By Rinko Ueda
Viz, 192 pp.
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Kaguya is a young woman working as a housekeeper in a Tensho Era brothel, the inhabitants of which originally discovered her wounded and unconscious in a field of bamboo. Though she has no memory before that time, the one mark of her former life is a long, moon-shaped scar left on her back by a sword or knife. Though her scar prevents her from working as a prostitute, one of the brothel’s regulars, Hanzou Hattori—a well-known playboy who serves as a bodyguard at the nearby Okazaki Castle—takes an interest in her and after just a few meetings they fall in love. It is only when Hanzou finally sees the scar on Kaguya’s back—one which he gave her—that he realizes her true identity as the assassin who killed the Okazaki lord’s mother just six months prior. Confronted with this news, Kaguya flees to safety, suffering a blow to the head in the process. When she finally awakens in the care of her retainer, Rikimaru, Kaguya realizes that she is actually Princess Sara, a powerful ninja sent to assassinate the very lord whom Hanzou protects. As the volume continues, new truths are revealed, Lord Okazaki is destroyed, and Sara and Hanzou continue as secret lovers while Sara takes on her missions, including one in which she must pretend to marry Hanzou’s relative, Shimo-no-Hanzo, recognizable to fans as the male lead from Tail of the Moon.
Following the first meeting and courtship of two minor characters in Tail of the Moon, Tail of the Moon Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u) is quite accessible to those who have never read the original series, which is probably one of its strongest points. Though the art is pretty and the heroine, Sara, is fun and feisty as a ninja, the story itself provides little substance or thrill. The romance is rushed to the point of being unbelievable, and Sara’s ninja missions are too easily accomplished to evoke any real suspense. It is disheartening, too, that despite her great renown as a ninja, Sara always seems to require Hanzou’s last-minute intervention to achieve her objectives.
That said, this volume is lively, with attractive characters and a breezy romantic plot line which may appeal to many shojo fans, particularly those fond of the original series.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock.