Manga-ka: Shoko Conami
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2009
Synopsis: “Beni convinces Kagetora to go back with her to the future – as a student! Everything is going fine until they meet a strange and mysterious classmate, Iwatsuru. As Kagetora and Beni’s interest in one another blossoms, Beni’s Father reminds Kagetora that he is only a mere body guard and nothing more! What’s worse, he reveals that he has already arranged Beni to get married – to Iwatsuru!”
Whether it’s a comedic exchange of misunderstandings or one look at Beni and Kagetora’s pained expressions when fate intervenes, volume two of Shinobi Life continues to ensure your heart will laugh and ache right along with theirs. Thankfully the same can be said for their times of romantic bliss as well and as the two come to care deeply for one another, the smallest of moments can provide these gifts. But with an emotionally detached Father pulling the strings and an old foe making a surprise reappearance, there’s still much more to this story than just a remarkably compelling romance.
When compared to the first, not as much happens in this second volume. Despite this the story doesn’t feel like it slows, even if readers do find themselves finishing the book in less time. Several common genre-conventions come into play – from Kagetora enrolling as a student in Beni’s class to becoming ill with a cold when his body doesn’t agree with the modern world’s air conditioning. To the story’s credit, it doesn’t rely heavily on either of these scenes – merely including them as well-timed stepping-stones to further the couple’s relationship and lead into the real bulk of the book.
A young man in Beni’s class, Iwatsuru, is distinctly foreshadowed in preparation for the revelation that he’s actually Beni’s fiancé, as dictated by her controlling Father. With this new arrangement in place, Kagetora is humbled about his growing connection with Beni. He pulls back, renewing his vow solely as her protector and trying to come to terms with the fact she belongs to another man. Kagetora’s reactions are frustrating, both Beni and readers who want nothing more than for him to join her in a bout of ‘screw you!’ regarding this new development. The morals and social standards in which he was raised do offer firm reason for his stance at least. Though you may not like his forceful change of heart, it’s still impossible not to sympathize with him.
There’s much sympathy to be had for Beni as well, who has fallen for Kagetora hook, line and kunai. She patiently awaits Kagetora’s own pace at opening up to her, enjoying each experience and time she has to spend with him. All too distressing is it then when he suddenly pulls away from her. On top of that her new fiancé is no prince charming. Notably creepy and decisive to an unsettling degree, Iwatsuru is set on Beni being his wife solely to take advantage of her Father’s connections.
Throwing a surprise complication into the mix is the return of Hitaki – a ninja from Kagetora’s time. Now in the service of Iwatsuru (to some degree and one of which not fully explored), he’s sent after Kagetora when it becomes clear the young man’s relationship with Beni could pose a problem. More than eager to oblige the request, Hitaki goes after Kagetora with mindful bloodlust. The story ends on a suspenseful, not to mention sinister, note after the two face off.
Volume two of Shinobi Life lacks the same level of dense storyline that made the first volume so exceptional but it still maintains all the charming romance that makes it a must-buy for any shoujo fan. Beni and Kagetora have a great chemistry and watching the two open up to each other melts the heart. The art also continues to bring each panel to fantastically emotive life. Shinobi Life remains a sweet and memorable read that while also handling some darker situations, ensures there’s plenty of reasons to eagerly await the next volume.