Reviews are subjective things. A reviewer is drawing on many things when they write their review. Besides technical things such as story structure, character development and art, a reviewers personal preferences and experiences can affect their feeling about a book. And sometimes, even their gender can make a difference as to whether a book gets a good score or bad. In the following discussions, reviewers Alex Hoffman and Lori Henderson will look at different books and examine the similarities and differences they have over each of them.
Lori Henderson: Well Alex, now that you’ve settled down in wedded bliss, are you ready for another round?
Alex Hoffman:Ready when you are, Lori! Do you want to give us the rundown on Dengeki Daisy?
Teru Kurebayashi is a high school student and orphan. Shortly before her only relative, her older brother died, he gave her a cell phone and told her it would connect her to “Daisy”, someone who would look after and be someone she could confide to. After being bullied one day at school, Teru accidentally breaks a window. The school custodian, Tasuku Kurosaki, finds out and forces Teru to pay for the window by working for him, so he can lay around and play mahjong online. Kurosaki constantly teases Teru, so she doesn’t like him, but he has a secret. He IS Daisy…
I don’t know who it was, but a review I read somewhere convinced me to give this series a try. I really didn’t know anything about the series, and had not read the mangaka’s first series published in the US, Beast Master, though I was interested in it. It only took reading the first volume to convince me that this title was right up my alley.
AH: I loved Beast Master. The series was the right length and had a silly enough premise to forgive some overly earnest writing – I loved the art at the time, because it is so different from what you normally see in shojo. I picked up Dengeki Daisy for many of the same reasons I liked Beast Master. Now, having read the first few volumes of Dengeki Daisy, I’m less enthusiastic about the art.The style reminds me of Sumomomo Momomo… actually, the entire book reminds me of Sumomomo Momomo.
LH: Sumomomo Momomo? Really? I don’t see that connection at all. Sumomomo Momomo was nothing more than chicken scratches to me, and looks nothing like Degenki Daisy. Motomi’s chibis might have a similar look, but I wouldn’t insult the entire series by making that comparison. Like most manga titles, there are things I like about the art, and things I don’t, but overall I do like the looks of the characters, especially Kurosaki. Motomi can express a range of emotions through her art, and that gets a lot of points from me. So the art didn’t thrill you. What do you think of the characters?
AH: When I compared the series to Sumomomo Momomo, I actually was thinking about the plot as well – not necessarily because of the actual events in Dengeki Daisy (which are fairly tame), but the uneasiness that the series would sometimes give me. The main relationship is between this high school girl and this bad boy hacker who is most likely 4-6 years her senior and at times I think it set off my creeper alarm. After a break-in, she’s living with this adult man who is a janitor at her school and there’s this teacher/student relationship that I don’t like. It’s not that I’m necessarily opposed to a romantic relationship between the two – it’s just that I’m not that thrilled about the vibe the book gives off.
Good example – there’s a shower scene in volume two that gave me the willies. It’s not that the interaction was skeezy. In reality, it was pretty uneventful. But the way the scene was presented didn’t sit well with me, and I am having a hard time putting a finger on why.
For what it’s worth, I like Teru and Kurosaki, who, with all their corresponding zaniness and smug-assholery, are actually quite a bit of fun to read. They each have their own worries and cares, their strengths and weaknesses, and its nice to see that they have more dimension than their counterparts in Beast Master. Certainly Motomi is advancing as a writer with Dengeki Daisy.
LH: Wow. I totally do not see any of the creepiness you seem to find so unsettling. Their age difference is perfectly normal. Most couple are around the 3-4 year age difference. My parents are 4 years. It’s similar to a high school/college relationship which I can see being called inappropriate, but certainly not creepy. And I really don’t see their relationship as a teacher/student. Kurosaki, as a janitor doesn’t have the same power over Teru as a teacher. It would be no different that if she broke the window of a store and had to work with the owner to pay it back. He can’t force her in the same way a teacher could. She’s just too honest. And that shower scene? Not even a scene. Kurosaki wasn’t even home when she took it, and we don’t even see her until she’s already out, and dressed and preparing to go to bed. Really, how can that be creepy?
I am in total agreement with you about Teru and Kurosaki. They are so much fun to watch, and have a lot of great banter. I also enjoy a lot of the supporting characters. Teru’s friends are so goofy, especially the guy with the mustache and goatee. I really like Boss and Riko too. They all add a lot to the story. And there is a lot to the story to like, beyond the romance. The whole plot with Teru’s brother, what happened to him, and why Teru has to be protected has been really interesting. I’m also really intrigued to know what the sin is that Daisy committed that Kurosaki has to atone for.
