An Iris is a special power in someone's eyes that, basically, allows a person to see an Augmented Reality. These abilities range from telling what someone had for dinner to identifying someone's past lives. 27 years ago around 1% of children were born with this power; 5 years later, that began to skyrocket, so that now the 1% are the children born without it.Toru Mizushima is part of that 1%; he, like the adults, doesn't have an Iris. In other words, he's an "Iris Zero", and in the past he was a target for discrimination and was frequently bullied because of his lack of an Iris. Now he's getting by according to a principle of "minimal exposure"—to live without standing out.Things get complicated when the popular Koyuki Sasamori suddenly appears one day in Toru's classroom and immediately asks him to go out with her... to help with something. You see, Koyuki's Iris is "to see those who are qualified" and thus she is frequently tasked to pick officials and staff members. Her task this time is to find the next student council president, and she's been looking for days but she still can't find the person suitable for the role. Koyuki then decided to simply look for the person who can help her, and apparently Toru's qualified for the job.Although reluctant to help considering the amount of attention he'd get, Toru plays along to help her regardless, and gets Koyuki herself elected to be the student council president. Unfortunately, much to Toru's exasperation, Koyuki has already become a part of his life, with all the attention that comes with it.This semi-shounen (believe it or not, this is a Seinen series) fantasy manga written by Piro Shiki and Hotaru Takana tells of Toru's time in high school as he struggles to maintain his low profile while assisting the ever-annoying (well, to him anyway) Koyuki who stands out too much. Rounding out the cast are Hijiri Shinozuka, Toru's only friend who sees past Toru for being an Iris Zero; Asahi Yuki, Koyuki's friend; Nanase Kuga, who's even more withdrawn than Toru; and Harumi Tokita, Kuga's childhood friend.The series went on a lengthy haitus starting in July 2012, due to one of the creators falling ill. It resumed serialization in October 2013, picking up right where it had left off.
Tropes regarding Iris Zero include:
Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Inverted; the student council members seem to get exploited heavily by teachers and students to run errands and do busywork. Poor Sasamori, the council president, can't say no, either.
In two ways: first, in that less than 1% of eligible adults possess an Iris (with those older than 27 dropping down to 0% chance), and second in that as of chapter twenty there's only been one significant adult character.
During the "Iris Hunter" arc, only the one teacher even cares enough to intervene in any way in something that's obviously afflicting the entire student body, because they don't consider something related to Irises to be their problem.
Tokita seems to be Unlucky Childhood Friend for Kuga, who likes Houjou, who has unrequited feelings for Sasamori. Sasamori likes Toru, but even if he deeply cares for her, he remains Oblivious to Love. Fortunately, this seems to improve a little over time.
And in Hijiri's flashback, Katagiri liked Hijiri who liked Tachibana. Nobody got out of that with the person they wanted, either.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Toru, developed originally as a mode of social self-defense. Until outed as a Zero, he was even able to trick others into believing he had an Iris that could see how others' Irises worked.
The Beard: Hijiri pretends to be Kuga's boyfirend because Kuga doesn't have enough courage to inform her mother that she and Houjou have broken up. Her mother finds out anyway.
Becoming the Mask: An unhappy version with Houjou, whose Iris lets him see the "labels" put on people, including himself. Once genuinely nice, if aloof, now unable to see the reason why he should try acting above other people's poor opinions of him.
Betty and Veronica: Teased immediately in the chapter where Toru and Koyuki first meet Rei. The chapter-opening Splash Page features a perky Rei and worried Koyuki regarding Toru, with "Which is the right one for you?" blazoned over his head, with allusions to Koyuki's Iris. On first glance they fit: Rei is a pretty, dark-haired, richly-dressed girl from another school who's a newcomer to the cast and immediately throws things off between Toru and Koyuki, whereas Koyuki is the light-haired, cute, (by now) familiar, and more conservatively-dressed girl. So far, though, in personality they're very alike and have similar Irises—if an actual Love Triangle sprouts, Rei's appeal is more that she's a safer version of Koyuki, given Toru's disconnect from Rei's social circles.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: The side comics in the Bonus Material. Also, when speculating on how Koyuki would react to a particular situation, Kuga points up to the thought bubble depicting it.
