teasing that keeps a safe distance between the couple. Scenes like this, with so much packed into a few panels are why I continue to enjoy reading Dengeki Daisy.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dengeki Daisy Volumes 4 and 5

Only in shoujo manga would you find yourself rooting for the romance between a peppy orphaned high school girl and an emotionally damaged ex-hacker turned school custodian. When this series first started I was hoping that the industrial espionage aspects would be more fully explored. As this series settles down for the long haul, it is clear that the mystery behind the death of Teru’s brother and the secret he left behind is really going to be used as more of a background element to either bring Teru and Kurosaki closer together or further complicate their relationship. I don’t mind the lack of industrial espionage at the forefront of the series, because I’ve come to care about the characters. Plus, wishy washy industrial espionage is a little more compelling than school club activities, evil student councils, sudden sibling scenarios or any of the other slightly shopworn plots used in much shoujo manga nowadays.

Dengeki Daisy Volume 4

The third volume ended with a plot development that had the potential to move things along nicely. Teru discovered that Kurosaki has been acting as her mysterious guardian and best friend via cell phone Daisy. As the fourth volume opens, she’s struggling with the fact that she knows Kurosaki’s secret but isn’t sure if she should admit it to him. She’s afraid of how their relationship might change if everything is out in the open. Teru is acting uncharacteristically awkward around Kurosaki and struggles to keep her usual tone when texting Daisy. Eventually they work through their issues, helped out by the memory of Teru’s brother and the revelation of the violent reason behind Daisy’s nickname. The comedic relief in this volume comes in the introduction of the school director. Ando was also linked to Teru’s brother, and he seems to spend most of his time skulking in odd corners, so the students start thinking that the school is haunted. It is interesting that at least three positions at the school are populated by people with a connection to Teru’s brother. Someone starts posing as Daisy in a cell phone hacking attempt, and Teru’s school life grows even more complicated.

Dengeki Daisy Volume 5

The shadowy menace gets emphasized in this volume as Kurosaki gets injured protecting Teru. Her other protectors kick into high gear. It is clear that Kurosaki knows that Teru knows that he’s Daisy, but she doesn’t know that he knows that she knows. So complicated! Kurosaki’s guilt may prevent him from ever having a relationship with Teru, and she seems to want things to remain as they are so she can just enjoy spending whatever time she can with him. Events from previous volumes are brought up again as Arai, the former student council advisor is investigated for possibly being the source of the fake Daisy scheme and the attacks on Teru. Teru struggles with what to do to help solve the situation and Kurosaki has one of his scary but cool moments when he targets the manipulative Miss Mori. Kurosaki’s glares and evil demeanor brought some extra energy to this volume, I always enjoy it when he starts acting as menacing as he was in the initial volumes.

I’m still enjoying this series very much. The slightly unconventional relationship, the mystery of Teru’s brother, and the slow revelations about Kurosaki’s past are all very satisfying. I realize that popular series like this will probably get spun out over several volumes but I’m still enjoying the slowly developing relationship in Dengeki Daisy.

Volume 5 provided by the publisher

Dengeki Daisy Volume 3

Dengeki Daisy Volume 3 by Kyousuke Motomi

Dengeki Daisy is one of those series that just keeps getting better with every volume. I put this volume down disappointed that I’m going to have to wait until April to read volume 4. The characters in Dengeki Daisi just seem to have both more depth than I expect, and Motomi’s slightly off-kilter approach to shoujo storytelling always ensures some surprising moments in this manga. One of the things that I find hilarious is the way Teru’s friends just casually accept the fact that she’s living with a older, supposedly lecherous high school janitor. As the volume opens she’s preparing to move in with her new friend Riko and she’s trying to come up with ideas for a parting gift for Kurosaki. She decides that she’ll cook a meal, but she has to ask Kurosaki to pick up the groceries because she’s so busy moving. I just love the interaction between Kurosaki and Teru. He orders her to restate her request as a servant and she says “Master, I would appreciate it if you bought the groceries…please” and flashes her belly button at him. He ends up cooking her farewell dinner and teasing her too much, so she starts crying. Kurosaki gives her a hug and the comforting words “You’re my servant, remember? I’m going to work you to the bone at school. And you can keep coming here to cook and clean for me.” She thinks “This is so cowardly…I won’t do this again. Putting the one I love on the spot with my tears and expecting him to do what I want.” Teru then leaves, in order to move into her new apartment right next door. The first chapter of this volume contained everything I like about Dengeki Daisy: character interaction, self-reflection, and a quirky twist.

