Shuriken and Pleats Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino
Matsuri Hino is one of those shoujo authors who I like, but I haven’t been pulled into the time of deep admiration that I feel towards an Arina Tanemura or a Chika Shiomi. One of the main reasons for this is that I never really connected with Hino’s major series Vampire Knight. I have some volumes stockpiled and I intend to give that series another chance one day. I do enjoy Hino’s delicate art. I was curious about a non-vampire series from Hino.
Shuriken and Pleats is a short two-volume series about a ninja girl in the modern age, with all of the angst one might expect from a Matsuri Hino title with the added bonus of some fish out of water humor. The tragedy is introduced in the first chapter, as Mikage Kirio is assigned to protect an idealistic man whose wife and daughter have passed away, possibly as the result of some of his research into a way to end world hunger. Mikage’s master James goes out of the way to exhibit a personal interest in the young ninja, wanting her to have a normal life. When James dies, his will sets Mikage up with an option for an independent life for the first time, and he requests that she take the time to go to school like a regular girl. Mikage moves back to Japan and makes an attempt to fit in as a schoolgirl, while being haunted by her past. She also finds a final person to protect along the way.
“Girl who doesn’t understand her feelings” is almost as much of a shoujo cliche as the inexplicably alluring klutzy heroine, but Mikage is a more interesting than usual example of this particular type of heroine. Being part of a secret ninja clan in the modern world is a legitimate reason to have a closed-off personality, and while she fails sometimes she does have some serious ninja skills. One thing that does make Shuriken and Pleats stand out are some fine points of character development that manage to be both humorous and tragic at the same time, like Mikage’s shrine of cute erasers that her former master gave her. Mikage’s reaction to having papers passed to her at school from behind her back is a dramatic flip and the stern command for her classmate to “State your intention.”
Mikage’s ninja nature is signaled by the flowing black scarf she wears at all times, even when in her school uniform. Hino’s art has her trademark extremely pretty character designs mixed with dynamic ninja action scenes. I found myself intrigued by Mikage’s journey as she gradually loosens up on her ninja training and starts dealing with her emotions for the first time. I was less interested in some of the aspects of the plot, like the conspiracy at work that Mikage has to unravel. There’s a great deal of plot development packed into just one volume, which perhaps speaks to the benefit of planned short manga series as opposed to short series that are the result of an abrupt cancellation. I enjoyed this manga, and I’ll look forward to the concluding volume. Shuriken and Pleats seems like it will be an entertaining diversion if someone is looking for a short series to enjoy.