Breather Episode: Chapter 21, also the Sick Episode. After the drama and tension of the Iris Hunter arc, followed by about a volume's worth of chapters focusing on the group adjusting to include Tokita and deal with the fallout of the previous arc.
Buffy Speak: With all those "things" in the chapter titles... Though most are subversions, some are played straight.
Hijiri has the occasional butterfly motif crop up because his Iris shows butterflies collect around living things as they get closer to death, but the motif also symbolizes his own past full of suicidal tendencies, and his emotional "rebirth" in overcoming those tendencies thanks to Tachibana and then Toru.
Kuga sees colored butterfly wings on people that indicate their emotions, which relates into her own emotional crash, near-suicide, and restoration over the Iris Hunter arc.
Bystander Syndrome: Most teachers' reaction to anything involving Irises. The one notable exception has her own Iris, being born shortly after the very beginning of their occurrence.
Call Back: A cute girl whose Iris is based on analyzing suitability grabs ahold of Toru and asks him to "please go out with me," much to the surprise of Toru and anyone else around. No, not (just) Sasamori—now strange new girl Rei Hoshimiya whose Iris can analyze probability, who sees a "100%" next to Toru and so says and does the same thing to him right in front of Sasamori.
There's another callback to the same scene, when Kuga asks Hijiri to be her boyfriend. Hijiri flashes back to Sasamori's Chapter 1 "confession", complete with Imagine Spot ("Refer to C!").
Sasamori's crush on Toru, sadly because she literally cannot imagine Toru accepting a confession from her... which actually saves her from the Iris Hunter.
Also Tokita to Kuga, which Asahi calls him on when he laments that his feelings "never reached" Kuga.
Numerous guys toward Sasamori, including Houjou and eventually Toru.
Chekhov's Gun: Hijiri's knife that he once used to cut himself. He tried to prevent Kuga from committing suicide by throwing his knife at her leg when she ran in order to jump off the roof. It also is Kuga's alternative way to commit suicide, but luckily Tokita came at the last moment to save her.
The Chessmaster: Toru is a budding Chessmaster, by necessity to maintain his minimal exposure while helping people. It's best displayed in the Iris Hunter arc.
Children Are Special: Children usually have Irises, whereas it's very rare for an adult to have one (yet).
Chronic Hero Syndrome: Toru. To his extreme annoyance. Asahi and Sasamori take it as a given that he'll help anyone in need.
Cliff Hanger: The hiatus left readers on a pretty sharp emotional one: Toru has been called out on the unfairness of his passive evasion of Sasamori's feelings, of which he is quite aware, the social circle is becoming very stressed without an external problem to draw them together, and Toru has just blown up at Sasamori because she wouldn't stop pestering him to help Rei when he had been trying to wiggle out of it because he thought going with Rei might hurt Sasamori's feelings. Ouch.
Color-Coded Characters: The phone straps obtained at the end of the Sasamori-gift mini arc are shown to be a lead in to this when Hoshimiya's tease page is released, with each character's background being colored the same as their phone strap. In addition, the re-introduction page that showcases the characters after the manga came off of hiatus also color-codes them in the same mode. It should be noted that their designated colors appear to be either their eye color, for most of the cast, or their hair color for Tokita.
Crapsaccharine World: It's a manga drawn in a cuteart style about a loner boy who teams up with his popular, friendly classmate and begins coming out of his shell, set in a world where most young people have magical powers that let them "see" various things. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Only the loner is the way he is due to years of being viciously bullied for not having a power, and he gets teased even worse after making friends with the aforementioned classmate; meanwhile, many of the people who do have powers are troubled by them, to the point where one person tries to erase everybody's abilities and a couple of people try to kill themselves. That being said, Iris Zero does emphasize The Power of Friendship and contains some truly heartwarming moments, but it's nowhere near as lighthearted as it appears.
