Review: Kagerou Daze Novel Vol.1

Kagerou project also known by the synonyms Mekakucity actor or Kagerou daze, was mainly known for the song-series starting with Jinzou Enemy in 2011 and stretching their latest album called Mekakucity Reload. Around 2015 the producer of the series Jin started a Novel series on the already popular songs who hit millions of views in a short time on Nico Nico.

The interesting thing about this series is that it is available on many mediums, such as a Manga series, song series, Novel series, also Movies and even an Anime. Is that really what makes it so interesting, appearing on many mediums?

No, the interesting thing is how Jin used the various mediums to create an even more and intricate story than it already was. Meaning that not only he tells the story of August 14 and 15 in different ways, but since it’s a series involving time loops and time traveling he depicts the various timelines in each of these mediums.

That’s why I will focus my reviews on the Novel series this time and compare it to the other timelines, giving you insight of the wonderfully written story of ten children who got stuck in a Daze!

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Description

Following up the first novel’s title is Kagerou Daze I – In a Daze-, telling us the story of Shintaro Kisaragi who is about to experience the worst day he could have after being a shut-in for two years.

This novel gives us the insight of his life prior to the events happening on that day, how he met Ene the cybergirl living in his computer since a year ago and the actual events that happen afterwards.

The actual novel description is, “Shintaro Kisaragi is about to have a terrible day. After two years of being an unemployed shut-in, Shintaro Kisaragi is forced out of his room and into the wide, uncaring world by a disastrous series of events involving his computer’s keyboard and a bottle of soda. What begins as a simple errand soon spirals out of control and his luck turns from bad to worse. It starts with a hostage situation and only gets weirder from there – and it turns out Shintaro Kisaragi is not the only person whose life is going to be changed forever this blistering summer afternoon.” 

Plot 

Even when the first thought when reading the description is “this is the story about Shintaro”, it’s not really true as we see in the storytelling and the different namings of the chapters.

Someone who may have more knowledge on the song series will immediately understand, for those who are not familiar with the series at all, I will explain the following.

Each song in the original song series belongs to a certain character and tells the story from her/his perspective, sometimes even a group of people as seen in Children Record. In Novel 01 there are six chapters and the additional Epilogue and Afterword.

The novel starts with Kagerou Daze 1 , named after the same song also known as Kagerou Days which features Hibiya and Hiyori who try to save each other in an endless time loop, where either one of them dies and continues to save the other.

In the Novel we see little snippets of those events in very much detail, as Jin visually writes how Hibiya perceives those events in first person perspective.

New readers wouldn’t know it’s Hibiya since there is no actual names dropped, people already familiar with the series immediately understand the scene where the young boy sees the girl he loves getting hit by a truck and seeing her dead body drenched in blood across the pedestrian crosswalk, a concert of cicadas singing their song while he mentions he saw the heat haze laughing at him.

A very small passage that just tells a little story that comes much later in the Anime and the manga, yet in the Novel there are three passages in total that refer to the song alone in novel 01.

The second chapter is Jinzou Enemy which translates into Artificial Enemy another song revolving around the cyber girl Ene, yet in the novel the chapter refers not to the same content as the song.

In the song the story takes place in one of the bad ending routes (Route XX), where Shintaro fails to meet the Mekakushi Dan, Ene also fails into persuading him to change his way in life resulting in Shintaro killing both himself and Ene which unlike in the novel shows the whole start of the story actually meeting the Mekakushi Dan.

Manga, Anime and Novel all depict the same main features of the story, describing Shintaro’s life as a Shut-in for two years, him meeting Ene a year ago and sticking along making his calm and peaceful life a everyday hell where he just can’t lay low. We see Ene’s annoying and intrusive personality from Shintaro’s perspective, she even threatens him, plays pranks and wants to delete his work progress on a song he was composing (little trivial fact: you can see in both anime and manga that he was working on something that looked like Jinzou enemy). Like any usual day Ene let’s it all out on Shintaro on a especially hot day, August 14th causing him, due to her almost deleting his song while pranking him, spill soda all over his keyboard making it useless in a second. As someone who cannot survive as a shut-in without a computer he tries to search online for a keyboard but due to the Obon holiday he is forced to get the keyboard himself in a mall and so he sets foot outside for the first time after two years. 

