Takane Enomoto has a secret: not only is she and one other classmate in a special class run by the world’s laziest teacher, but she also has a double life as a world-famous gamer. Will Takane and her awkward crew be able to put on an awesome display for the school festival without exposing herself to the school? The story based off Jin’s Kagerou Project and later inspired the hit anime Mekakucity Actors marches onward.
Takane Enomoto’s life is a little bit strange - due to a recurring sickness she’s stuck in a classroom with the plain and sickly Haruka Kokonose as her only classmate with lazy Tateyama as her teacher. Little do they know that Takane is the second ranked player in the world at the shooter Dead Bullet -1989-, and she’d like to keep it this way if she can help it. When Tateyama announces to the “class” that they have to come up with a display for their school festival, Takane suggests that they create a game to leverage her legendary skills in a contest. Little does she know that this will bring about an end to her normal school life...
Meanwhile, the Mekakushi-dan are taking a well-deserved day off after escaping the hostage situation as Shintaro and crew take Ene to the amusement park. With a group as odd as they are, plenty of shenanigans ensure that the day will be memorable.
Kagerou Daze II takes a somewhat unconventional route in immediately switching the focus up by temporarily putting aside the Mekakushi-dan’s story and focusing on Takane Enomoto for the first two-thirds of the book. This decision paid off in spades as Takane’s story proved to be much more entertaining than the Mekakushi-dan’s thanks to some good pacing and an interesting story. While Takane and crew’s quest to put on a festival display wasn’t a deep story by any means, less clearly meant more in this case as the plot never got bogged down in pointless dialogue in the way the first volume did. There was always a clear sense of focus kept on Takane’s development as a character, and the story was wrapped up and integrated well into the series’ main plot line well if not a little prematurely.
Takane made for a very interesting protagonist and her narration gave a lot of life to her part of the book. Although she’s perpetually grumpy and somewhat cynical, it slowly became apparent over the course of her character arc that a lot of this was indicative of her inner insecurity. This made it very interesting to see her reactions throughout and also gave a real sense of progress as she grew throughout the novel. It was great to see her grow to accept both herself and her relationships with Haruka and her teacher (even if she wouldn’t admit it to herself) and I really enjoyed this because of her surprisingly well-portrayed struggle to come to terms with her lacking self-image as a consequence of her gaming habit. This helped give the plot more meaning than it otherwise would have had and thanks to this depth she felt a lot more three-dimensional than protagonists of many other comparable works really capturing my interest as a result.
To my sadness after an excellent first two-thirds, the final stretch of the book follows Shintaro, Momo and the Mekakushi-dan as they take Ene to the amusement park after the events of the first volume. It’s disappointing that absolutely nothing of consequence happens during this stretch - there’s no story, no character development and no humour that actually works. This was unfortunate as I would have much preferred that author Jin continued Takane’s story in some way or actually attempted to progress the main plot instead of wasting time on a meaningless diversion.
The main problem is that this is one of those scenes meant to give established characters a chance to have their personalities bounce off each other in a fun setting. This often used to great effect in other series and would have been just fine had these characters actually been developed up to this point in the series. While it’s one thing to see characters make in-jokes after they’ve spent some time together, expecting this humour to deliver before this familiarity has been established was clearly a mistake on Jin’s part. It also fails to progress to any of the characters beyond a one-dimensional state, using their main tropes as the poor attempt at humour here. Kido is a tough girl scared of haunted houses, Momo is ditzy and Shintaro is bitter and awkward, and these traits are all the subject of various attempts of humour that have been done before with better characters and execution in various other works. It’s almost as if an editor made Jin a checklist of various anime character tropes that needed to be fulfilled and decided to get them out of the way in one bland tangent. Hopefully now that this is out of the way Jin will return to the main plot, but this really left a poor taste in my mouth especially compared Takane’s fantastic first 100 pages.
Kagerou Daze II is about 60 pages too long, with the last third of the book failing to add anything of substance to the series. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that this book is still worth reading as I really thought Takane’s story came through well thanks to her great character arc and the focused story on display. While you certainly wouldn’t lose anything by skipping the final chapter, Kagerou Daze II is an undeniably strong entry into the series that solidly captured my interest for a time, and hopefully future installments will follow what worked well here in having more “headphone” and less “actor”.
Kagerou Daze II - A Headphone Actor was published by Yen Press on September 22nd, 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 1 was released on May 19th, 2015 and Volume 3 is scheduled to be published in English on January 19th, 2015. An anime adaption called Mekakucity Actors aired in 2014.
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