The Cynic/Knight in Sour Armor: Toru is a bitter pessimist who wants as little as possible to do with the rest of the world and his peers... except it's incredibly easy to get him to help solve problems and make things better for other people, even someone responsible for his life as an outcast.
Dark and Troubled Past: Kuga's father used to abuse her and possibly even cheated on her mother, but Kuga couldn't tell her mother because she didn't want to hurt her feelings. It still came out anyway, and led to her parents' divorce.
There is also Hijiri's childhood friend, who has the power to tell when danger is coming and where. She uses it to attempt a murder.
Deconstruction: This series subtly deconstructs a lot of tropes related to pretty much any series focused around a group of fast friends in school who go around solving problems and dealing with UST. It becomes most obvious after the Iris Hunter arc, but there are lots of more or less subtle signs of it leading in. Most seem like they're played straight at first and then are later shown to have unintended consequences. Some notable tropes that get partially to wholly dissected are The Pollyanna, Easily Forgiven (oddly, more from the offending party's side and their lingering guilt), Plug 'n' Play Friends, and True Companions.
Distaff Counterpart: After a fashion, Hijiri and Kuga. Their butterfly-themed Irises led to their own lengthy emotionless periods and eventual suicide attempts related to disastrous events with the person they loved. And both were drawn back from the brink directly or indirectly by Toru.
Driven to Suicide: When Hijiri thought he failed to save Tachibana, whom he likes. Fortunately, Toru helped him.
Kuga, after she learned the trouble she caused to her childhood friend Tokita and realized that she broke her promise to him.
Early-Bird Cameo: Tokita. He (and his power) appears in the title page of Chapter 1, and he is the guy who starts the meeting to appoint the Student Council President in the same chapter, but he does not feature heavily until later on. Later omakes show that he was supposed to be in the manga from the start as one of the main characters, whereas no mention of Kuga is made.
Kuga and Harumi are let off rather easily for their actions in the Iris Hunter arc.
Also Katagiri. Though she didn't succeed in going through with the act, she still tried to kill someonejust to have her crush all to herself. As a result Hijiri had to stay away from the girl he liked. As opposed to calling the police or something. Unfortunately Justified (inasmuch as the response can be called "forgiveness") because there's no evidence but a bunch of "visions" and supposition that amount to hearsay, so nothing can be done except keeping well away.
Emotionless Girl: Kuga looks half-asleep most of the time, and her emotional displays are very low-key—rarely more than a small smile, especially when compared to Asahi and Sasamori. This is because she's just recently started expressing them, having always valued other people's emotions over her own.
Everyone Can See It: Played with and then played straight. Because of her initial approach, everyone around assumes something is up with Toru and Sasamori, which gives Toru no end of additional hell piled on top of his normal daily hell. When it comes true, everyone around Toru and Sasamori realize or learn it fairly quickly, though Toru steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the possibility himself.
Fanservice: The lack of fanservice is lampshaded in a side comic published in the first collected volume, where Toru frets that they'll be renamed "Sex Appeal Zero" because the bath scene in chapter 4 is a single panel with someone's arm sticking in from off-panel. The most skin readers see in a remotely sexy way is a brief glimpse of Asahi's modest (by fanservice standards) cleavage when her robe is a bit loose during an overnight field trip.
Fan Disservice: Kuga starts to get intimate with her boyfriend on-page, but given he's just using her for her resemblance to Sasamori, followed by her response when she sees his emotions are blank toward her, well, her state of not-quite-undress starts uneasy and becomes downright creepy.
Kuga: There's no way he could figure it out so easily... He himself said this isn't a mystery novel. And Mizushima-kun's an Iris Zero, too.
Felony Misdemeanor: Yuki accusing the other class of stealing Koyuki's dress. Toru and Hijiri even lampshade how they're making a rather big deal out of it.
Fiery Redhead: Asahi, who is energetic and temperamental, with a forceful personality. It gets her into trouble when she slaps the one teacher she trusted never to lie, yet who lied about what she thought of Asahi's desire to become a police officer.
Good Parents: Kuga's mother. She deeply cares about her daughter's happiness.
