Deka Kyoshi Volume 1
By Tamio Baba
Age Rating: Teen Plus
Toyama, a tall and beefy detective, goes undercover as a fifth-grade teacher. The previous teacher was discovered on the ground outside of her condo and rumors say she jumped…or was she pushed? Toyama is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, but it seems like he has a more pressing task at hand: his rowdy students. One student, Makoto is a little strange and his eccentricities make him a prime target for bullies. Makoto can actually see the demons inside people, which manifest themselves as visions of horrible monsters. Will this strange student be able to help Toyama?
Sounding more like a take off of Kindergarten Cop, Deka Kyoshi is actually a title that looks at serious issues that kids are facing everyday. It presents them in an interesting and unusual way, but CMX’s overly-conservative age rating of the book may keep it from reaching the audience it is meant and most appropriate for.
Toyama, an enthusiastic police officer has been assigned to go undercover as a fifth grade teacher. The previous teacher died under mysterious circumstances and Toyama is determined to find out the truth. He gets some help from a most unusual student, Mirahara. He sees the problems other students are dealing with as monsters that take them over. This first volume introduces several members of the fifth grade class by showing their problems, and having Toyama and Mirahara work together to solve them. Each chapter is a self-contained story that deals with such issues as bullying, growing fast, shoplifting and wrist cutting.
While these issues are serious, and on the whole are treated as such, there is still plenty of humor to balance it out. Most of that humor comes from Toyama. He offers quite a bit of comedy relief, especially in the school setting. When he first comes to the classroom, he hits his head on the door frame since he’s so tall. His height becomes a running joke through the volume. Watching him try to deal with the paperwork of being a teacher offers a few laughs too. He’s a very outgoing and blunt about his feelings, and very sincere about wanting to help the students. It’s this sincerity that makes it possible for him to help Mirahara and in turn the other students.
Mirahara, on the other hand,is treated more seriously. The visions he sees of his fellow classmates are dark and scary. Why he has this ability we don’t know, and it is something he fears at first. But in helping Toyama by pointing out the students with problems, he also ends up helping himself accept his ability and in turn accepted by his fellow classmates again.
Working against Toyama and Mirahara is a dark, mysterious boy. He doesn’t seem to be apart of the class, but seems to know a lot about them. He knows what their personal problems are and how to make them worse. He seems to have some plan or goal that involves the class but there is no indication what that can be yet. He seems to serve as an ongoing plot that runs through all the chapters, tying them to something bigger that will no doubt come to light in later volumes.
I really enjoyed this volume. I found the stories to be relevant to what pre-teen and teenage kids were dealing with and addressed the issues appropriately. There’s a good variety of characters, especially among the kids. They might appear to be a typical mix of kids, with the trouble makers, the early-developed girl, the quiet, high achieving girl, etc., they are interesting once you get to know them. The art is average, with the characters drawn simply, except when you get to the monsters. They are drawn with a lot of detail, and can be very scary looking.
This is probably why CMX chose to rate the title with a Teen+, but I really think this is an over reaction on their part. The stories themselves are really meant to appeal to a pre-teen/teen audience that is dealing the same problems and changes in life. Rating this book out of their reach is really doing a disservice to the core target audience that may actually get something more out the stories than just a few minutes entertainment.
The issue of the age rating was brought up on twitter, so I decided to have my 12-year-old daughter read this title and see what she thought. Jenny enjoyed this title as well. She liked the characters best about it. She thought Toyama was really funny. She also liked the stories. She didn’t find them preachy in any way, and liked how the situations in each story was dealt with. Her favorite of the volume was “Tall Doll”. She didn’t find the monsters scary or disturbing. They didn’t bother her at all, and she doesn’t believe that other kids her age would either. She did preface that statement with the caveat that she likes horror stories in general. Kids that have read Goosebumps, a horror title directed at 9-12-year-olds, could just as easily handle this title.