Shounen – Romance, action, comedy, harem
11 Volumes (complete)
Out of print
Kagetora, one of the best ninja in his village, is summoned to Tokyo train the heir to a dojo. Yuki is a smart, kind girl but also a klutz. Training her will be difficult, but Kagetora has a bigger problem: he’s fallen in love with Yuki! And a ninja should never fall in love with his master…
One of the first things you’ll notice about Kagetora is that is much closer to being a shoujo title than a shounen title. The plot, the story, and the art all practically scream shoujo. (The author is currently working on a josei and a seinen series, and I can see how he might find better successes in those categories.) So if you are the type of reader who wants to see a lot of exciting battle scenes or can only tolerate a subtle romance, then Kagetora is not going to be your type of manga.
This doesn’t mean Kagetora is a bad manga. But even when Del Rey was releasing this manga years ago, I just wasn’t excited to read new volumes. If I didn’t hate having incomplete series, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. In fact, this is the first time I’ve read the entire series despite owning it for years. Kagetora just is missing that spark that makes it special or awesome. It does have its cute and funny parts (like Kagetora’s brother Taka and the ending), but the manga was outclassed back then and is still outclassed today.
Let’s start with on the romance. By the end of the first chapter, Kagetora has already fallen in love with Yuki. So much of the story — both the serious and humorous parts — is about Kagetora hiding his feelings. However, by the end of the first volume, his brother thinks to himself Kagetora won’t have an issue being Yuki’s boyfriend once Kagetora’s mission is complete. So any hope of drama is pretty much dispelled in one volume. Yay? Of course, there are problems because of Kagetora’s rank, but the fact that the brother already sees the ray of light ruins the tension. Lack of drama is usually pretty boring unless you’re looking for pure fluff. However, Kagetora is also has harem manga elements, so while Kagetora x Yuki is already pretty much a foregone conclusion, we also get a violent overprotective girl, a childhood friend, a stalker rich girl, and a tomboy. With Kagetora’s feelings already focused on Yuki, the harem girls never really stand a chance. In fact, most are dropped after a few chapters. Only Yuki’s friend is a fixture throughout the series, and the kunoichi makes a few other appearances. So despite seeming like a harem manga, we don’t get the usual girl versus girl one-upmanship that causes the male lead to get into trouble or be injured.
The comedy is not that hilarious. Kagetora’s skills often cause trouble for his friends, but nobody gets really mad, just annoyed. Even his identity isn’t a secret. Being a romantic comedy, Kagetora finds himself in many embarrassing and trying situations. His monkey Kosuke is the one trying to remind Kagetora of his mission, as Kagetora often is tempted to give in to desires. (They’re pure by shounen standards, though.)
Kagetora is a ninja who is awkward in love and knowledge of city life. As a lead, he is very likeable and doesn’t cross into tsundere territory. He is also one of the male leads you can actually picture girls liking because of his personality. Meanwhile, Yuki is a yamato nadeshiko. Yes, she’s not that great in the martial arts, but she is kind, pretty, considerate, and overall an ideal girl. Even her jealous fits are designed to make her appear even more cute. Her friend acts as the violent guardian, but she actually doesn’t direct her anger at Kagetora too often. The three also have three male classmates, but they never play a major part of the story despite appearing in most chapters. I barely remember their names. Kagetora’s brothers also make repeated appearances. My favorite character (along with Kosuke, the monkey) is Kagetora’s brother Taka, one of those characters who has a scary side behind his smiling face. (If Kagetora were made into an anime, I totally picture Kaida Yuki [Fuji from The Prince of Tennis, China from Hetalia] doing his voice.) We also meet members of Yuki’s family, but they basically just want to see Yuki in good hands. Nobody really grows or changes throughout the series.
The art is clear, crisp, and easy-to-follow. Screentones are rather limited, so the characters, dialogue, and action are bright and crisp. Character designs are rather generic, even bland. Yuki is just a doe-eyed girl with short hair, and Kagetora wears a typical ninja outfit. Hairstyles are pretty realistic, but Kagetora’s large hair spike seems a bit out-of-place next to Yuki and their classmates. I will say that the two leads actually look as if they’ve physically matured throughout the series. It’s a subtle change, but Kagetora and Yuki actually look like they’ve aged over the course of the manga. As there are very few battles, the action scenes are short. They basically consist of a panel or two showing a ninja technique affecting the environment. The author also includes a lot of full-shots and closeups that are more typical of shoujo fare. The series also has some fanservice: the girls have large breasts, and there are scenes of the girls in hot springs or having wet clothes cling to their bodies. All in all, the art is a good mix of shounen and shoujo techniques, but it’s nothing outstanding.
This is an older title, and the translation reflects that fact. Honorifics are used, but not in cases like “nii-san”. Kagetora calls his elder brothers “Brother Shirou/Taka”, so it sounds like they are monks instead of ninjas. The adaptation keeps the fact Kagetora calls Yuki “Hime”, but he calls her mother “Madam”. The translation comes together like a mish-mash. It wants to keep some terms in Japanese (like the names of food, the term “jii”) but uses English equivalents for other things (like Kagetora’s special abilities). Kagetora’s ninja/samurai-style speech (-gozaru, sessha) is basically ignored. The font is also rarely used anymore, as most modern English manga publications use fonts in all capitals. It might have been okay at the time, but the adaptation feels dated now.
This story has been done many times before, and it’s been done many times afterwards. But more importantly, this story has been done better in both shounen and shoujo manga. There’s better titles both readily available and out-of-print.
Kagetora also has some binding issues which blocks parts of the art and dialogue, a problem Kodansha USA would inherit with most of their titles.
Segami is friends with Fullmetal Alchemist author ARAKAWA Hiromu, and she (well, her avatar) makes an appearance in the bonus comics.
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