Good Powers, Bad People: Kuga's Iris is able to see other people's emotions through a colored butterfly. She doesn't use this in a very good way...
Generation Xerox: Kuga and her mother. Their respective partners have betrayed them in some way. Kuga's mother fears it may also happen in the future.
Given that his backstory involves him hiding his powerlessness from everyone for years, of course Toru ended up one of these.
Given the low-action nature of the series, pretty much everyone shows signs of being a Guile Hero (or Magnificent Bastard, if they're holding the Villain Ball) at one time or another, to allow them to participate in the drama. What Toru's got over everyone else is lots and lots of practice at it, and he never stops.
Sasamori is pretty much the only one guaranteed to not get a turn playing the Guile Hero. Not because she's stupid (she's not) but because she's extremely bull-headed when it comes to a problem, which Hijiri counts as a titanic strength easily on par with Toru's talents. When the others can't plot or misdirect around a problem, Sasamori can (and will) bear down on it in full force with raw idealism and emotional appeals.
Hairstyle Inertia: From what we have seen so far, almost all the characters had the same hairstyles as children as they do now. Played with in Kuga's case. She initially had long hair, but soon after we see her with short hair in Tokita's flashbacks, she cuts it short again in almost exactly the same style.
Headphones Equal Isolation: Explicitly invoked by Toru, who regularly hides behind an MP3 player and a book to help maintain his minimal exposure.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Sasamori describes Toru and Hijiri as a "happy couple," with each being the first one the other goes to for anything, including company for lunch despite being in different classes.
Humans Are Bastards: With the rare exception, Toru's peers have universally shunned him, regularly beat him, and generally made his life hell ever since he was outed as an Iris Zero. One shudders to think what the world will be like for the other Zeroes once the Iris-dominated generation comes of age. Meanwhile, the older generation just grumbles about the younger as if it was some new game going around and shrug off responsibility.
I Just Want to Be Normal: Sasamori admits to Toru that she's a little jealous of his "ability" to see the world as it is, without some kind of filter over it. Toru, meanwhile, is quite bitter about being "normal" by the previous generation's standards and not his own.
Imagine Spot: Hijiri does this quite often (complete with labels). Sometimes Kuga, too.
When Sasamori's costume gets stolen during the cultural festival, Hijiri suggests that her costume could have been worn underneath another costume. Kuga, overhearing the conversation, rejects the idea because a hakama is too bulky for that to work. Thing is, nobody had mentioned what costume Sasamori's was, allowing Toru to deduce that Kuga was the one who stole the costume.
Toru himself later fell victim to this. When trying to get Hoshimiya to leave him alone he tells her that he isn't interested in helping her find a lost thing. She points out that she never said she was looking for something. Poor guy fell victim to his own Sherlock Scan.
Irony: Kuga shouting that Irises are useless while Hijiri's black butterflies swarm around her, indicating her impending death.
Played straight with Houjou's confession to Kuga except as seen through Asahi, Sasamori, and Hijiri's Irises, which respectively show that Houjou is lying, he's unsuited to be Kuga's partner, and a death butterfly lands on her head at that moment.
Once again subverted when Kuga asks Hijiri to "become her boyfriend", because her mother wants to meet her daughter's significant other.
Triple-subverted from Hijiri's standpoint: He hears the confession, remembers Sasamori's confession in chapter 1 and thinks it's the same situation, is told that no, Kuga really meant "please be my boyfriend," and finally discovers that she wanted him to pretend to be her boyfriend in front of her mother.
And a repeat subversion with Toru and mysterious new girl Rei, who in her brief appearance so far has just repeated Sasamori's initial approach, except outside and with only Sasamori as the spectator.
Love Makes You Evil: In Hijiri's flashback, and Kuga being led on by her boyfriend in the Iris Hunter arc.
Magical Eyes: The Irises are powers that are based around the eye. If someone goes blind or loses their eyes they will lose their Iris power as well.
Manipulative Bitch: Kuga uses her ability to read emotions to wreak havoc during the Iris Hunter arc.
