Megumi no Daigo

Megumi_no_Daigo


Hey there, mates. Let me ask you a question: Have you heard of the firefighter Asahina Daigo? Probably not. But you should have! Because he is the greatest hero I’ve ever met!

Megumi no Daigo starts out with a house on fire: Instead of saving himself, our title-giving Asahina Daigo at the mere age of six years has remained to rescue his dog Jill from the fire yet is unable to make it out. And just as Daigo is about to succumb to the flames engulfing him, a firefighter saves him, saying the fateful words that should change Daigo’s life forever: “You’ve got guts, little firefighter.”
We fast forward in time many years: Sengoku City is changing and so is the world of firefighting. Yet what the world of firefighting has yet to know is that Daigo will be one of those reasons for its change. Having passed his firefighter exam, the young man with major ambitions yet little experience dreams big as he joins the ill-rumored no-good Me-gumi fire station. However, he still has to learn that the way of firefighting is one of the steepest in the world and what he truly is marching through the flames for.

I started reading manga back in 2001 at the young age of 8. My first manga wasn’t so much a single volume rather than a magazine. I remember seeing it on television and wanting to check it out. So there I was at the train station’s bookstore with this huge block of pages and a cover in funky colors in front of me and there was a certain magic to it. The thing was called “BANZAI!” and as I would get to know later on, it was the German equivalent to Weekly Shounen Jump, serialized monthly at Carlsen Comics and this was its eleventh volume. Naruto, Shaman King, Hunter X Hunter, the big players were all there. Also smaller ones such as Neko Majin and a One Piece light novel. As it turns out, a new series had just started: Yu-Gi-Oh!. And that is how I entered the world of shounen manga and manga in general.

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It’s a long prelude but bear with me: I quickly got addicted to the stories I read and remember checking the releases of BANZAI! religiously. I just couldn’t miss out on these hot-blooded stories full of action and battles so unlike anything else I had ever laid my eyes upon. I wanted to know how Yoh’s, Naruto’s, Gon’s and Yugi’s adventures would continue. Because there was no way I wouldn’t want to know.

Megumi no Daigo is old. I don’t know what its reception was like as it was being serialized. I can only speculate. But if there’s one thing I am very positive of is that it brought children to buy their shounen magazines in feverish anticipation just like I did.

Every adult was once a child. A child waiting to be taken away on an adventure as the magical world of fiction was still at its freshest. And so I can say with luck and gratitude that at 26 years of age, having seen it all, bored with the clich├ęs and drowned out by cynicism I’d like to get rid of but can’t, Megumi no Daigo achieved something I had no longer deemed possible: It let me return to my days of childhood again.

Megumi no Daigo Danger Addiction

Daigo isn’t a manga particularly hard to understand: It’s Shounen 101 applied to firefighting. Except it’s extraordinarily good at what it does. And gets you all hyped up about firefighting too! It’s a bit like when you start to watch Hajime no Ippo and you’re suddenly enthralled about boxing and can feel the passion flow through your veins. Firefighting is cool. Or should I say that it’s hot?

If there’s one word I’d have to pick to describe Megumi no Daigo with, it’d be “passionate”. This has soul. This has heart. This has pathos. In fact, this has everything you could want from this kind of story. There are also some manly tears to be shed here and there. It’s KIAI TO KONJOU at its finest. Because you know what’s great? Going beyond your limits and saving lives. And this manga totally gets that point through.

So let me ask you a question: Do you like shounen manga? Or, wait, let me rephrase that: Do you like shounen manga for what they could possibly be? Fierce and passionate and with a heart of gold? Then you’ll like Megumi no Daigo. No, in fact, you’ll love Megumi no Daigo.

Megumi no Daigo KINO

The basic gist of Megumi no Daigo is simple: Daigo saves people from all kinds of dangers, becoming a stronger man in the process. But it’s not just the fight for life and death that’s part of the harsh world of firefighters Daigo has to face. There are so many challenging hurdles made to be overcome: Self-serving rules and systems that don’t save people but only themselves; the bone-shatteringly hard exam to join the team of the legendary rescue squad; the advancement of technology as urbanization changes the city he once knew and brings new types of emergencies along the way; and his own self, unsure how to lead a proper life. On one hand, Daigo is a shounen protagonist who personifies KIAI TO KONJOU but on the other, he is also a flawed man and troubled character throughout the whole story.

