Shinobi Life volume 2, by Shoko Conami, follows a modern shojo heroine as she falls in love for the first time…with a time-traveling ninja. The romantic tone of this time-travel love story deepens as the main couple discovers they are actually star-crossed lovers.
I loved every singe page of this volume — I’m usually not one for high romance, but this is a beautifully bittersweet story. Love is never just love, but always mixed with a million other emotions, such as fear, insecurity, and joy. Beni is the only daughter of a powerful man, who also makes for an indifferent father. At first, the time-traveling ninja, Kagetora, only pays her any mind because he thinks she is a princess from his time that he must protect at all costs. Once that case of mistaken identity is cleared up in volume 1, even jumping time periods doesn’t change the fact that class continues to divide Beni from Kagetora. Her father has decided her future and Beni only has value to him as an object he can marry off to maintain ties to another family of status and power.
Watching Beni fall in love with a boy she can never have is heartbreaking — for all the ridiculousness of the time travel plot, the mangaka knows her stuff when it comes to the representing the various thoughts, feelings, and sensations that accompany an isolated young woman’s first experience of love. Look at this scene below, showing Kategora carefully removing a spider from Beni’s hair, gently caressing an extension of Beni’s self, at the same time he protects the fragile life of the spider.
(Panels read right-to-left).
This is as close as the two are able to get through out the entire volume, as their moment of closeness is disrupted by Beni’s father. Beni’s father is a modern day tyrant, and his order that the two maintain an appropriate distance, reflecting their bodyguard and protectee roles, is absolute and cannot be disobeyed. Suddenly, Beni is shocked to learn her father has engaged her to a rather thuggish boy, who is primarily characterized by his obscure motives and a complete lack of empathy for other living things. Kagetora’s very life is in danger since he stands between Beni and a socially advantageous marriage. Will Beni be able to save Kagetora and gather the strength to defy her father’s rule of law? It’s soap opera-ish as all hell but the story is done so beautifully I can’t wait to read volume three (out in the fall) and find out what happens next.
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