We see him bump into Kido for the first time in the mall not having much input about her despite that Shintaro mistakes her for a guy, and the new information that Shintaro is a total wreck in social interaction due to Ene’s recording. 

In the manga and anime the pace is much faster getting right to the hostage scene while the Novel takes time to explain Shintaro’s thought processes,characteristics and tours around the mall before he is involved in the hostage incident.

There he meets the second member of the Mekakushi Dan, Number 3 Kano who is making jokes and finding the show amusing while everyone else is fearing their lives. He interacts with Shintaro and seems rather interested in the way he perceives things and is sure of success when Kano asks him.

Shintaro, unlike his cowardly and awkward self that was shown up until now, tells Kano with confidence that if there is a chance he would succeed in with a 100 percent chance, and even dares to talk back to the leader of the terrorist group, leading him to almost get beaten up and killed. After miraculously the pathway Shintaro talked about appears he takes the chance to connect Ene with the computer system making her hack into the security and opening the before closed gates for the police resolving the case.

Shintaro who was grazed by a bullet passes out and wakes up one day later on August 15th at the hideout of the Mekakushi Dan where he meets Marie for the first time, ending the chapter with his sister also becoming a member of the so called gang (Mekakushi= Blindfold) and Ene as well, forcing him to join as well since Kano accidentally told him too much so he cannot leave that easily.

Additionally Ene and the other’s force him to fulfil his promise and take them to the amusement park.

As a little break from all the events Kagerou Daze II is inserted in between, continuing the story from Hiyori’s perspective as she described how many times they had already experienced that event already of dying and saving the other over and over again. Hiyori explains that she even memorized the words and talk they have every time they meet on the playground and when it’s half past noon she already makes herself ready to go.

The chapter ends with Hiyori mentioning that she hates the summer and their words at least drown out the cicadas’ noise, shortly before she looks up and is ready to be pierced by a steel pipe through her face.

In the song those events are shortly shown that Hiyori dies in various ways, the first time being a truck the other one being pierced by steel pipes and so on, here we can see Hiyori’s side written in a calm manner while the events are actually very traumatizing and sad.

After the short switch the next chapter that follows is Kisaragi Attention, which doesn’t refer to Shintaro but his sister Momo Kisaragi who is a normal student but also works as an idol. No, if you think she is a the younger sibling who surpasses her brother, she is not which is the whole point of the story as well as in the songs  

We get an insight of her life as she makes her way to school, it may sound like any other person going to school but for Momo it’s a tiresome obstacle that she has to overcome every day. It is shown that she has to take many detours and alleyways to  get to school without being stopped by people, and even then she suddenly finds herself in front of a crowd. She mentions that she feels a certain heat in her eyes which is later on explained an eye-ability that she possesses. Momo’s ability to be specific is called Drawing eyes, which makes everyone around her pay attention to her and have their eyes on her.

Arriving at school we first get to know Momo’s unique personality as the answers on her failed test show that she perceives the world in a much more manga-like sense, telling the teacher that she really tried her best despite the ridiculous answers she wrote down. On top of that her teacher Kenjirou Tateyama scolds her for taking her school life into consideration if she doesn’t want to repeat her first year in highschool, despite that he is shown to have a very laid-back personality and still deeply caring about his students.

Momo then starts to think of how she wants to have friends as well and lead a normal life, not being an idol and always having to hide because she gets the attention of all those people. After changing into undercover clothes to get to a certain store and buy a key-chain she longed for so long she suddenly finds a crowd surrounding her while letting her guard down, which leads her to run into an alleyway.