What even is firefighting and what kind of effect does it have on Daigo? There is a bit of a character study here wherein Daigo has to confront his own flaws and misunderstandings about how he approaches firefighting. As the story progresses, the ex-delinquent has to fight with balancing himself out on a thin line in regard to what he even saves people for.

So while this is a firefighting shounen story that’s about as straightforward as it can get, it doesn’t always stop there and sometimes goes beyond. It doesn’t pull the brakes when its protagonist has to learn a valuable lesson. Just like that, there are things Daigo can only realize in the midst of the flames and that’s the place where he can encounter his true self. It makes his dance with death a much more personal story than one might initially expect.

Megumi no Daigo Saving People

But it’s not just Daigo who’s a standout character! In fact, you’ll like a lot of them! There is Gomi, the quirky and old mentor character who relies on his experience but never forgets that passion, gut feelings and what makes you human are also valuable components and so teaches Daigo many things that you can’t just find in any firefighting book; there’s Daigo’s love interest and former teacher Ochiai-sensei who can’t help but get increasingly concerned as her former student faces maddening danger every day; his stern and determined rival Amakasu who has to face that the man he once stood on equal ground with keeps getting ahead and so he himself gets pulled along to reach newer heights; Ueki, one of the oldest and most no-nonsense members of the Megumi but with more heart and insight into others than one might realize; Kanda, the famous ace of the elite Rescue Squad, shining above all others, unable to grasp Daigo but knowing that he’s not normal; Okano, a journalist who sees no value in someone as reckless as our protagonist and ethically questions his methods while also conflicted over the great results he achieves and quite frankly, the list goes on.

It’s such a colorful bunch that you could put any of these people into another shounen manga and there’s a good chance they’d be the most human and coolest characters around.

Megumi no Daigo Characters

As the Megumi’s breathtaking endeavors kept piling on, I couldn’t help but start to like the comfy setting of Sengoku and the firefighters who do their best to keep it safe and sound. Even when buildings aren’t on fire and you get a calmer character moment or somewhat more slice of life-esque chapter, I came to realize I wanted to know more about these characters and how firefighting works. And isn’t that just such a nice thing when a piece of fiction connects with you on such an intricate level?

At some point, I really came to love Daigo’s weekly installments of passion. It’s a bit like shounen-ified Yomigaeru Sora (also good stuff, recommended). I can only be grateful that I ended up picking Daigo from the Mandarake offers when I went for some physical manga to read in Japanese. What even were the odds? How fitting that my first manga review here would go to Daigo!

Long story short, as a shounen manga, it just does so many things right. It even nails the rivalry as it understands that a good rivalry is a symbiotic one. Take Yugi and Kaiba. Or Hikaru and Akira. Or Daigo and Amakasu. It makes for an overall really cathartic story to see how far these people have come and what they are willing to put on the line.

Megumi no Daigo Amakasu

And I hope you’re not getting the impression that this is a manga that’s just supposed to be cool and action-ey. Granted, there is that too but it’s not all flash and no flesh. There are enough substance and emotions to be found and that’s why I treasure this manga so much.

Just take how Daigo is a problem child on the road to greater heights and as such, there are many lessons to be learnt but not just about the methods and techniques of firefighting but also its ethics and the attitude he faces it with every day. Like when Daigo gets into his rebellious phase of thinking that firefighting is all about sacrificing yourself and then has a heartfelt talk with his mentor and Gomi reveals all the letters addressed to Daigo that are from the people he had saved and he tells him to keep surviving so he can read these letters once more. Now that is the kind of pathos I want in my entertainment. Firefighting doesn’t just start and end at the danger zones themselves.

And as Daigo grows from a bratty teenager into a merely anti-authoritarian man who realizes the weight on his shoulders is not to be trifled with, I found myself engaged in his personal journey.

