Title: Shuriken and Pleats Vol. 1
Author: Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Shounen, Adventure, Romance
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
It’s a bit difficult to discuss this volume without venturing into spoiler territory. Some of the events in this manga are necessary to discuss in order to cover the story properly. If you have not read this volume yet, then be forewarned that there will be some spoilers.
Matsuri Hino, who has brought us series such as Vampire Knight and Captive Hearts, is back with a two-volume series called Shuriken and Pleats.
The story comes to us in two parts, in which I call pre-death and post-death. I’ll touch upon what I mean by that in a moment, but for now, the story introduces us to Mikage Kirio. Mikage a girl living in an age where samurai are obsolete so those who were warriors are now enlisted as personal bodyguards known as ninja. Mikage’s father is such a man and he has brought her up to follow in his footsteps. He places her in the service of an American businessman and philanthropist named James G. Rod. Despite the rather blasé name, James Rod is a very gentle and kind man who wishes to have Mikage abandon her ninja ways and become his adopted daughter; however, Mikage cannot break the code of the ninja as by doing so, the penalty is death.
We spend a little time to get to know James and his story. James has an ambitious goal of trying to end world hunger and he believes he can do so with these seeds which are said can grow food anywhere in almost any condition. The problem is, there are those who are after James and his fortune. Unfortunately, those who want James out of the picture succeed in removing him and Mikage can only blame herself for failing to protect him.
In the post-death part of the story Mikage is riddled with guilt, adheres to her master’s final wish and travels to Japan in order to attend school; however, upon arrival, she immediately finds herself in the middle of an assassination attempt on a man named Mahito. She gets mixed up in this affair and ends up becoming his new bodyguard.
The story goes a bit deeper with a lot of twists and turns. James sent Mikage to Japan without telling her that there was a possibility of her running into Mahito there. In fact, Mahito was a business partner with James. The Wakashimatsu family gathers the seeds that James was looking to distribute. The family felt that their seeds were being stolen and, therefore, pointed their fingers at Mahito and James.
The issue here is that the head of the Wakashimatsu family is in a coma and his daughter Mako, who is also Mahito’s younger sister. Mako believes that Mahito had committed a heinous crime against the family and ordered his assassination. She uses a slow-acting poison, but promises to give him the antidote if he would just return the seeds to her. Mahito ends up enlisting Mikage as, not only his bodyguard, but as someone who can help retrieve the antidote without having to give the seeds back.
That’s the one thing I am loving about this manga is the fact that it’s not just moving from story point to story point. Everything is tied into each other and each event has a meaning that supports the story as a whole. It’s a pretty well-written chain of events that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages in order to find out what happens next. The end of the first volume had a pretty interesting turn of events that, honestly, I didn’t really see coming. I’ll let you guys figure it out if you decide to pick up this volume. Speaking of the characters, let’s talk about them.
Even though this is the first volume in Shuriken and Pleats, we get a pretty good sense of who these characters are right out of the gate. Most manga would take a bit more time to develop their characters, but this manga doesn’t exactly have that luxury.
Mikage seems like a typical ninja. She has sealed away her emotions, but all of that changes when she is employed by James Rod. James is a very kind and compassionate man who acts more like a true father figure than Mikage’s actual father. He’s the one who teachers her that it’s okay to experience emotions. When she starts to feel emotions for the first time, you begin to sympathize with the character because someone who has only known the life of being a drone begins to realize that she, too, is human. I do think that her development is a bit rushed, though. I would have loved to have seen her go through some more situations where she experienced conflict of whether or not she should show emotion. I realize that this manga is only eleven chapters long, though and I believe it is that length which really hurts Mikage’s development.
Up next is Mahito who reminds me of a male tsundere, but not really. He starts off rather demanding and rough around the edges, but you soon learn he acts like that because he’s desperate. Desperation causes one to act out of character and while he’s not the epitome of warmth like James was, he is still a rather kind person. Rather than act like a father figure, he acts more like a business partner who is only interested in saving his own life, but then again, when you have a slow-acting poison inside of you and you know your time is ticking away with every cough and every breath, you’d be a bit self-centered, too. Still, towards the end, he ends up being a character that’s a bit more polished around the edges and readers should find him to be a little more enjoyable.
Mako and Ichinosuke don’t really get much development until the very end of the volume. Mako is your main antagonist of the volume and Ichinosuke is her personal bodyguard. With her father in a coma, Mako is in charge of the Wakashimatsu family, but with the way she’s being depicted, it seems as if there’s some puppet stings tied to her back. As for Ichinosuke; outside of being her bodyguard, nothing is really revealed about Ichinosuke at first. It’s not until the conclusion where Mako and Ichinosuke each go through a pretty big transformation.
Lastly we have Kotaro. I don’t really like the way they handled Kotaro because he seems like a HUGE afterthought throughout this volume, but with the way the volume ends, I’m guessing he’ll play a bigger role in volume two. Kotaro is just a high school boy who was being picked on when Mikage intervenes and saves him. Mikage was taken back by how dazzling he looked and was even blinded by an imaginary light radiating from Kotaro’s body. From that description alone, you should realize that Kotaro is going to be Mikage’s love interest, but even though they dropped major hints at that, Hino-san decided to focus on the whole Wakashimatsu story instead and that really hurt his development.
This was still a cute scene, though
I thought the first volume of Shuriken and Pleats was a great read for what it was.
With the exception of Kotaro, the characters got a nice balance of “screen time” and each one fulfilled their roles nicely. I felt the author could have spent more time developing the relationship between Mikage and Kotaro, but it is what it is. Another thing that felt amiss was that there was no cliffhanger here and, in fact, this could have been a one volume set with the way this ended.
The artwork was pretty average, though. Nothing really jumped out at me and made me stop reading to take a longer look. The character designs were rather run-of-the-mill with the exception of Mako as her design seemed to stand out just a bit more than the others.
Volume two of Shuriken and Pleats feels like it’s being set up as an epilogue more than a continuation of the story. I’d say that would be my only big grievance with this volume was the overall pacing. What’s there is good, though, and for what they give you, it’s a pretty enjoyable read!
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media