From the creator of Vampire Knight, Matsuri Hino, we have this short ninja tale called Shuriken and Pleats. I do mean short as well, since the manga had all of two volumes in total. Despite that, let’s give this a look. Is it good?
Shuriken and Pleats Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and drawn by: Matsuri Hino
Translation by: Katherine Schilling
Lettering by: Inori Fukuda Trant
A young girl by the name of Mikage Kirio is/was a ninja, who dedicated herself to protecting a man named James G. Rod, a philanthropist who has a plan to stop world hunger with some special seeds he’s obtained. However, one day he is assassinated and Kirio finds herself unsure of what to do now outside of fulfilling his final wishes for her to live a normal life. Coming to Japan to do so, she gets wrapped up having to protect a man named Mahito from some mysterious ninjas.
The Initial Impression
I can see why Shuriken and Pleats ended up being a short series, since the main plot was wrapped up by the end of the first volume. This is a manga that tells mostly a complete story in one volume and leaves off on an ambiguous, but hopeful ending. Despite there being one more volume apparently, the huge conflict is over. As such, the series is left in such an odd state, which hurts it in general.
Overall though, I like the idea behind the manga—a young woman who only knows how to be a ninja and act as a bodyguard, finds her life flipped upside down when her kind master is killed. She then tries to live a normal life to honor his wishes for her, only to be pulled back in when someone she sees gets attacked by other ninjas. So the story has her both trying to desperately live the normal teenage girl life while still needing to protect this guy, who we discover has a connection to her former master. There’s a sound and potentially strong character story here with some good twists that could be really engaging, but the execution is all wrong in this five chapter book.
But one more slip up and this is going on your permanent record young lady!
All of this is told within a single volume, when there’s at least enough material for three volumes in my opinion. I’m not sure if the creator only intended for this to be a short series or if it ended up getting cancelled, but this leads to bad pacing and execution. The first three chapters are slow and plodding, allowing you to get to know what is going on and get an idea of the main character. However, the last two chapters are the opposite and across as rushed. New characters are introduced, tons of exposition is unloaded, and some surprise twists are piled on as well. This all cuts into the other part of the story with Mikage trying to adapt to school life and into character development for everyone, making it hard to get invested and care about anyone when there is so little time spent with them. For example, there’s a twist at the end where someone is revealed to be a villain, but it’s not as effective as it should be. The character was barely introduced a chapter ago and had like one other scene besides their introduction, so it’s not as shocking as it could be. This story really needed to be stretched out more so the plot could actually breathe a lot and not get smothered under the weight of everything.
Outside of Mikage, no one makes much of an impression outside of bare bones character traits unfortunately. As such, let’s just focus on Mikage and discuss her. Hino seems to have some trouble deciding what character Mikage is supposed to be. Is she a very serious and tragic character, one who is motivated by the death of her master and unable to be human when she should be? Or, is she a serious, but also funny character with her reactions and flat remarks as she tries to live a normal life> Neither of these are bad routes to go with the character (though the humor doesn’t tend to mesh with the overall serious tone usually), but Hino needed to pick one to focus on much more with our lead. Overall, I would say that while these two sides didn’t really work together well and the character growth was rushed (good in theory mind you), I thought Mikage was not a bad lead. She just wasn’t given enough to truly come into her own.
Matsuri Hino does an alright job with the artwork here. While all of the guys have sort of the same face with slightly different hairstyles, the character design isn’t too bad ad no one is drawn oddly with misshapen body types. The layouts for the panels are decent to read here, while some of the action and movement flows nicely from panel to panel, like some of the climax at the end. The weakest part is that the scenery feels so strangely barren and empty. There’s little detail or just white voids all over the place, making this universe feel so lifeless. Admittedly, this is sort of a common problem for a lot of the art in Shojo titles, like with Skip Beat or Maid-sama, but it felt more apparent here than most.
A young Bella Swan if she was a ninja speaks.
Is It Good?
Shuriken and Pleats Vol. 1 is underwhelming and disappointing. Though the idea of the story isn’t bad at all and there are some okay moments, the pacing and execution are just weak and rushed. The story should have been stretched out longer to be more effective and let certain aspects and characters develop. As such, even with one more volume coming out in November, I can’t really recommend this manga.