Danielle Leigh's Reading Diary -- Ninja Girls vol 1

There are many, many reasons I thought I wouldn't like Ninja Girls.  It pretty much screams its fan-service-y orientation on its cover.  In spite of that, the first volume not only entertained, it even made me laugh out loud a number of times.

Now let's get this out of the way.  Ninja Girls is ridiculous.  And more fun than it should be.  The so-called "ninja girls" are wearing insanely anachronistic outfits even though the manga takes place during Japan's Warring States period and the protagonist is a boy with a horn on his head.  In spite of this, there is a steady thread of rather dumb, but almost sweetly goofy, humor running throughout the entire volume.

The basic plot is a young teenager with a horn on his head has been an outcast his entire life.  Alone and trying to make ends meet by doing services here and there for local townspeople, he only has his mother's funeral statue to keep him company.  But luckily she manages to communicate with him by falling off the mantle at curiously odd times....and often boinking him on the head whenever he's about to do something stupid (I honestly think this was both the funniest and strangest part of the book).

One day, horn-boy's loneliness comes to end when he discovers a voluptuous  girl drowning in the river.  Being the stand-up gentlemen that he is, he rescues her (which involves too many modern attempts at reviving her -- seriously, why would he know CPR for god's sake?).  This is all very cliche as clothes are removed, of course, and she wakes up thinking she's been violated (ur, not so hilarious), but the story moves past that pretty quickly.  Eventually they discover that she's actually been looking for him.  His horn is proof that he's the heir to some important household in Japan and there are some nasty ninjas who want to eliminate him.

So horn-boy needs protection and now he's got it in a surprisingly demure and innocent female ninja whose random power is great strength when the one she loves is looking at her (she turns to stone basically).  Now, that the basic story is set up the rest of the volume involves the collection of two other ninja "girls" (*cough* there's a reason I'm putting "girls" in quotation marks, but the fun is learning why) in his "harem."  Essentially they are there to protect him and help him take his rightful inheritance.  I'm pretty sure he's there to make sure they don't bitch slap each other into oblivion.

Each girl has a distinct personality and interacts with our young master quite differently.  If the first ninja girl is a stereotype of the willing young maiden, the second is pure Tsundere (& she's got an eye patch, which natch, makes her cool).  The third is a manipulative schemer, but the surprising part of this book is that the characterization is consistent and not willfully shallow.  The fanservice ends up being mainly backdrop and in spite of the fact the girls look like they've been put on earth to be leered at, nobody in the manga pays much mind to it.  Even the "horny" boy (god, what an awful pun) develops a crush on stone-girl, it isn't just because he's horny but because he does care for her.  Each individual chapter plays a bit with cliche situations we've probably seen in every shonen harem manga (example: horn-boy gets sick, has to be nursed to health...but then they go so crazy nursing him, he gets sicker), but I think the point is that the creator is having fun with tropes of the genre, not merely mindlessly reproducing them.

Review Copy provided by Del Rey.

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