She decides to talk to her producer and never come back, ending her career via a phone call. Crying in the corner at some point Kido finds her telling her she was supposed to meet Momo here at 1 p.m. Momo on the other hand mistakes Kido for someone from the film crew of the Drama she was supposed to take part in and persuades her that she quit her career while Kido insists and leads her to the hideout of the Mekakushi Dan. A room in an abandoned apartment complex, specifically room 107.

There she meets Kano and Marie, where she later on realizes she got into a rather shady situation instead of her drama, resulting in Marie spilling her tea over Momo’s phone unable to contact anybody and make up for her rude behaviour towards her producer and Kano telling her about the Mekakushi Dan making her join just like he did later on with her brother.

The only difference here is that Momo willingly joins as she finds them really interesting and comfortable to be around despite the fact that Kano tricked Kido into leading her into their hideout against her will, showing a brutal exchange that is yet so ordinary between Kano and Kido.

As a proud member of her new gang, the considerate Kido proposes to buy her a new phone since it was Marie’s fault in the first place. Marie who never went on a real trip outside joins along being just like Shintaro a social wreck.

The last Kagerou Daze chapter in this novel starts then Kagerou Daze III which shows that Hibiya started to question the irrationality of the situation he was put in as he was supposed to be on a fun summer trip with Hiyori to the city. He felt like he forgot something important and usually he would ask Hiyori about it, but this time he didn’t and as well didn’t meet Hiyori as usual. The sky is different and the ever-repeating dream seems a bit different now as it started to rain which he describes as a first. An unknown person comes and talks to Hibiya as he asks if he wants to see Hiyori and go to a place where everybody is waiting. Ending the chapter with Hibiya following the person to a place where there and his eyes could see and that he should never forget about today.

An indicator that Hibiya might have escaped the ever-repeating dream or a much better fitting term- the time loop.

Right afterward the chapter Mekakushi Chord with the same song name( Sometimes also translated into Mekakushi Code) tells the continuation of the story, from Momo’s perspective.

The Mekakushi Dan explains Momo that she is one of them, as she as well possesses an eye-ability just like them and that’s why Kano seeked her out, explaining that he saw her eyes turning red just like theirs when they use their ability. He also explains and lurks Momo in to stick around for sure telling her they would teach her how to control it.

Kido’s ability is the opposite of Momo’s, the concealing eyes making her presence almost vanish until someone touches her, she can also make people’s presence around her vanish in a certain radius, meaning they simply are not really seeing them because they do not perceive them. When Kano angers Marie, Momo witnesses her eye-ability which is called Locking eyes, which makes people look like they froze on the spot for some minutes. A power close to Medusa who turns people into stone.

These events are only seen in the movie with what happens from Momo’s side of the full story behind the terrorist hideout while in the anime we only see small snippets of how she met the Mekakushi Dan, the manga is just as detailed as the novel.

 She makes her way to the mall along with Marie, Kano and Kido where we get to see more behind the three new introduced characters, as they chat and joke while entering the mall. There we see how Kido had bumped into Shintaro from the opposite side, he was able to see Kido because he made direct contact with her, deactivating her concealing eye and showing the others how embarrassing he was when she muttered what her brother would do here. It is also mentioned that she saw how he was talking to Ene indicating that Momo indeed was aware of Ene’s existence and knew her.

With their abilities and Kano being on the hostage side they play a big part in resolving the terrorist attack which the movie shows but anime leaves out only showing us Kano’s and Shintaro’s side of the story while Momo, Kido and Marie played a big role in the events as well. There we get to know what Kano’s ability is: deceiving eyes as he puts an illusion to deceive the leader and making a pathway for Shintaro who seemed so confident.

After Shintaro passes out Kano heaves him back to the hideout and Marie takes care of his wounds, He then becomes a member of the Mekakushi Dan and after chatting conclude to go out to the amusement park.

The Epilogue shows as they are on their way to the amusement park and see a young man and Hibiya getting in an ambulance they young boy was not conscious. Ene who is shocked indicates that she knows the man who went into the ambulance by the name Konoha and the book ends with children’s bell rang that was heard around that time, commenting that a long long August 15th was about to start.