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Which isn’t to say that Megumi no Daigo is perfect. Oh no. There are some major problems with balancing here. The big issue with this manga is that Megumi no Daigo oftentimes feels like it’s too occupied singing the praises of the title-carrying Daigo. Now, granted, it is first and foremost meant to be his character journey as he is the protagonist but there are way too many moments when seasoned, almost legendary veterans and harsh, elite units or conditions become mere stepping stones within a few chapters to show just how outstanding Daigo is. This is not only really unrealistic but also underwhelming insofar as that it devalues content that got hyped up on paper but doesn’t follow through in execution and undersells a majority of the characters. Hikaru no Go also has its protagonist right there in the title yet it never neglected its side characters as they were all part of something bigger, a sort of collective, giving ground to its world. Here, however, the bigger thing is Daigo. Sometimes, he also is the collective. And the ground. Not to mention the world. From the get-go, Daigo saves so many people from absurd situations where his more experienced colleagues fail that you can’t help but wonder how they were even supposed to do without him. It’s one thing to tell a hot-blooded tale focused primarily on a single character and his contributions, it’s another to constantly give him blowjobs. Like how the Rescue Team becomes this huge, hyped up concept for several volumes yet never gets utilized as freshling Daigo outdoes them under the harshest conditions even. He is the wunderkind of the story. The CHOSEN ONE. When Daigo’s superior Ueki’s own character arc consists of three pages of telling him what firefighting was like back in the days just so Daigo can conveniently use his new-found knowledge from Ueki’s story on his next mission to excel once more, you know that something is really warped.

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The first half of the story also very much relies on the formula of Daigo being this misunderstood kind of genius where he does something people just can’t help but shake their heads at but ends up saving the day as a result. Which feels very disingenious and redundant. Thank goodness this improves a lot when it becomes very obvious that Daigo is in a special class of his own and he really is a cut above them all.

And at the end of the day, who am I to complain when the overall result is this good regardless? This is a story that cares.

To prove a point, occasionally, you also get to see some other tidbits from the world of firefighting: Saving people’s lives from disasters is all cool and dandy but let’s not forget that the people driving an ambulance also do that; just because you’re a firefighter doesn’t mean ordinary people also can’t accomplish things; battles don’t just take place on the frontline but also behind the scenes – it’s bureaucracy enabling firefighters to do their best and that provides them with new equipment; also, women are a modern rarity in the workforce and face discrimination. I wouldn’t call Megumi no Daigo a 100% realistic, accurate portrayal of firefighting (not that I would know) as it’s more a hot-blooded one-man story than a well-rounded documentary but it does undergo some effort to show you more than men running through fields of flames to save the day.

Megumi no Daigo Daigo and Oochiai

And luckily, it’s a profession expressed in rich flavor not only through its writing but also art! The art is so vibrant, raw and powerful, it perfectly captures the passion that the content delivers in spades. This really does have some spectacular panels and pages that will stick with you.

Likewise, there are many great stand-out moments that will always be highly memorable to me and that’s just how it should be. You know a work of fiction did something right when you crave to return to certain spots in the story because you know they’re the real deal.

And no matter where the journey took Daigo, there was something worth experiencing. On foreign soil and crumbling highways, atop buildings, at construction sites and through inner turmoil I followed Daigo and did it gladly. If this isn’t one of the best shounen stories out there, I just don’t know what is. It’s a story that is timeless and deserves to be remembered as a classic. Or to be remembered to begin with.

Not to mention that while many series struggle with finding a proper conclusion, this does not. Megumi no Daigo’s finale is genuinely moving and comes a full circle. It embraces the themes of the story with all its earnestness and ends on a high note. Ultimately, these are 20 volumes very well spent. It’s a highly cathartic, human adventure and the kind of stuff I long for.

Megumi no Daigo Gomi Firefighters

But you’ve clearly read enough by now so I’ll come to an end at this point. All I can say is that I wish there were more shounen manga like this. This is how it’s done.

Just like Daigo followed his dreams deeply rooted in his childhood, I found myself enjoying his tale much like I was reading my shounen manga when I was still a kid.

Ultimately, this story has reignited something I believed to be long lost. In Megumi no Daigo, the world of wonders of shounen manga still resides and flourishes in all its brilliance.

Final Verdict: Very Good.

2 thoughts on “Megumi no Daigo

  1. Pingback: Anime Blogs Are Dead But This One Is Celebrating Its First Anniversary Regardless | Beyond The Mountain Lies A World Of Frills

  2. Pingback: Writers Should Write About Whatever They Want Without Having To Fear “Appropriation” | Beyond The Mountain Lies A World Of Frills

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