I enjoyed spending more time with the main characters in Dengeki Daisy. I’m a big fan of shoujo heroes who look slightly dissolute, like Yoh from High School Debut with the horrible bags under his eyes. Kurosaki fits well with this character type, as he’s often snarling with a cigarette dangling from a corner of his mouth. He only seems to have unguarded expressions when Teru can’t see him, because he’s locked away the more protective and gentle side of himself into the personality of the mysterious person “Daisy” who Teru can only reach through her cell phone. As I was reading this volume I was wondering how much longer the secret of Daisy’s identity would last. Teru’s been on the verge of discovering that Daisy is Kurosaki so many times, it is hard not to wonder if her lack of knowledge might be a protective mechanism. For an orphaned girl who might possess a secret computer program her brother was killed for, she’s amazingly level headed even if she is subject to the normal amounts of moodiness any teenager would be expected to have.

Teru comes into her own in an unexpected way in this volume. Takeda comes after her, separating her from Kurosaki during an important cake shopping trip. Takeda tries to sneakily manipulate her into showing him her cell phone so he can search it for the mysterious software program her brother wrote, she sees right through him. Even though Takeda’s manipulations have caused her a ton of trouble, she ends up telling him that she wants to see him again the next time he wants to to go a cake shop. It is clear that Teru and Kurosaki have a deep emotional connection, but they aren’t ready for the push their relationship would get if it was revealed that Kurosaki is actually Daisy. Daisy functions as an emotional safety net, and if that communication mechanism were to vanish, Teru and Kurosaki’s emotions might be too difficult to handle. This volume tended to focus more on the emotional connections between the odd couple and less on the corporate espionage mystery that was featured more in the first couple volumes. At this point I’m happy to read whatever Motomi comes up with for the rest of the series.

Dengeki Daisy Volumes 1 and 2

Dengeki Daisy Volumes 1 and 2 Kyousuke Motomi

Just what I need, yet another shoujo series to follow! I didn’t run out and preorder the first volume of Dengeki Daisy when I saw it solicited. I tend to enjoy most Shojo Beat series, but I thought the idea of a girl getting over her brother’s death due to her guardian angel “Daisy” who is reachable only by cell phone was maybe not the greatest premise for a story. Then I saw all the positive reviews for the series from other manga bloggers and I started to think I was missing out. When Viz sent me a copy of the second volume, I decided to give in and try the series, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Volume 1

Dengeki Daisy starts out with a rather worn out premise, but the execution of all the details made the story seem fresh. Teru’s older brother has died, but before he passed on he gave her a cell phone and said that the phone will connect her to a person named Daisy who will always be there to support her. As the volume opens poor but sassy Teru is treating the phone like a false diary, telling Daisy that she’s doing fine when she’s being bullied by the sadistic student council at her school. Teru isn’t a helpless heroine. After she gets splashed with a bucket of water she turns a hose on the perpetrators. She’s aided further as some balls thrown by a mysterious rescuer connect with the heads of her tormentors. Teru tries to throw the balls back in the direction where she thinks they came from, but they end up breaking a window at the school. Enter the creepy yet astoundingly young and handsome school custodian Kurosaki. Since Teru is too poor to pay to fix the window, he announces that she’ll become his servant and puts her to work performing custodial tasks while he communes with his laptop. They quickly fall into the habit of bickering, as Kurosaki gruffly orders Teru around and she bids him farewell by saying “I hope your hair falls out by tomorrow!” Kurosaki always seems to be around when Teru needs help. When Teru needs help hacking into a computer in order to aid a classmate, she texts Daisy and the situation is quickly resolved. She asks Kurosaki if he’s Daisy and he denies it.

