The official introduction of Daytime Shooting Star as seen on the index page sounds fairly unexciting — not to mention the plot point of Suzume making friends and getting used to her new school life barely takes up the first volume. The large part of the series revolves around romantic relationships and, to a much lesser extent, friendships in school and free time situations. What, then, could make Daytime Shooting Star worth reading — especially in the vast sea of high school shoujo series?

Pros Female protagonists in the same genre have a tendency to be overly energetic and somewhat clumsy or silly (in a positive way) — for good reasons considering the fact that shoujo manga are primarily aimed at young girls and those in their teens. Suzume Yosano portrays a slightly different kind of protagonist to relate to as she isn’t loud: She doesn’t stand out at her school, she isn’t constantly praised or looked upon overly lovingly and coddled by the majority of the cast by virtue of being the protagonist, and she doesn’t have the go-getter approach that’s common among very optimistic protagonists. That is not to say that she’s an indifferent person : Her inner monologues and the way she expresses her feelings just happen in a far calmer and more reserved manner than is usually the case with protagonists of the same genre. These tranquil monologues, in fact, shape the series for me as they are responsible for a big part of its mood precisely due to Suzume’s doubts, worries and quiet hopes rather than lively excitement, which makes it easy to feel alongside her.

A central element of the series is the development of the romantic relationship between Suzume and a teacher. While I wouldn’t claim that the boiling point is delivered well or that the problematic aspects of a student/teacher relationship are addressed in detail (which I, from past experience, also wouldn’t expect in a light-hearted shoujo manga), Daytime Shooting Star also doesn’t just gloss over and romanticize it. The characters involved are repeatedly reminded of the teacher status (without the person in question being defined by their function) and are, however briefly, shown the dangers of going with the flow without considering (societal) consequences, which forces them to rethink their course of action.

Thematically, I appreciate the quiet way several characters realize that first love is not necessarily all there is, but that it, too, adds to your growth as a person. The manga deals with aftermaths properly while also giving characters the time they need to process their feelings so as to move forward, a step sometimes connected to the realization that what you’re experiencing is merely an echo of what once was, something you’ve been holding onto for far too long out of misplaced stubbornness. Letting go is consistently written not as losing yourself, but a step towards finding yourself.

The series emphasizes the importance of proper communication and being honest with your own feelings, first by presenting characters who voice their feelings too late, who say things they don’t mean or who attempt to communicate but do not succeed, then by having those same characters consciously try to overcome their anxieties, to take steps despite there being uncertainty and force themselves to speak their mind so as not to repeat their mistake of letting opportunities slip by. Communication is all the more effectively portrayed because the series doesn’t shy away from showing love as an awkward age-appropriate thing, which, to me, feels far more genuine than the mystery, manipulation, power play and high sexual tension in some shoujo series with characters around the same age.

Cons Though I appreciate the messages the series sends, it equates the “solving” of its love triangle with the ending of the series and thus suffers from two major things: a disappointingly rushed conclusion (disregarding which pairing you’re rooting for, if at all) and the narrow narrative scope. The manga itself does, unfortunately, visibly dedicate itself to that love triangle first and foremost in later parts, but the second point is far more important to me: From a narrative angle, it’s a letdown that several side characters (by which I mean Suzume’s classmates) are introduced only to be used as props with no lasting impression, all the more so if they’re featured on several colour illustrations and have names or even side stories of their own. (Side stories are a great way to have a closer look at minor characters, but they cannot fix what barely exists in the first place. … Especially if they are used to romantically pair the spares.) Yuyuka, the most important side character plot-wise, may fare better than the rest, but her story also seems to end abruptly and on the same note as Suzume’s: with the realization of romantic love and no follow-up (the maintaining of such a relationship).

More importantly, I think that shoujo manga set in high school ought to — and they usually do! (else I wouldn’t bring this up) — aim higher than that especially due to their target audience: Life and school life do not end with finding a romantic partner, and a story should not end in a way that paints them as the sole and ultimate happiness. By ending the series the way Yamamori did, the focus is on the love triangle drama rather than the coming of age aspect that’s integral to the shoujo manga experience, which encompasses a girl’s entire school life, her teenager days, friends, the celebration of youth and potential as well as the uncertainty of the future.

Verdict All that said, the art is very pretty, with the characters’ wardrobes and hairstyles deserving special mention. Many characters, especially the protagonist, change their hairstyle regularly, which is not limited to dates or parties. This change is most effectively used in situations such as gathering courage for a particular moment or to illustrate the difference between school and leisure time.

Feelings of first love, heartbreak and moving on are written in a way that can be related with (also see the meaning of the Daytime Shooting Star imagery), and while the series contains a fair deal of shoujo manga clichés, it manages to keep things entertaining with its three main characters (and Yuyuka!) and sidesteps some of the more irritating shoujo staples (e.g. presenting classmates as a mob that bullies or hypes up certain characters to create whatever backdrop is needed, mysterious male love interest with dark and tortured past who steals the spotlight and exercises power over the protagonist, pitting girls against each other and overdramatizing the resulting intrigues and fights, rushing relationships by putting too much emphasis on sexual tension, making harmful implications regarding looks and beauty).

It is important to note that Daytime Shooting Star is, in a sense, Yamamori’s first series: Her previous works are all oneshots (stories consisting only of one chapter in this case). Sugars, which I’ve briefly introduced, is considered her first series, but the stories in Sugars are actually presented as oneshots as well, albeit loosely connected. Given that information, I feel like some lenience is in order when judging Daytime Shooting Star. For the time being, I consider Yamamori’s strengths character design, inner monologues and most definitely oneshots (several of which are included in the Daytime Shooting Star volumes) — I adore pretty much all of them. Actually, let me rephrase what I said about Sugars: PLEASE READ IT IF YOU LIKE SHOUJO AND/OR COMING OF AGE STORIES, IT’S THAT GOOD. And Tsuyukaoru too.

For shoujo manga enthusiasts and those fond of romance, Daytime Shooting Star may be worth a look, though if you’re looking to find something deeper, something that fully dedicates itself to a character’s growth or something that follows the entirety of high school life until graduation, you won’t find it here. For everyone else, there are better things — and better high school shoujo series — to spend your time with. Nevertheless, Yuyuka’s side story in volume seven, chapter forty-two, which is narrated from her perspective, is a heart-warming look into her world and gets my full recommendation.