Friday, December 18, 2009
Shinobi Life, vol. 1
The story: Ever since her mother died, Beni has blamed her father for her death. In fact, Beni hates her father so much that she wants to die in order to punish him. When she's kidnapped one day, Beni is rescued by a time-traveling ninja falling from the sky. Lucky for her, Kagetora mistakes Beni for someone else and continues to protect her. And even though they couldn't be more different, the two slowly fall for one another. But, can their love span the centuries of differences between them?
Reaction: I wanted to read this manga after reading about it in Danielle Leigh's "10 Underrated Shojo Titles" article on Comic Book Resources. And I was not disappointed! The characters are compelling, the situation unique and the love cute and humorous, but not without its challenges. Beni has an unexpected personality, where she's both parts adamant and vulnerable. Kagetora is interesting for his mystery, dedication to honor and sheer devotion. And he's a ninja!
Deep thoughts: From kung fu movies to uber-popular manga series like Naruto, "the way of the ninja," or shinobi, have always been a point of fascination in pop culture around the world. Ninjas, or covert mercenaries, date back to feudal Japan. As masters of weaponry and stealth, ninjas specialized in unorthodox arts of war, often using tactics like espionage, assassination or sabotage.
Artwork: There's some great action in this manga and it's illustrated well with great panel pacing, too. But, there's another manga that I immediately saw a similarity to -- Walkin' Butterfly. When characters are surprised, the irises of their eyes lose color. This is a bit of a throwback to '70s-era shojo manga, but I've only ever seen it used this regularly in Aurora's josei series.
The verdict: Highly recommended. This is a really entertaining and satisfying non-traditional romance manga. It has elements of fantasy, action and comedy, making it enjoyable on several levels. Shinobi Life is available in the U.S. from Tokyopop.