by Lissa Pattillo,

Dengeki Daisy

GN 1

Dengeki Daisy GN 1
Orphaned after the death of her parents, Teru Kurebayashi is left alone in the world after the passing of her older brother. In his final days, her brother hands her a cellphone that provides her communication with a mysterious individual named DAISY. Teru finds comfort and solace in Daisy's words and holds them dear as both an inspiration and a sole point of support even when she learns they may not all knight-in-shining-armour about their methods. While at school one day she accidently breaks a window and upon admitting to the crime is put to work earning the cost of the repair with the school's custodian. Though a bit crude, her temporary boss Tasuku Kurosaki has his own way of showing Teru that he cares and thusly Teru quickly realizes that Daisy may be closer to her than she initially realizes.

The forced-to-work -to-pay-off-a-debt trope will feel familiar to shoujo-fans, almost as much as the poor-flat-chested-orphan-with-a-chip-on-her-shoulder lead. Even Kurosaki's teasing and occasionally harsh personality (with of course a semi-hidden soft side) may feel a little too reminiscent at first. But, mix Dengeki Daisy's more predictable shoujo-elements with a hint of school drama, a dash of computer hacking and a cellphone to tie it all together and you have a winning combination that feels far less average in its execution.

Now at his beck-and-call, student Teru finds herself often at odds with janitorial Kurosaki who not only teases her but often appears to laze about as she works tirelessly to pay off her debt. Bickering ensues but it remains very on-the-surface and a genuine connection between the two begins to form early on. Incidents subsequently scattered across the book leave Teru asking her in-the-shadow hero Daisy for help and in most instances the individual on the other end of the phone utilizes their early-revealed skill at hacking computers to save her from situations ranging from money laundering teachers to cell phone thieves. By the end of the book however, and many Kurosaki himself to the rescue moments, Teru finds herself running to Kurosaki in what succeeds at feeling like a genuinely sweet result, even if not under the best of circumstances come the book's climatic finish.

Woven amidst the story's bulk, which revolves predominantly around Teru and Kurosaki's interactions and the mystery of Daisy's identity and intent, there's also an evolving relationship between Teru and the proverbial Queen-bee of the student council. Introduced right from the get-go, this controlling young woman soon drums up a bit of sympathy of her own and a tenure friendship begins to form between her and Teru. It's a nice change of pace having the archetype who seems tailored for schoolgirl rivalry actually be a lonely girl willing to listen to the heartfelt concern of her classmates. Score one for a step away from expected shoujo-stereotypes.

The artist shows an overall awareness of the shoujo tropes that can often get on the nerves of long-time readers. Most notably in Dengeki Daisy, that would be the naivety that plagues many similar series sporting hidden identities. From the get-go however this story nips that in the bud, for the most part at least, by having Teru immediately suspect that Kurosaki is actually Daisy and confront him on it as well. A major thumbs up point for a shoujo heroine who uses her brain. Kurosaki denies the enquiry but the notion seems to remain in the back of Teru's mind throughout, even as she consciously chooses to see Daisy and Kurosaki as two separate people.

By the second half of the book some more sinister connotations come about, tying directly to Teru's deceased brother and the role of individuals now around her. One especially creepy piece of work is the school's new computer teacher who also happens to have been a past acquaintance of Teru's brother. Along with trying to plant seeds of distrust about Daisy, he's also a part of a behind-the-scenes hunt for something that Teru's brother left behind. Unnerving as some of the resulting trouble is, it's great having the story's direction established in the first volume. The first half of the book well establishes the characters while the second half begins to set the stage for subsequent plot-direction instead of throwing readers for a loop in later volumes. It feels planned and adequately paced, not just a toss-in for the sake of being dramatic.

Much like the story at first, Kyosuko Motomi's artwork, likely recognizable to some as the artist who did Beast Master, doesn't immediately suggest the presence of anything out of the ordinary for the genre. Nonetheless, there are some instances where it really flies off the page, most notably with Kurosaki who has a fantastic range of expression. Particular attention feels given to him to really set the mood of any given scene, be it humorous, tense or otherwise, and the extra care goes a long way building his character to be both sympathetic and entertaining. Moments of intended focus sport more detailed screen toning and often thicker lines, standing out in just the right way to make a scene stick with you after turning the page.

In the end, Dengeki Daisy proves itself a fun and self-aware shoujo that should strike many of the right chords with shoujo fans. Teru fills the shoes of your run-of-the-mill modern day shoujo-heroine with gusto and Kurosaki is a refreshingly involved lead male with enough substance to easily make him the most compelling part of the story so far. Heartfelt relationships that don't rely solely on romance, potentially poignant plot routes and an engaging amount of lively, and often chuckle-worthy, character interaction makes this first volume of Dengeki Daisy a thoroughly satisfying read with lots of promise.

Overall : A-
Story : A
Art : B+

+ Genuinely endearing relationships and a very likable multi-layered lead male; creator takes care to break some conventional shoujo molds in satisfying ways
Starts off with stereotypical reasoning for Teru and Kurosaki to spend time together; small details of art (such as hands) look awkward at times

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Kyousuke Motomi

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