Dengeki Daisy, vols. 2-6

Dengeki Daisy 6As high-schooler Teru wrestles with whether or not to acknowledge what she does and doesn’t know about her mysterious friend and protector Daisy, whom she’s never “officially” met in person, and the cranky young school janitor Kurosaki who has drafted her as slave labor / taken her under his wing, she finds not only her own life, but the lives of her friends and acquaintances in danger from shadowy villains connected to her late brother’s technological tinkering.

The first volume of this romantic mystery series proved surprisingly pleasant despite its use of stock character and plot devices, primarily because of the way it gently tweaked those elements to defy reader expectation. Fortunately, Motomi continues the tweaking throughout the next five books in the series.

Both Teru and Kurosaki prove to be rather unpredictable shojo standbys, doing the unexpected for surprising reasons in what seem to be otherwise familiar-for-the-genre situations. When a particularly pushy character who presses for information on Daisy is suddenly injured by an assailant, kind Teru feels guilty — not because the other person gets hurt, but because she was so angry with them that she didn’t care what happened to them. And while Kurosaki is a cantankerous, protective brooder with secrets, he wrestles with his past, present, and future roles with more nuance than the usual handsome jerk / guardian angel. Even supporting characters — the spoiled rich girl, the brainiac childhood friend, the ditsy hot nurse, the authority-abusing teacher — have a tendency to step outside their otherwise standard roles.

In the same vein, Motomi employs some surprisingly successful misdirection to fill out the story, provide dramatic momentum, and send the characters out on a few more action-oriented tangents. Since the reader knows the answer to what would normally be the series’ biggest mystery before the close of the first volume, it is the why behind that question, and the many ways in which it is playing out in the present, that keep Teru and the reader wondering, chasing after red herrings, and trying to connect the dots.

The series’ main speed-bump is the fact that the principals let their acknowledgement of their own situation drag out a little too long, with each knowing that the other knows that they know, yet they play along like everything’s normal out of fear of upsetting the status quo and losing what they have; understandable motives, but nonetheless frustrating for the reader. Otherwise, the romance and dramatic suspense balance out fairly well, ably assisted by the competent visuals. The art is attractive, typical shojo style, perhaps a little heavy on the screentone, and with just enough variation in the panel layouts to keep things moving despite the sometimes slow progress of the plot.

Motomi has taken a cookie-cutter concept and executed it with some thoughtfulness and originality. She may drag the “suspense” out a little long, but not enough to lose her readers’ interest in the outcome. Given another female student’s relationship with a disgraced teacher and Kurosaki’s developing attachment with Teru (he may be young, but he’s still an adult and she’s not), along with a few instances of increasingly serious violence, those readers will likely be older teens and up.

Dengeki Daisy, vols. 2-6
by Kyousuke Motomi
Vol. 2 ISBN: 1421537281
Vol. 3 ISBN: 142153729X
Vol. 4 ISBN: 1421537303
Vol. 5 ISBN: 1421537397
Vol. 6 ISBN: 1421538261
Viz Media, 2010-2011
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16 up)

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