@yuumei deviantart

Writing style

Jin’s unique writing style is one of the most refreshing and visual ones I have ever seen. Not only does he make it possible that his writing could make you feel or hear certain things, but despite that he uses many mediums he writes the novel in so much depth and detail that you can visualize every single scene and event happening.

A perfect example would be when both Shintaro and Momo opened the can of soda, he didn’t simply describe someone drinking soda, but put so much visual, auditory and sensory detail that I personally recall the carbonated drink and can practically smell it.

On top of that he brings in so much sarcasm and humor as we see when the story is told from Shintaro’s perspective at the beginning, making him who is supposed to be the center of the story the worst main lead yet at the same time the most relatable one as well.

We have Hibiya and Hiyori who are in such a tragic story seeing the other one dying over and over again, and the way they perceive it in I where Hibiya is still very traumatized and shocked to see what had happened to Hiyori. On the opposite in II they must have already experienced it a lot of time where Hiyori doesn’t even flinch when she is about to die nor does she panic when she sees that it’s half past noon, the time where she surely knows that the events will happen in one way or another. In III Hibiya is also seen as being more emotionless in comparison to I  where he was much more overwhelmed.

There is also Momo Kisaragi who is the epitome of a highschool student not knowing where she belongs and has a quirky personality on top of that. She may seem naive from outside but seeing the story through her eyes we can see that she thinks and observes a lot and doesn’t always speak her thoughts out loud.

Each and every character is written differently and even when the perspective shifts or it’s not specifically written who is talking it’s easy to detect which character is talking or telling the story.

This is important since later on there are even more characters and stories which are told in many different perspectives because this is the story of a repeating August 15th.

Comparison to Manga and Anime

While the manga is still close to the story at this point and with the current events, the anime already derives a bit at some points.

In the anime Seto joins the crew early in their hideout and the mall when the events happen, he also is among the hostages with Kano which is the case in the movie as well, but not in the Manga and Novel.

Seto is not part of the first Novel at all and joins the story in Novel 2, same goes for the Manga in volume 1 he is not part of the events up to the amusement park.

Another factor is that the anime only shows the Mekakushi Dan’s plan of resolving the terrorist case in a fast pace leaving out the deep and juicy details of the Novel.

In the Kagerou Daze III chapter we see Hibiya talking to an unknown person before following and ending the chapter too vaguely.

On the other hand in the anime we clearly see who this unknown person is leaving out the mysterium that the novel gives us and makes us overthink who it could be.

Since in the novel the speech of the person is much more confusing, especially at the beginning it’s not easy to determine who is the person which could have been the case in the anime as well if they had used only a silhouette or not even shown the person, yet they obviously wanted to reveal the person earlier than expected.

In that case the anime is much more fast-paced, cutting the details and mysteries short that are slowly established in the manga and even more detailed in the Novel.

The funny thing is that the supposed person that appears in both anime and novel is not seen in any of the songs, Kagerou Daze or Konoha’s state of the world which revolve around the story of Hibiya and Hiyori, meaning the person appearing in the anime only appears in the anime lastly.

Characters

I will now introduce and describe the characters that appear in the first novel, with limitations of information that we get in this first book. Meaning all information that we get later on will be added with the continuing reviews.

Shintaro Kisaragi:

The supposed main lead of the series who is an unemployed shut-in who only talks to the cyber girl inside his PC. He lives a life described as monotone as every day is the same for him with no change at all beside the time where Ene appeared. It seems some event happened that he does not try to recall leading him to this situation. He wears a red jersey jacket in the novel when he is about to head out, which seems to hold a certain value to him remembering that someone used to tell him it suits him well. He is a socially awkward and anxious person with no stamina nor willpower. His self-image is very low too just as his self-esteem as he insults and offends himself even in his monologues and mind. Yet despite this negative features that seem unlikely for a protagonist of this story, he clearly is an average boy, you could even call him ordinary and boring but in a crucial situation he still can stand-up for himself and values his family a lot to risk his own life as he thinks about his sister and mother while facing the terrorist. 