That scene was where I thought there was an indication that Dengeki Daisy might be a little more interesting than the average shoujo manga. I think in a more conventional title, it would take at least a volume or two for Teru to register the suspicion that Kurosaki is Daisy. Bad boys who are secretly good are shoujo staples but Kurosaki is a superior example of the type. I found myself captivated by his expressions of unholy glee as he dealt with the people who were picking on Teru. He was gruff and surly with Teru, and only had a gentle expression on his face when she couldn’t see him. Thankfully the evil student council plot is left quickly behind and the odd couple end up having to unravel something more interesting – industrial espionage. Teru’s older brother was a genius engineer, and unscrupulous people suspect that since Teru’s only inheritance from him was a cell phone it might be more valuable than it appears. While Kurosaki isn’t revealing his identity as Daisy to Teru, he used to work with her brother and took the custodian job to watch over her. He’s filled with guilt about the death of his friend.

Motomi’s art easily shifts between different modes that expresses what the characters are going through. When Teru and a couple of her friends express solidarity, they strike a fighting pose straight out of comedic shonen manga and vow “Even if we are poor and are clothes are shabby! Even if we are ugly and girls don’t like us! Our hearts bloom like flowers, beautiful and strong! And we’re proud of it!!!” Kurosaki looks like a capable action hero when he leaps to defend his girl and when they share a quiet moment in the school’s garden the backdrop of flowers and significant glances creates an emotionally charged mood broken only by Kurosaki telling Teru that she’s stupid for thinking he’s Daisy.

Volume 2

Teru and Kurosaki become temporary roommates after somebody breaks into her apartment. He puts her to work doing various domestic tasks like cooking, organizing CDs, and providing him with shoulder massages. One of the things I like is the emotional give-and-take between the couple. Kurosaki attempts to tease her after she announces that to her Daisy is the best thing in the world by asking her what would happen if Daisy turns out to be a total jerk like him. She says “That goes without saying, I’ll love everything about you,” then wacks him in the head. Kurosaki is momentarily dumbfounded and as Teru walks away she thinks “Even if you aren’t Daisy, I’ve already fallen for you.”

The supporting cast is rounded out by the addition of the new school counselor Riko. She is also someone who used to work with Kurosaki and Teru’s brother. Riko’s also interested in looking after Teru and when Teru seeks her advice she tells Teru that Kurosaki is a terrible, selfish person. Teru thinks that it is true that Kurosaki might be terrible because she has no idea what he’s thinking, so she vows to become “a terrible woman whose thoughts are unreadable” so she can play with his emotions. Teru and Daisy’s texts to each other provide an interesting counterpoint to the relationship between Teru and Kurosaki. He has more knowledge of her inner feelings, and Teru will sometimes confess something to Daisy and put on an entirely different facade for Kurosaki. Teru’s troubles continue as she continues to be the target of people who are after her brother’s research. The emotional strain of protecting Teru and holding back his feelings for her begins to weigh more heavily on Kurosaki, and the reader sees a flashback to a scene between him and Teru’s brother that seems a little creepy.

One thing that I thought was curious about this manga was the author bios in the back of the books. I’d thought that Kyousuke Motomi was one of the few men working as a shoujo manga artist, but the author bios indicated the author was female. On the other hand, the self-portrait of the author looked like it had a very stylized mustache, and there’s an a author comment about facial hair growth. So I’m not sure what to think, but I’d honestly be curious to read more shoujo written by men just as I enjoy shonen manga written by women.

Even though some of the plot points in Dengeki Daisy manga aren’t very unique, by the end of these two volumes I was totally invested in wanting to see what happens to Teru and Kurosaki. The industrial sabotage subplot and the events surrounding the death of Teru’s brother creates an ongoing mystery that works as a counterweight to the budding romance. Also, I find the idea of a romance between a high school girl and a seemingly benign yet emotionally traumatized hacker who is posing as a school custodian just creepy enough to be entertaining while not quite entering into the “No, this is yucky” territory of a manga like Black Bird. Teru seems to be extremely resilient and is able to cope with Kurosaki by coming up with quick put-downs whenever he seems mean. Dengeki Daisy manages to blend different emotional aspects to come up with a compelling story. I enjoyed reading this series because there’s suspense, romance, action, and just enough comedy to keep things from being too heavy.

Review copy of volume 2 provided by the publisher