Mikage Kirio is from a long line of skilled ninja and assassins. When the usefulness of the samurai faded, those with skills took them elsewhere to find new masters, including Mikage’s ancestors. Now they are a clan of bodyguards and assassins, loyal to whoever employs them. Mikage is currently employed by James G. Rod, who hired Shadow Village Company for protection after his wife and daughter were killed. Mikage is fiercely loyal to James, who tends to treat her as his own daughter. She is warned by her boss not to let emotion get in the way of protecting her client. James intends to adopt Mikage as his daughter, and wants her to live a normal life as a teenager. Unfortunately, before Mikage can give him an answer, James is murdered. His intentions for her are not stopped by his death – he left behind an employment contract that would set her up for life. Released from her Master and her job, Mikage travels to Japan to live the life James wanted for her. It’s not that easy for someone like her to forget the only life she knows, and Mikage immediately finds herself protecting the life of a stranger under attack by ninja. Mahito Wakashimatsu’s life is in danger, and he tries to hire Mikage to protect him at once. Following James’s orders, Mikage has every intention of quitting the ninja life and attending a normal school, so she refuses. Trouble seems to follow her, however, and she winds up with Mahito begging her for help once again. On the condition that Mahito pose as her guardian to help her get into a high school, she agrees to help Mahito recover the antidote to the poison that is slowly killing him. Everything isn’t quite what it seems, however, and Mahito has a connection to Mikage’s beloved James Rod, along with a myriad of family issues.
I’m a bit soured on Hino after my second read through of Vampire Knight, so bear with me. This one is cuter and less creepy, at least. Although the first thing of note is how similar in appearance Mikage is to Yuki, which is a bit disruptive at times. Fortunately, their personalities are mostly different. At least in regards to human Yuki, who was very cheerful and energetic. Mikage is more like vampire Yuki – dark and brooding. Though not dark enough that she doesn’t care about others. She has strong feelings for James, though it’s not one hundred percent clear what type of love she feels for him. James completely sees her as a daughter, and Mikage has never had a father figure aside from the ninja master who took her in, so it makes sense she would cling to his kindness and compassion and view him as a father figure. It’s quite sweet, actually, so it’s a shame he dies so quickly. Even so, Hino well establishes a connection between the two that motivates Mikage through the rest of the volume. Mahito is likely to be nothing but trouble, though. He shares a similar kind personality with James, but he’s incredibly reckless. There’s some ninja down time scattered through the book while Mikage attends school, but she isn’t able to shut off the skills ingrained into her very being. She stands up to bullies, but she also overreacts to simple classroom behavior, like having papers passed up from behind her. She’s quickly gaining a reputation for being kind of cool (she impresses her classmates in gym class), and also really weird. The volume ends in a nice place, with everything neatly wrapped up for the most part. The story could easily end here, but there’s plenty left to explore, as well. Shuriken and Pleats would mostly be considered a drama series, with some comedic elements scattered throughout. Much like Vampire Knight. (In contrast to Hino’s more heavily comedic titles like Captive Hearts and MeruPuri.) I wouldn’t say it largely stands out from other books on the shelf, other than being a title from a popular fan favorite author, but it’s a pleasant read. Volume 2 comes out in November.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.