While Shintaro has low self-esteem, he is quick-witted, smart and can react in a pressuring situation, with confidence that is as seen when Kano asked him how sure he is about his plan and he responded 100 percent. 

In the end he is still a pushover that Ene and his sister can easily use to get what they want in one way or another and even the Mekakushi Dan picks up that trait quickly. 

He is someone who others like Kano and Kido pity as Momo mentioned that he was her brother.

Ene:

The mysterious pretty cyber-girl as she calls herself that name. Out of nowhere she appeared inside Shintaro’s computer one year ago and made his life a hell ever-since. Shintaro mentioned that she was still a bit shy at the beginning but quickly started to act up. She has a habit of annoying Shintaro in various ways as on some days she just randomly turns the alarm so loud it shrieks him out of his bed or deletes his files, in some cases even trying to upload Shintaro’s secret folder. She always finds new ways to tease him and when he gets angry at her she can pressure Shintaro with her cute girl act into forgiving her easily. Momo seems to know her as she mentioned that Shintaro must be talking to her and even in the last chapter they are talking casually to each other. Ene seems to be able to move between devices as she switches over from Shintaro’s PC to his phone and later on to the Mall’s security system. She can easily hack into anything. While she clearly seems to be a program she still insists on visiting the amusement park as it is unreasonable in Shintaro’s view that a program wants to go somewhere she can’t even enjoy herself. Yet the very existence of Ene is a big mystery.

Momo Kisaragi:

The younger sister of Shintaro who has the ability to focus the attention of people’s eyes on her. She works as an idol next to being a highschool student, but she doesn’t think she really deserves to get so much attention. Momo seemed to be aware that the attention that was given to her since childhood isn’t normal and that even the idol career she had gotten was probably not due to her own skills. 

Still she works as an idol to help her mother financially, yet she wished she could live a normal life with friends and as a student, even when she is not the smartest when it comes to the academic part of her life. With ease she joins the Mekakushi Dan hoping she could find the friends and fun life she had wanted there. While seeming ashamed of her brother she still deeply cares about him and wants him to be more part of the Dan as she worries about his current lifestyle and isolation, she mentioned that he was not always like that. It seems like Shintaro is very vocal about her weird taste in snacks and clothes, even on TV shows as they exchange insults from time to time about each other’s quirks. Ene enjoys talking to Momo but also teases and provokes her to make Shintaro mad or ashamed.

Her eyes ability that she is now trying to control is called drawing eyes

Kido Tsubomi:

Often mistaken as a guy, but being called a beautiful woman when people realize she is one, Kido Tsubomi.

The leader, what Kano calls her, of the Mekakushi Dan and Number one. She is the opposite of Momo and despite not having much presence due to her eye ability concealing eyes, the presence she does give off is either intimidating, cold or nonchalant. Yet when the others get to know Kido better she is much more of a big sister or even a motherly figure, cooking and caring about the other members and being gentle, besides with Kano who always gets a punch or kick for his snappy comments.

There is not much revealed about Kido despite the fact that she can make people not perceive her or the people she wants in a certain radius unless they touch her.

She always wears long clothes and a hoodie that covers her head and almost her face despite the summer heat.

Kano Shuuya:

The most laid-back and teasing member of the Mekakushi Dan, number three Kano Shuuya. Being described as a cat-eyed, sly person he indeed tricked Kido into inviting Momo to the Dan without her knowledge, intending from the beginning to invite her since he saw her in a magazine and observed her for a long time. He seems to be a close observing-type who fully knows how to get the things he wants. Momo says that she never saw him not smiling since the day she saw him and he keeps joking around in the most serious situations as he seems not serious at all even in the terrorist incident where he was a hostage. Kano likes interesting stuff which leads him to follow the flow and dig deeper as for example he heard about Shintaro. At the same time despite his observant nature he still either doesn’t take a hint or intently make the people around him angry or offended, making him freeze due to teasing Marie and being punched by Kido several times a day. It’s mentioned that despite that he calls Kido the leader he seems much more like the leader of the Mekakushi Dan. His eye-ability deceiving eyes match his personality as he likes to trick people and provoke them, which was the case for Momo and Shintaro getting tricked into the Mekakushi Dan. Still Kano’s whole nature and character is very blurry and unfathomable as Momo commented.

