Dengeki Daisy Volume 4

By Kyousuke Motomi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Comic (“Betsucomi”). Released in North America by Viz.

I think there was a general feeling among reviewers that this volume of Daisy was not as good as the others, and I can see that. We’re at the point that every manga gets into when it realized that it’s in it for the long haul – plot points that were scheduled to be revealed in 3 volumes have to either be put off or retconned somehow, and naturally any romantic progress is by inches, since the relationship only tends to resolve at the end.

So after last volume’s reveal to Teru that Kurosaki is Daisy, we need to get back to a more even keel, and ‘denial’ seems to be the way to go about it. Teru is increasingly uncomfortable with Kurosaki, knowing she should tell him that she knows but unable to do anything about it – and it’s made worse by the fact that her feelings for Kurosaki and Daisy are somewhat separate – she sees Daisy as her big brother replacement (deliberately, of course, that’s exactly what Kurosaki is supposed to be as Daisy) but has fallen for Kurosaki. Eventually she decides not to tell him, but simply go along with things as they are now. Which helps the manga move along, but is a bit frustrating.

Meanwhile, the rest of the plot continues to roll along, as the “fake Daisy” is still attempting to make Teru’s life miserable by ostracizing her from her schoolmates – and it’s working, as we see several scenes of Teru getting bullied, and one over-the-top attempt at hospitalization for the cliffhanger. We meet another member of the ‘inner circle’ that surrounded Teru’s brother, and he manages to be another amusing eccentric with Teru’s best interests at heart… though that doesn’t stop him being a bit of a creep as well.

There’s a few good moments of humor here, my own highlight being Riko’s reaction to Teru fainting and her (poorly worded) explanation of why she was out of sorts and had been bleeding last night. The art when we see someone delivering a powerful kick seems to get a bit more Western Comics and helps to add to the fun. Everyone in the entire manga seems to have an opinion on the relationship between Teru and Kurosaki, and never pass up a chance to tell them, even when it only leads to more angst. (As I said in my last review, the two leads are both very good at beating themselves up over the slightest problem.)

The best part of the manga is, oddly enough, Daisy oriented, as we see Teru ask Daisy how he got the nickname. Given the whole series has been littered with blue daisies from the start, it’s not all that hard to guess – we think. But Daisy takes several days to answer, and when he does the answer is not what she or the reader expected. It’s a powerful moment, and reminds us that for all that we can go on about Teru and Kurosaki angsting over every little thing, they both do have some very traumatic pasts – pasts we still haven’t quite mined. (Heck, we aren’t even sure how old Kurosaki is!)

This volume had many fun and dramatic moments, but in some way seems less satisfying than previous volumes. Perhaps it’s the fact that the big revelation of the last volume ended up heading back into stasis, or maybe the plot is starting to have one too many implausibilities to it. In any case, we get another spectacular cliffhanger here, and I’ll still get Volume 5 to see what’s going to happen.

Dengeki Daisy Volume 3

By Kyousuke Motomi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Comic (“Betsucomi”). Released in North America by Viz.

Another volume in the highly enjoyable Dengeki Daisy has come out, and the plot is moving quite fast. I was actually startled by the end of this volume, as one of the big plot points gets taken care of much faster than I expected. Except it doesn’t really, of course. More on that later.

There’s still lots of comedy here, mostly in the interaction when Tasuku decides to ramp up his ‘jerk’ side towards Teru. This is highly frustrating to her, of course, as she’s suddenly realized at the end of the last volume that she’s falling in love with him. That fact, actually, gets surprisingly little explicit acknowledgment here, even though it’s clearly influencing Teru’s actions. We can see it most in the first chapter, when Teru finally moves out of Tasuku’s apartment and into an apartment shared with her guidance counselor (and Tasuku’s old friend) Riko. There’s a lot of stuff left unsaid in this series, with many things communicated by expression rather than words, and it works well, showing also that the artist has the skill to carry it through.