AH: Perhaps my discomfort with this book comes from the age gap – it seems like it’s more than 3-4 years, more like 5-7, and if she’s 15 or 16, that’s like a college graduate dating a HS sophomore, which I would consider pretty sketchy. When they’re both adults, the age gap doesn’t bother me as much – I know couples who are 8 years apart in age. It’s just that High School (and Junior High) are tricky periods when it comes not only to appropriateness of a romantic relationship, but also with legal matters such as age of consent.
And yes, one of the best reasons to read Dengeki Daisy is this unsettled tension between Teru and Kurosaki that Teru doesn’t even realize exists. It is either Daisy’s fault or Daisy’s assumption of fault behind Teru’s brother’s death, and this really drives a wedge between Teru and Kurosaki. It’s interesting seeing Kurosaki act on a posteriori knowledge that Teru is unaware of, and his motivations with his relationship with Teru are just as selfish as his desire to protect her.
That’s something I want to drive home here – I don’t know that Kurosaki (as of at least the first two volumes) is really motivated by a romantic subtext, but rather selfishness and guilt. He seems both content to allow Teru into his life, but remains even more conflicted as he starts to develop a more serious relationship with her. His selfish desire to protect Teru is motivated by his pride as a hacker and his guilt for whatever sin he committed that caused Teru’s brother to die. Teru also has a fixation on Daisy as a person/entity, and although she states that she doesn’t have romantic feelings for Daisy, it’s clear that she relies on him heavily to help her, and needs his support. So while Kurosaki would like to have this one-sided relationship with Teru where he is the gallant knight and she is the protected princess, his Daisy personality creates a unique subtext where he has to compete for her affections on two different frames of head space. This is a really complex relationship, which is something I really like to see in shojo manga.
LH: While I can see your point about the age difference, I don’t see it in the same light as you. Kurosaki doesn’t become Teru’s guardian angel/protector by choice, and he’s not pursuing her for any kind of romantic relationship. He actually keeps trying to do the opposite, and get her to dislike him. So you’re considerations of age of consent and such really don’t have any bearing on the story as far as I’m concerned. I just don’t see anything happening between them, at least not for a while. And I think the story is better for it.
I don’t see any romantic subtext in Kurosaki’s motivations either, but I don’t see them as selfish either. There is an element of guilt as the end of volume 2 shows, but I see him as being more selfless than selfish. In keeping his promise to protect Teru, he has accepted that he has to sacrifice anything, his feelings, Teru’s and even Teru’s brother’s because the only thing that matters is Teru’s safety. Staying close to her, and letting her stay in his apartment after hers is ransacked might seem selfish, but I just don’t see it that way. He is too conflicted, and too focused on what’s best for Teru to seem he’s doing it to satisfy himself. We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this.
AH: Isn’t guilt ultimately a selfish emotion? He is doing what he is doing because of the promise he made (which he made because something he did got Teru’s brother killed, supposedly). I just see Kurosaki as a very selfish, almost narcissistic personality, and I think that makes him an interesting character to read. I guess you’re right – we will have to agree to disagree with each other on this character.
As to the non-romance between Teru and Kurosaki – well, we will see about that.
LH: Perhaps, but I think Kurosaki would still be trying to protect Teru even if he didn’t have feelings for her or a guilty conscience, just as the Boss and Riko are. The rest just adds drama that girls love. And as for the romance, well, I know it’s coming, I’m just not in a rush for it, and it just seems like the title isn’t either. A nice, slow build up to let the relationship grow organically is just fine with me.
It sounds like you won’t be following this title any further Alex, but I know I will. I really want to find out more about Teru’s brother, the projects he, Riko, Kurosaki and Boss worked on, and why someone is so desperate to get it that Teru would be in danger because of it. My big question now is, do I follow it in print or digitally, since it’s on Viz’s manga app, now available for us non-i* users.
AH: Don’t count me out just yet, Lori. If I can follow Dengeki in digital, I’ll probably do that. I don’t think I want to pay full price for the books, but I’d gladly buy it for half-price digitally. I think the series is definitely entertaining, but digital gives me the option to jump out without cluttering my shelves with another unfinished series.
LH: Then perhaps we’ll have to revisit this series and see if it’s changed for the better or worse.
AH: Sounds like a plan!