Muggles: Techincally most adults and all people above age 27.
The Matchmaker/Shipper on Deck: Tokita's Iris lets him see "love affections," an arrow over a person's head pointing towards whom they have feelings for, meaning he could play matchmaker easily. He tries to do it for his childhood friend Kuga. It doesn't work out so well. Later, he tries to help Toru and Sasamori realize their mutual affections.
Mundane Utility: Most Irises fall under this, since an Iris is an inherently passive power. Almost any corporation or government bureau would pay top dollar for someone like Sasamori, who could run a human resources department almost single-handedly and always make sure the right person was on the job.
Depending on how much their later actions were already factored intoHijiri's Iris seeing a butterfly on Kuga, Toru and the others' attempts to protect Kuga likely made things much worse. At the least, given that their confrontation with Kuga's boyfriend made her doubt him enough to check him with her Iris, and she immediately sprouted a few new butterflies, it's very likely that Toru's intervention directly led to the emergence of the Iris Hunter. "We may have altered fate," indeed.
And as of chapter 22, Tokita seems to think this as well, that Toru's actions either created or made the Iris Hunter incident worse than it had to be. Except it turns out Tokita's just looking for a scapegoat to blame when he's really angry at himself for letting the situation get that bad in the first place.
And Tokita turns out to have a bad track record himself when it comes to trying to help and support people. Two different attempts to help out Kuga and Houjou ended up backfiring spectacularly.
Obfuscating Stupidity: To quote Hijiri's character profile at the beginning of volume 2: "His slightly carefree attitude and way of talking is something he does on purpose." His playful manner keeps him from succumbing to depression over seeing death approach other people and things, and his frequently sloppy and disheveled appearance in poorly-fit clothing is to cover cutting and suicide attempt scars on his wrist.
It seems to be the only thing Toru can't read in other people. Reasonable, given his history. The idea that anyone could take a positive interest in him is still pretty alien to him at times. Except he's actually pretending not to notice Sasamori's feelings because he's afraid of what a relationship might do to the group's balance and cohesion. As a lifelong unwilling loner, friends matter more to him than love.
Meanwhile, Sasamori can't bring herself to believe that Toru could possibly return her interest. Except he's already begun to...
Sasamori, Kuga, and Tachibana have the same rounded face and fluffy light-colored hair (though in different styles). Sasamori wears ribbons in her hair and it curls a lot at the ends with long strands that tend to fly around; Kuga has straighter hair and usually half-closed eyes; and Tachibana has short hair and is (so far) only seen in flashbacks.
Becomes a plot point: Kuga's boyfriend only went out with her because of her noted resemblance to Sasamori. Given that Kuga can see emotions, it doesn't end well. And after the Important Haircutright in front of Hijiri, Kuga's resemblance to Tachibana right after he said he'd keep an eye on Kuga can't not be significant.
Sasamori is a complete aversion. Her Iris is based around judging people and their suitability to an action, almost to the point of predestining people to certain roles. Yet, she's the least judgmental person in the school and has spoken strongly against the idea that people can't do something just because an Iris has declared them unsuited.
Poisonous Friend: Asahi is the person who outed Toru as a Zero in their shared backstory. Also, Tokita briefly looks like he may be so to Kuga.
Popularity Food Chain: Sasamori is at the very top. Toru is at the absolute bottom, receiving threatening notes that only get worse the more time he spends with Sasamori.
Power Incontinence: Irises are "on" all the time, which sucks when you keep seeing liars or things about to die.
Power Nullifier: The Iris Hunter, who can eliminate other people's Irises by manipulating people's emotions in relation to their Iris, making them too full of fear or doubt to even want to see what their Iris shows, repressing the ability. Already having grappled with said fears and doubts makes one resistant to such repression.
Precision F-Strike: Sasamori is so impossibly nice and apologetic all the time that she can accomplish this effect without even swearing when she calls Toru an idiot during school festival preparations and during his Achilles in His Tent moment.
Relationship Sabotage: The second "curse" of the Iris Hunter laid by Tokita to redirect attention from Kuga to himself once it unwinds. Also used by Kuga to take Toru and Sasamori out of the picture during the same arc.