Marie Kozakura:

The fourth member of the Mekakushi Dan, Marie Kozakura. Marry, Mary or Marie in the Novel she is called Marie while the name depends on which medium she appears. But the almost too innocent looking small girl with white fluffy hair is a mysterious being that is described as cute and clumsy. She is very shy and reserved, almost too scared to interact with other people but gets along quickly with Momo. Her overly kind attitude makes her cry easily as well when she seems to have ruined the mood or has done something bad, repeating apologies one after another. Not stopping at that she even is immaculately clumsy to a point that she spills, breaks things or trips just at the wrong moment at the wrong place. Two examples would be the tea spill case causing Momo’s phone to die in a crucial moment of her career and the other at the terrorist attack where the handheld massager slips out of her hand while Kido uses her eye-ability on them. Like Shintaro she has low stamina due to the fact she doesn’t go outside at all, making her living with self-made artificial flowers for 5 yen each which gives her an income of 500 yen each month (about 5 USD). She is an easy target for teasing due to her crybaby nature and naivety, still when she does get angry like in Kano’s case she does freeze him with her eye-ability. There is still a lot to find out about Marie’s background and identity that even the Mekakushi Dan does not know about.

Hibiya Amamiya:

A young boy who seemingly is stuck in an ever-repeating dream, as he calls it. He describes it as a repeating summer day in which he sees his friend and crush Hiyori die over and over again. The last thing we read in the novel about him is that he grows numb to the countless deaths of his friend but still tries to find her, until one time he isn’t able to and follows a person he doesn’t know inviting him to join other people where his and their eyes can see. There is not much information besides that Hibiya is trying his very best and multiple times, unaware of the fact that Hiyori is fully aware of the situation as well. He mentions a mirage of the heat haze laughing at him when he found Hiyori’s body in Kagerou Daze I. There is a person he seems to have forgotten as he tries to recall the name.

Hiyori Asahina:

The girl stuck in the heat haze along with Hibiya, experiencing the deaths over and over again. Unlike Hibiya she seems aware of the fact that Hibiya is repeating this events as well and also knows when she is about to die and how, as she turned at the right moment to face the steel poles she was waiting for. The small conversations with Hibiya keep her a bit sane despite the fact she mentions that she had heard them a lot of times already, not growing tired of them. We don’t get to know much about Hiyori, only that she is much more aware and witty about the situation than Hibiya seems to be.

Conclusion

Kagerou Daze -in a Daze- is just the start of an intricate and fascinating world and story. A story so deep that even the beginning and it’s details seem puzzling yet exciting at the same time. We get to know a handful of characters already in the first book with more to follow. Jin writes this story with so much care and detail, giving each character their rightful time and perspective. The connections between the book, anime, manga and songs is an interesting concept that I had never seen before as he uses it to his advantage to depict his characters visually, auditory and as well makes room for the several routes and stories he wants to tell, all connected to one big project. 

His detailed writing style lets you immerse into the story having a clear picture of what is happening, who is talking and small but incredible details that make things a lot more realistic despite the sci-fi setting.

With Shintaro as the main character there is an interesting twist in monologues despite the fact that him being the main character is just a diversion to make you believe the story is about him as we see that Momo and Hibiya are given just as much attention and detail as our actual hero.

With that the story of a long, long August 15th begins and a lot more expectations for the next books following up.

I can only recommend you to read the light novel even if you have watched the anime or read the manga, because firstly they differ in their routes and story-telling and secondly it’s much more detailed telling the story in a thorough way. It’s also a good starter for people who want to get into the series.

With that let’s see each other in another Daze! I mean tea time.

-Makii

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