Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Daytime Shooting Star
Suzume has lived her entire life in the countryside, but everything gets uprooted when her father is suddenly transferred to Bangladesh. Her parents decide that she's not only not allowed to stay home by herself, but she's not going with them, either – instead, Suzume is shipped off to her uncle in Tokyo. Overwhelmed by the big city, Suzume immediately gets herself in trouble upon arrival, but she's rescued by a young man her uncle knows. She thinks he's kind of weird, but that's nothing when she finds out the truth – he's her new homeroom teacher.
Daytime Shooting Star's back copy (not reproduced above) makes it sound like a love triangle for a hapless heroine. While that may later develop, the introductory volume definitely doesn't feel like one, or even like much of a romance. That's not a bad thing, and neither will it be if it does develop into one, but it definitely lets us know that creator Mika Yamamori plans to take her time setting things up and letting the characters grow relatively naturally, or at leas to move at their own pace.
It's also definitely not fair to think of heroine Suzume as “hapless” or anything remotely similar. Although she's clearly out of her element in Tokyo, having grown up in the sort of small town where everyone knows everyone else and all of their business, she's also the kind of person who just keeps moving ahead, ready to see what these changes are truly going to mean for her. In this way she's a little bit like Ton from Shortcake Cake, but Suzume's a little brassier – when she decides that she's going to make a friend, she just walks right up to someone and makes them her friend. She's not obnoxiously aggressive or awkward about it, either; she's just a straightforward person and she's going to do what she needs to in order to get along. She does think about the consequences, she just isn't particularly concerned by them.
That's not an attitude that Tokyo is necessarily ready for. While it would be silly to say that rural denizens are more honest than urban ones, Suzume does exhibit a level of trust that comes of having rarely met someone she didn't know (or at least know their relatives to report bad behavior to), so the idea of people spurning her or being deliberately mean doesn't really cross her mind. In some ways it feels like she's blundered into a shoujo romance when she doesn't truly belong there, and she has to learn the ropes as she goes along. It doesn't occur to her that the boy she asks to be her friend might be popular and she might incur the wrath of the class mean girl by her actions. She never thinks that her uncle's weird friend might clean up nicely to become her hot young homeroom teacher. The standards of the genre elude her, and that's part of what makes this volume a good read – we see events coming, but Suzume doesn't. It's a bit like the shoujo romance equivalent of yelling at the screen during a horror movie when someone decides to go into the basement.
That said, there are plenty of the usual tropes for genre fans to enjoy. Mostly they come in the form of Suzume's interactions with Shishio, her teacher, and Yuyuka, the mean girl. When Suzume (forcefully) becomes friends with Mamura, the quiet, girl-allergic boy who sits next to her in class, Yuyuka sees red – it doesn't matter that Mamura barely tolerates Suzume and clearly isn't comfortable interacting with her; in Yuyuka's mind, the new girl has jumped the line, and she is emphatically unhappy. In typical mean girl fashion she sets Suzume up to be snubbed by the entire class, something which Shishio discovers. Rather than letting him fix things up, however, Suzume charges ahead and confronts Yuyuka herself in a fairly impressive scene that tells us a lot about both girls. Likewise we learn a lot about Shishio as a person (not just a teacher) by seeing how he interacts with Suzume; the result is that any potential romance between them feels mildly less uncomfortable for those readers who don't enjoy teacher/student romances. If the story does go that way, both of them appear to be fighting it at this point, although both are also uncomfortably aware of the attractions of the other.
For right now, however, friendship is of more concern to Suzume than romance, and that also feels like a nice change of pace. She's focused on finding stable ground in her new city life, and love wasn't really something she cared particularly about back in the countryside anyway. That means that the story is also going to take its time finding its footing as well, and that should give it a more solid base if that love triangle ever does come to pass – and gives us a chance to enjoy the journey at a relaxed pace.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Relaxed pacing, story seems to be taking its time to develop the characters before rushing into romance plot
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