Shinobi Life 1 by Shoko Conami: B+

Well, it’s happened again. I receive a review copy for a title with a premise that makes me expect the worst, only to end up liking it a great deal. Not only that, I’m willing to spend my own money to obtain subsequent volumes! It’s all an evil plot.

Beni Fujiwara is the daughter of a rich and powerful man, and has grown accustomed to being kidnapped. She even gives pointers to her captors and would like nothing more than for her father to be publicly blamed for her death. One afternoon, as she is being held at knifepoint atop a tall building, a ninja from the past falls from the sky, knocks her off the building, and manages to stop their fall before they hit the ground. He believes she is Beni-Hime, the princess he is charged with protecting, and takes up duties as her bodyguard.

That doesn’t sound very promising, but it’s actually surprisingly good. Beni is strong-willed and capable, looking and acting more mature than the typical shojo heroine. Kagetora, the ninja, is old-fashioned and very concerned with honor, propriety, and class differences. I like how their relationship develops and also appreciate that Beni’s motivations for not admitting her true identity are thoroughly addressed.

Another thing I particularly like about Shinobi Life is the dialogue. Characters say what should be said at critical moments, but they also say it in a way that feels utterly natural, thanks to the excellent English adaptation by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

I do get a bit of a LuvLuv vibe from this title, owing to Beni’s character design as well as some semi-naughty humor, so it’s possible it’ll turn smutty at some point. Can’t say as I’ll mind terribly.

Five volumes have been published in Japan so far and TOKYOPOP seems to be releasing a new volume every four months. The second is due in March 2009.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

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