Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dengeki Daisy Volume 1

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

I had gotten into a lazy habit recently, what with all the shoujo manga coming out from Viz. Viz's licensing tended towards two major shoujo magazines from their two respective owners: Shueisha's Betsuma, and Shogakukan's Betsucomi. (Note that the parent magazine for those titles, Margaret and ShoComi, get far less licensed over here.) And I noticed that the Betsuma titles tended towards cute fluff, while the Betsucomi ones tended towards gripping angst. Love*Com, for example, was clearly a Betsuma title, as was High School Debut. Sand Chronicles and We Were There? Classic Betsucomi.

This isn't true of course, I just like to categorize. A recent title from Betsucomi that came out over here, Monkey High, was filled with lighthearted comedy. And now we have Dengeki Daisy, with its adversarial relationship between the spunky heroine Teru and her "jerk" boss Tasuku. Certainly there's no lack of drama here. Teru has recently lost her older brother (having lost her parents before this), and is living alone. Likewise, Tasuku seems to be hiding several things, and is (of course - this *is* a shoujo manga) trying to avoid letting himself get too close to Teru.

But it strikes an excellent balance, never letting the dramatics overshadow the humor, and never letting the humor get too goofy. And yes, it's another mysterious protector here, but at least it's shown that Teru can take care of herself most of the time, and her life has enough bad things going on it that she may need someone watching over her. (Her naivete is demonstrated here in one of the better parts of the book, where she invades a love hotel to rescue an acquaintance from some sleazy guys. Tasuku is absolutely livid with her, and you see his point.) And of course, like many overly confident shoujo heroines, she is plagued by self-doubt and worries constantly about being a horrible person.

The use of the internet and cell phones give this a nice modern feel (hopefully it won't be that hideously dated in a few years time), and it's a handy way to keep Tasuku's identity as her secret benefactor a secret. This is also a good thing because, while it's nice to see him looking cool and broody, it's even better to see him playing the over-the-top jerkass, forcing Teru to do all the menial labor he's supposedly paid for, and making sure whenever he's too nice to her to insult her in response, so she doesn't get too suspicious. The cliffhanger to Volume 1 shows, as we had guessed, that he was close to her brother, and no doubt this will fuel further drama.

There's nothing especially new or unusual here. But there's lots of likeable characters, intriguing situations, potential for cute romance, and potential for horrible heartache. Let's hope it continues to balance out its serious plot with a fun, teasing sense of humor.