In the blazing heat of summer, a group of teenagers band together after realizing they each have special powers. Calling themselves the Mekakushi-dan, this is the story of a series of events that befall them on two August days in the first volume of the hit light novel series that became the basis for Mekakucity Actors.
Shintaro Kisaragi is forced to make an unceremonious return to the world outside his bedroom after two years as a shut-in when his computer keyboard is wrecked by an untimely spill. Together with his mysterious A.I. Ene, he ventures out into the summer heat to buy a new keyboard, but this simply errand soon spins wildly out of control when he is taken hostage at the electronics store. Through this incident, Shintaro comes into contact with the Mekakushi-dan, a group of teenagers each with special powers and is soon drawn into a much longer series of events.
Kagerou Daze I will be of interest to those looking for a mystery story with some thrills and action.
Kagerou Daze I is structured into three main story chapters, Jinzou Enemy, Kisaragi Attention and Mekakushi Chord, corresponding to songs from author Jin’s Kagerou Project. These are interspersed with short sections corresponding to the song Kagerou Daze. The first large section, Jinzou Enemy follows shut-in Shintaro Kisaragi and his A.I. Ene as they head to the electronics store to purchase a new keyboard before getting caught up in a hostage situation. I enjoyed this chapter a lot as it followed Shintaro as he ventured into the outside world for the first time in years, and I enjoyed this because of his entertainingly awkward and somewhat cynical first-person perspective. The chapter was well-paced, and I really liked that Jin was able to imbue the narration with a strong sense of personality in this chapter, making the otherwise unremarkable events interesting to follow and making me care about the characters. This also made Shintaro and Ene’s relationship fascinating to follow because we got to him swing back and forth between callous ambivalence and begrudging endearment towards her. This quickly brought the relationship to life, making the first chapter the highlight of the book.
In addition, I felt that the climax of the book was executed particularly well and was easily the best part of the later two-thirds of the book. I liked that Jin was able to finally make the powers of the Mekakushi-dan relevant to the plot, and I felt that this paid off in a smart and satisfying way. It also showed some potential for the future direction of the series, ending on a relatively satisfying note that made me curious to see what would happen in future volumes.
I’ll get to my opinions about the two longer chapters soon, but I also enjoyed the short Kagerou Daze chapters as well. These chapters were somewhat ambiguous but were clearly meant to foreshadow future events in the series, making me hopeful about the direction the series might move in. They stuck out to me as particularly strong stylistically, and I felt that Jin was able to do a lot in a small space to provoke thought and do some good foreshadowing.
While I found the first chapter to be quite entertaining because of the personality provided by Shintaro’s narration, the same can’t be said of the other two-thirds of the book which follow Shintaro’s sister Momo. Momo is a budding idol who feels like she can’t get people’s eyes off her, leading to her falling in with the Mekakushi-dan after a series of mishaps. This is a shame because Momo is a massive step-down as a narrator thanks to her rather bland personality and her repeated complaints about wanting to be a normal girl. While the first chapter is defined by Shintaro’s awkward observations, Momo’s chapters have none of this personality aside from her complaining, making me really question if Jin’s decision to follow the his songs so closely was a smart idea in trying to construct a good book. I can’t help but feel that this volume would have been much stronger if it had followed Shintaro and Ene the entire time, making it disappointing that the majority of the book followed a more uninteresting protagonist.
The decision to feature Momo so heavily as a narrator might have been forgiven if exciting things were happening to her, but somewhat amazingly almost nothing of note manages to happen for about 80 pages (out of a book that is 163 pages long) from the start of Momo’s chapters to the final climax of the story. It certainly didn’t help that the supposedly daring Mekakushi-dan seem to be one of the most boring groups of teenagers with special powers to exist, spending the majority of their page-space sitting around in their apartment with Momo talking. I could forgive a lot of this if this was able to actually establish the characters in a memorable way, but the execution falls flat here as much of what they discuss seems to have minimal relevance to the overall plot while failing to really give any of them personality. I’m not quite sure what Jin was thinking having the Mekakushi-dan spend almost 20 pages discussing how they were going to replace a cellphone, and this stuck out as a particularly notable instance of bad pacing in a section of the book that was plagued by this issue.
My general impression is that the last two-thirds of the book could have been compressed into less than half of that space by cutting out the filler improving the pacing of the book greatly. It’s also a shame that Jin wasn’t able to really define the powers of the Mekakushi-dan more effectively given the amount of page space he managed to waste on useless conversation, especially given the fact that the powers were actually utilized pretty well in the climactic scene of the book. In the end I’d say that these chapters ended in a good place but this doesn’t excuse the egregious pacing issues that I had to get through to finally get to the payoff.
Kagerou Daze I was a frustrating book to read despite showing signs of being a genuinely enjoyable book during its first “track” because of the personality infused by Shintaro’s narration and faster pace. While Kagerou Daze’s chapter structure is meant to reflect the tracks of Jin’s Kagerou Project, the execution just did not work out as the second and third chapters were markedly worse than the first chapter. The transition in perspective from Shintaro to Momo was jarring due to the general blandness of Momo’s narration, and Momo’s plot line with the Mekakushi-dan really failed to carry the rest of the book, becoming quite boring at many points because of poor pacing decisions. As much as I thought that the first chapter and the final conclusion was entertaining, it’s hard to recommend purchasing this book considering how much of it moves at a glacial pace, especially if you aren’t already invested into the Kagerou Project.
Kagerou Daze I - In A Daze was published by Yen Press on May 19th, 2015. Authored by Jin (Shizen No Teki-P) and illustrated by Sidu, the series is currently ongoing and published by Enterbrain’s KCG Bunko imprint. Volume 2 scheduled to be published in English on September 22nd, 2015 and an anime adaption called Mekakucity Actors aired in 2014.
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