My reading resolution for 2012 is to read more manga. How is that going, you ask? Great. Inspired by a list of Must Have: Manga for Teens from No Flying, No Tights, as well as the near constant stream of recommendations from my anime club, I have been adding more manga series to my library’s collection and reading new titles as they come in. I recently discovered two shojo titles that go together. (By “shojo” I mean manga written primarily for young women). Both involve romance, mystery, and the Internet. If you like one of these, you will probably like both.
I Am Here! by Ema Toyama was recommended to me by of one of my anime club regulars a couple of weeks ago. The initial thing that made me so excited about it: it’s short. Only two volumes! They’re fat omnibus volumes, but this is still helpful in terms of shelf space, speed of finishing them, and, of course, my obsession with endings. Hikago Sumino is a painfully shy middle school student who keeps a blog. Her only social connections are her blog’s two followers: Black Rabbit, who is sweet and encouraging, and Mega Pig, who is tough and encouraging. These two are a source of strength and inspiration as Sumino tries to become more outgoing with her classmates. In addition to her blog friends, Sumino tends to a sunflower growing near her school. She feels a kinship with the plant; both of them are growing slowly, reaching for the sun.
Conflict begins when Sumino is noticed by a popular boy who says he wants to be close to her. She is determined to become more social before they can date. This means tackling the mean girls who torment her and listening to her heart as she tries to determine if his attention is rooted in pity. She also soon discovers that one of her online friends is right under her nose. Black Rabbit has always been so sweet to her, and he’s been in her class all along. Which boy will she choose?
I Am Here! is a satisfyingly sweet shy girl fantasy. Sumino is adorable, and both boys that take an interest in her are compelling. It was fun to watch this sunflower grow, and to see her confident in the end that she will continue to come out of her shell.
I picked up Dengeki Daisy because it was on the aforementioned Must Have: Manga for Teens list. A different anime club girl commended this purchase, and once I read the first volume, I added the next several to my current book order. High school student Teru Kurebayashi is an orphan who exchanges email messages by cell phone with a mysterious confidant, a friend of her late brother, called Daisy. Daisy is Teru’s closest friend, even though they’ve never met.
The Dengeki in the title means “electric shock.” I get the sense from reading that this refers both to the surprising situations that involve Daisy coming to Teru’s rescue, as well as the electric chemistry between the characters. So far we know–but Teru does not–that Kurosaki, the bad-boy computer hacker school janitor is actually Daisy. We also know that he has done something terrible in his past that he regrets and assumes that if Teru found out, she would reject his friendship. Does this terrible something have to do with the software company where Teru’s brother worked? Does this terrible something explain why Teru’s brother died? It seems so.
Where I Am Here! is sweet, Daisy is rougher and funnier. The storyline ranges from comedy to thriller. Teru keeps finding herself in danger and Kurosaki keeps bailing her out. The romance between the two has a questionable age difference–it is also definitely not okay to date your school janitor–but so far nothing too physical has actually happened between them, and the forbiddenness of the situation adds tantalizing tension. They have good chemistry, both when they are being silly–Teru keeps making fun of Kurosaki’s bleached hair by telling him she hopes he’ll go bald–and in more serious moments, when one or both characters need comforting. I am really excited to see where this series goes.
— Erin Daly, currently reading Uglies: Shay’s Story by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson, illustrated by Steven Cummings