Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 20th 2008
The teenage ninja Kagetora has been assigned to protect Yuki, the daughter of the powerful Todo family, and teach her the ways of the ninja. The only problem? She's small and hopelessly physically incompetent (except, as Kagetora discovers, when she's drunk). She's also quite cute, as is he, which has led to a developing attraction between the two that Kagetora tries to fight off and Yuki tries to bring herself to admit. The arrival on the scene of Kagetora's older brother Taka leads to a challenge of skill for Yuki, consternation for Kagetora, and a trip to an amusement park for all three, while a later visit by Sakuya occurs as Yuki starts to get self-conscious about her weight. In a series of bonus stories flashing back to earlier times, Yuki undergoes “winter training,” goes out on a date with a former classmate that is closely monitored by Kagetora, goes on a ski/hot springs school trip with Kagetora, and decides to make chocolates for Kagetora on Valentine's Day, only to discover that he is a rather popular chocolate recipient.
The only storytelling factor that gives Kagetora any separation from the great mass of shonen romantic comedies out there is its ninja angle, and that alone is not enough to distinguish it, especially when it wallows as deeply in utterly stereotypical romantic comedy content as this volume does. It still manages to be mildly entertaining, but anyone hoping for a fresh or original approach to the subject matter – or, for that matter, even the slightest scrap of creativity – is looking in the wrong place.
Indeed, reading this volume can become a contest for veteran anime/manga fans to identify all of the staple anime scenes and situations present here. Hot springs visit involving a coed bath? Check. Valentine's Day chocolate exchanges? Check. Concern over an apparent date? Check. An amusement park trip? Check. Needless weight concerns? Check. Lots of cluelessness over romance? Check. Agonizing over whether or not one likes the other and what the other one thinks? Check. Rivalry between the girls for the guy? Check. Multiple scenes of the girl in the bath to rack up the requisite quota of fan service? Check. Mascot animal for comic relief? Check. Even the joke about how Yuki becomes a much stronger fighter when drunk hardly treads new ground.
And yet the series continues to do just enough to hold a reader's interest. The central duo has advanced to the point where they can at least somewhat acknowledge their interest in each other (whether appropriate or not), and both main and supporting characters are just quirky enough to avoid becoming dull. Sure, some readers may ache for something more than yet another eye-rolling rendition of the standard Valentine's Day scenario, but others may appreciate the comfortable familiarity of the storytelling patterns, the slightly unusual ninja gimmick, or that sense of blossoming forbidden love. Of course, the regular doses of fan service could be a selling point for some, but the series does not have enough of that to warrant reading it for that alone.
Kagetora does have one major factor in its favor, however: manga-ka Akira Segami has some serious artistic skill, enough to place him in the upper echelon of manga artists. His work here distinguishes itself most in the exceptionally detailed way he draws and shades hair (especially for Yuki), and while his character designs have features typical of manga styles, the difference that a skilled hand can make in rendering even common stylistic standards quickly and clearly shows. Yuki has just enough of a different look to distinguish her from a crowd of anime heroines, Sakuya cuts a nice figure without being overly cute or sexy, and Segami knows how to handle both eye-pleasingly well in the fan services shots. Nice use of patterning on clothing, well-proportioned characters, oft-detailed backgrounds, and eschewing typical chibi effects also all contribute towards a richer and fuller artistic feel than one normally sees in titles of this genre. Just as importantly, Segami's work studiously avoids the inconsistencies in body proportions which plague sloppier manga artistry. Regrettably his least impressive piece in this volume is the cover art, which shows that his work does not benefit much from being colored.
Del Rey's production fronts the volume with a note from Segami and the standard company blurb on honorifics. A bonus page with author comments, two pages of four-panel strips, an About the Author blurb, and five pages of Translation Notes round out the seven-chapter volume. Del Rey retains the original Japanese sound effects with English translations; their effort here shows an ideal compromise between preserving original artistry and making the effects understandable to English readers.
It may not offer much that's fresh or different, and does little to further advance the storyline, but the eighth volume should hold the interest of fans who have gotten this far and looks good doing so.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Art : A-
+ Quality artistry.
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