Thursday, January 7, 2010
Shinobi Life, vol. 2
The story: Beni is a rebellious teenage girl who hates her father when time-traveling ninja Kagetora drops out of the sky. Originally mistaking her for someone else, Kagetora vows to protect Beni and, in the process, the two develop feelings for one another amongst other adventures. In this volume, Kagetora and Beni are increasingly becoming closer, but Beni's stern father warns the ever-loyal ninja to "know his place" and not get close to his daughter lest he lose his job. This creates some timely tension between the pair and it only increases when Beni becomes an unwilling partner in an arranged marriage with her stoic and aloof classmate, Iwatsuru. Later, someone from the ninja bodyguard's past comes to the fore.
Reaction: I won't lie -- I'm a total sucker for this ninja romance! There's humor in this volume, with some great introductory pages, but there's also a lot of heart in the discovery of Beni's feelings for Kagetora. There are also some scarier moments, when Iwatsuru starts showing his personality. It's rather off-putting and sets him as another villain of sorts, echoing Beni's father in some ways. At volume's end, there's another cliff-hanger that left me wanting to read the next volume immediately.
Deep thoughts: When Beni ends up in an arranged marriage, it is posited as rather traditional and uncommon in the modern world. I've talked about arranged marriages here before, but I failed to mention my own personal experience. My maternal grandparents' relationship is the result of a 1950s-era arranged marriage in the Philippines. While there are can be hardships involved in making an arranged marriage work -- as Shinobi Life presents it -- they can also lead to happiness, if my grandparents' 50-year plus marriage is any indication.
Artwork: Shoko Conami's art is remarkably consistent this time around -- in the first volume, I had noticed that characters' faces sometimes appeared distorted or warped; not so here. In consideration of all the close-ups and various angles of Kagetora's and Beni's faces, Conami's hand is decidedly dependable. In fact, anatomy is well proportioned and there is a wide variety of appropriate costuming and hairstyles, giving Kagetora, Beni and others a visual personality of sorts. There's also some ninja-style action to break up the endearingly cute blushing cheeks and wide-eyed looks.
The verdict: Highly recommended. I'm so glad I took Danielle Leigh's advice and started reading this series; it's funny, entertaining and sweet without being saccharine. Beni is a character you admire for her unwavering independence, while Kagetora is nothing but a trustworthy gentleman and ninja. Shinobi Life is available in the U.S. from Tokyopop (online preview available).