She Is Not My Girlfriend: Sasamori stumbles upon Rei, a strange girl from another school, clinging to Toru, and based on both Sasamori's startlement and Toru's guilty Not What It Looks Like reaction, Rei asks if they're going out. Both Sasamori and Toru blush and blurt out loud protests entirely too quickly.
Sherlock Scan: Toru is highly skilled in making observations about the people around him, mostly centering around people's emotions and motivations. Several people remark how amazing his deductive powers are upon seeing him in action for the first time.
Ship Tease: Besides the obvious main pair of Toru and Koyuki, Hijiri/Asahi and Tokita/Kuga seemed likely at the start, and recent chapters/volume covers have hinted at Tokita/Asahi and Hijiri/Kuga.
Single Issue Psychology: The characters, being teens with something of a dramatic streak, think it's played straight at first with some of their problems. It's later shown that they're wrong, and there is no Epiphany Therapy just from acknowledging one's problems.
A rare case involving the mangaka: most manga sites list the name as "Pro Shiki", but read the name on the manga and it says "Piroshiki". Of course, the latter is hard to find, but if you are observant enough...
Hijiri's former classmate Katagiri had an Iris that allows her to see approaching dangers.
Played for Laughs when Toru learns how to sense when Koyuki is coming to allow him to go for a short walk (read: avoid Koyuki to avoid unwanted attention).
He is also capable of noticing when somebody tries to take a photo of him and blur the image/move out of focus (you can choose). At least if he isn't trying to deal with Koyuki at the moment. It's one of the skills he acquired from mastering his minimal exposure technique.
Sweet Tooth: Toru's thoughts: "Minimal Exposure < Cake (for now)". He even takes Koyuki on a Not a Date just to get his hands on some cake that was only being sold to girls.
He proposed feeding Koyuki with cake for a request (with said request being another Not a Date to the same place a week later). She refuses because that would be another Indirect Kiss from the boy she likes, and starts screaming while he tries to feed her with cake. That causes the whole "ladies' only set" to be abolished shortly after.
Cake shop manager: Are my cakes... really that bad...?
Toilet Humour: An Omake lampshades how many of the scenes in the story takes place within school bathrooms and one of the character declares that this will be the Manga's new direction. Luckily it's only an Omake.
True Companions: By the end of the Iris Hunter arc, Toru, Sasamori, Hijiri, and Asahi definitely count, trusting one another implicitly even in a life-or-death situation. Symbolically set in stone and including both Kuga and Tokita in chapter 24 when the group gets a set of matching cell phone straps for Sasamori's birthday.
And yet questioned by Asahi in chapter 27, who points out that Hijiri is secretive and refuses to open up about himself, Kuga still feels guilty, Tokita is only there because Kuga is, and Asahi herself can't stop checking to see if the others are lying. If Sasamori was gone they'd fall apart.
Two-Teacher School: So far, only two or three teachers have been seen (depending on whether or not you think the older teacher dealing with Asahi's discipline in chapters 2 and 3 is the same as Toru and Kuga's barely-visible homeroom teacher in chapter 7).
Un-Sorcerer: Compared to his peers, Toru is the only one without an Iris.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Asahi and Tokita after the Iris Hunter arc. Although they argue frequently (they get thrown out of a store once for doing so) and she sometimes physically beats him up, they're comfortable together and understand each other well.
Toru was originally supposed to have been the only one with an Iris, surrounded by normal people—one old idea was someone who could see the Red String of Fate connecting others but could not fall in love himself—until the creator decided he had no distinguishing features other than his power and switched it around.
The original series was supposed to have been a set of one-shots with a different protagonist every chapter, collected into a single volume. (Toru, Koyuki, Asahi, Hijiri, and Harumi in that order.) The publisher decided they liked the idea enough to request serialization instead of a limited run.
Wise Beyond Their Years: Toru can be one perceptive kid. A lot of the other kids have grown up too fast thanks to their Irises and knowing things they would rather not know about the world and others around them.