Confidential Confessions: Deai Vol. 1

Confidential Confessions -Deai-, Volume 1 - Reiko Momochi

While the first series focused on stand alone short stories about taboo topics, Reiko Monoshi's CONFIDENTIAL CONFESSIONS: DEAI is a proper series filled to the gills with teenage drama and crises.

The story follows young Rika, a Japanese school girl who has been having communication problems with her boyfriend--literally! After resolving to earn enough money to buy him a cellphone, Rika decides to venture into the seedy Japanese paid dating scene along with some friends. Things start to go from bad to worse as they begin undertaking increasingly more and more criminal activities to satisfy their greed.

DEAI is distinctly Japanese. The book primarily deals with deaikei and enjo kōsai, the practice older men paying much younger female companions for dates and sexual favors. It's distinct from similar Western escort services mainly because it's not uncommon for young schoolgirls to involve themselves in the hook-up scene, especially when their parents aren't monitoring their phone and computer usage. Japan fell in love with cellphones long before the West followed suit, and predatory dating Japanese websites designed specifically for cellphones flourished in the early 2000s. While it's not necessary to understand all the particulars to read the book, it greatly impacts its relatability due to how technology has changed in the past decade on both sides of the globe-- it's both dated and irrelevant to its target audience.

Even so, the story flows well and shows that Reiko Momochi can tie together the many dark and serious issues that define both of the CONFIDENTIAL CONFESSIONS series-- sexual assault, gang violence, peer pressure, etc.-- without making it feel too melodramatic or unbelievable. The art, as usual, perfectly captures the dark tone without being exploitative or perverted.

The strongest aspect of volume one, however, is how it humanizes Rika's clientele. While there are some stereotypical one-note perverts and would-be rapists, most of the men who partake in her services are just plain lonely. The story touches on how Japanese society almost automatically assumes middle aged/unattractive men are sexually repressed perverts, and the country's customs and conformity to gender roles can wear people down to the point where paying a child to go on a date with them is the only way to find emotional comfort and support. When the tables are turned and Rika's friends start preying on the predators, it's shown to be just as bad as originally dating scheme. The book doesn't defend enjo kōsai (or outright prostitution, for that matter) as "victimless," but it does show how both sides are filled with very, very vulnerable participants.

It's a pity that both series have gone out of print with the collapse of TOKYOPOP, as they are powerful works proving that manga can tackle serious topics in a mature fashion. It must be noted, of course, that the depictions of assault and the predation of minors are explicit and may be triggering to some readers. DEAI is a solid read for fans of the original series, although newcomers may want to start off with the short stories first.