Following the melancholy and murderous thoughts of student Ichikawa Kyotaro, The Dangers in My Hart touts itself as a macabre Rom-Com. Ichikawa is somewhat obsessed with his tall, working model classmate Yamada Anna, to the point he fantasizes about murdering her. Not exactly a protagonist to root for then.
I was a it confused when reading the book, as Kyotaro doesn't come across as particularly likeable. His interactions are awkward, just aren't particularly amusing since there's no real energy between the two of them. Only in one chapter, where they pretend to be different cats in a library to give some fellow classmates space to get acquainted (long story) do you feel that they're doing something fun together. Without chemistry it's just an awkward, possibly dangerous young man acting nervously around a girl who's a lot more outgoing. I realise she's supposed to have her own quirks, but from the first volume I can't imagine in what galaxy she'd show any interest in this weird little gremlin.
The last book I reviewed, I Belong to the Strongest Girl in the World, had a similar couple dynamic. The girl seemingly having all the authority but actually full of self-doubt and social phobias, but drawn to her meek servants genuine humanity and kind actions. The problem with Dangers... is that Kyotaro has very little humanity and is actually quite off-putting. Maybe it's because I have a daughter, but the thought of some nasty little obsessive who gets off on thoughts of murdering her isn't going to last two seconds if I get hold of him. Thankfully he does take part in a few little acts of thoughtfulness that redeem him somewhat, but I really struggles to empathise with anyone in this book.
Yamada is a nice enough girl, obsessed with sweets and slightly eccentric in her own ways - she obsesses over eating but has the adult responsibilities of a modelling career to consider, so you can see how she'd be an odd duck in a school full of less exceptional peers. But it's only because the rest of the boys in her class are shown to be such mysogynist pigs that Kyotaro stands out at all, and his indignation at the stupid sexual games his fellow classmates play is rather blunted by the fact that he dreams of murdering schoolgirls - he's simply not in a position to judge.
Now I get that it's supposed to be a comedy, but there just wasn't much here that hasn't been done to death elsewhere. Boys being horny around girls while the lead looks on in discomfort is as old as the medium itself. I'm aware it's an award-nominated manga, but for me there's nothing in this first volume that stands out as exceptional. I've read up on later chapters, and it does look like the dynamic will become more interesting over time, but were I to judge on this first book alone, I don't think I'd be picking up book 2.
The artwork is fine, even if people have slightly odd-shaped heads, but there's lots of tone to lend depth to the panels, and everything flows as it should. Technically the book is absolutely fine, but again I wasn't blown away by it.
Ultimately I think this is a book that needs more room to breathe, but it's unfortunate that such a highly-prasied series didn't deliver a more compelling storyline to hook me in the way that other series have managed to recently. Perhaps I'm just not able to relate to the gloomy worldview of the book's main character, but whatever the disconnect, it makes the book a miss for me.