There is a nice pile of drama as well, of course. A lot of it relies on the fact that both leads have low opinions of themselves, and tend to wallow in the ‘I don’t deserve to be with them’ mode that shoujo manga is so fond of. This can be justified at times – Teru being an underage high school student is brought up again and again, by both Tasuku and others, which adds a frisson of forbidden love to his actions, as it’s clear much of the time that he has trouble keeping himself in control when he’s around Teru. (We still don’t know what his actual age is.) Meanwhile, Teru is still having issues recovering from her brother’s death – it was raining at the time, and so she associated the weather with sadness – as well as her own conflicted feelings about both Tasuku and Daisy.

Teru continues to stride a fine line between cheerfully dense and savvy. She gets goaded into a stupid fight with some other girls, though it’s implied that that’s the weather’s doing, and she’d never have done that with a clear head. More to the point, at one point she’s actually kidnapped by one of ‘the enemy’, a colleague of her brother’s who’s looking for the secret data he hid. Teru even allows him to ‘charge’ her cell phone, whose batteries had run low… but then reveals that she’s totally aware that he’s searching her phone. (It’s not there, by the way.) This also allows her kidnapper to be humanized a bit – in fact, Teru’s noting that her brother told her that there’s always someone that has to do the dirty work’ manages to be both cynical AND idealistic at the same time, and probably sums up Teru very well.

And then there’s the final chapter, which gives us a big reveal. This was done very cleverly, featuring a music box (and for those curious, yes, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cyndi Lauper were in the original – in fact, Time After Time seems incredibly apropos for this couple) and a typhoon. The question now is how will Teru and Tasuku’s relationship change because of this – Teru is simultaneously delighted and devastated, and it’s another good example of the author’s ability to capture facial expressions. Also, things are now reversed in a sense so that SHE is the one with the secret. The power balance between this couple is very entertaining – it has to remain with Teru most of the time, given their ages, but that doesn’t always work out – and no doubt will shift again in Volume 4.

The shoujo romance and dramatic moments of this manga are excellent. However, I find that it’s the mystery that I’m enjoying most. Dengeki Daisy is a technological thriller in the guise of a love comedy, and it’s so far ahead of the author’s previous work, Beast Master, that it’s ridiculous. Can’t wait for the next volume.

Dengeki Daisy Volume 2

By Kyousuke Motomi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Bessatsu Comic (“Betsucomi”). Released in North America by Viz.

Well, the 2nd volume of Dengeki Daisy pretty much gave me exactly what I asked for. There’s not QUITE as much humor as in the first volume, and the more serious plotline is coming to the foreground, but this is certainly no We Were There, and the sweet, goofy relationship between Teru and Tasuku is still something we really want to see happen… but know isn’t going to anytime soon.

Even better, Teru is smartening up, and is not quite the same naive girl we saw going to a love hotel to ‘rescue’ her classmate in Vol. 1. Halfway through the book, we get the standard ‘come alone and don’t tell anyone’ plot, with admonitions from both Tasuku and Riko to NOT do that, and call them before she goes anywhere. Cut to her showing up, alone, to talk to her blackmailer. Not again, we groan. But no, this time she actually went and called them both before she went! It’s especially interesting as Teru sees it as her going down a dark path, and being less trusting. Whereas I think Tasuku and the others would call it growing up.

Tasuku’s desire for Teru (and it’s pretty well shown to be a strong desire, without ever becoming explicit) is another reason to pick this up. He’s already naturally conflicted by being older than Teru, who’s still in school; as well as by his past with her brother, and we also have his dual identity as Daisy, and trying to avoid having her discover that. Really, he has enough psychological issues for several volumes, which is good, as Dengeki Daisy is 8 volumes and still running in Japan. But at least he and Teru know of their own feelings for each other in their own minds, even if they’re light-years away from saying it. This is a refreshing change from clueless obliviousness or hardcore denial.

I do wonder if it will get more explicit later. Dengeki Daisy is a Shogakukan title, which already gives it a 75% chance of more sex than a similar title would for Shueisha. :D

The plot thickens in this 2nd volume, and we get intriguing pieces of the backstory, including finding that Teru’s late brother may not be as sweet and wonderful as we’d expected. Riko is also a nice addition to the cast, giving Teru a mentor figure to discuss things with, while being another link to Tasuku’s past (and getting carte blanche to kick him in the head, something Teru can’t quite manage yet). There’s a lot going on in this title besides the cute romance. I’m very pleased Viz has picked it up; one of their better new acquisitions.