Shuriken and Pleats
手裏剣とプリーツ (Shuriken to Pleats)
Shoujo – Action, drama, mystery
2 Volumes (complete)
Dedicated wholeheartedly to her mission, ninja Mikage spends her days protecting her beloved master. But while ninja are trained to suppress their emotions and desires, Mikage is torn when her master asks her to quit and instead live life as a normal schoolgirl. But even when the opportunity presents itself, is it possible to leave the path of the shinobi?
Shuriken and Pleats showed some promise, but whatever appeal it had quickly fizzles.
Some authors like to go a little lighter after writing something long and in-depth. Others want to try to dive right back in with another huge hit. Judging from the author’s comments in the first volume of Shuriken and Pleats, I don’t think the series was envisioned to be finished with the second volume. I don’t think this was meant to be the next Vampire Knight, as Hino admits she decided to go with her preferences and likes with this series. However, by the time readers start the second volume, there’s a sense of hollowness upon the realization that there’s no way the mysteries surrounding the seeds as well as Mikage’s personal growth are going to be fully developed in such a short amount of time.
Shuriken and Pleats is one of those manga which the back cover of the first volume really spoils a lot. Technically, it only spoils the first chapter, but this is an example of why, in my little summaries at the top, I usually try to stick to just the first chapter. In fact, stop, go read the free first chapter of the manga, and come back.
I’ll wait here for your return. Seriously, go.
Oh, you’re back. It’s a little different between reading the first chapter and having the back blurb instead spoil it. The second volume’s hook also kind of spoils the volume, so if you do read this series, ignore the back covers.
So Mikage decides to head to Japan to fulfill James’ wish, but she immediately runs into some fellow ninja attacking a man. When Mikage helps him, Mahito begs her to become his bodyguard. She eventually agrees on the condition she gets to attend school, and thus begins her dual life as a warrior and a high school student. Mikage initially doesn’t want to know too much about Mahito, but as the attacks ramp up, the truths behind the situation are revealed, and they may have a connection to the seeds James obtained.
Again, the #1 issue with this manga is that it’s only two volumes. All problems stem from this fact. Had the series been longer, readers might have enjoyed following along as Mikage starts a new chapter in her life. Hino had several good foundations in place: a physically strong heroine who is emotionally inexperienced but not completely stupid, people surrounding her who truly want what’s best for her, secrets that she needs to keep, and revelations she needs to expose. Instead, this is an abridged version of what Mikage’s character development should have been like, which is the whole centerpiece of the story. Even the confrontation with the people chasing Mahito happens in the first volume. So the manga is rather boring and uninspiring as it tries to not look like something thrown together after a couple of lukewarm opening chapters. Neither fans of her shuriken side or her pleats side will be happy, and the fans who liked her with Mahito and those who wanted a different romantic path will be just as disappointed.
I mean, I don’t even understand Mikage’s family situation. In the first volume, her boss says, “Even if you were my daughter by blood… …I wouldn’t go easy on you.” This makes it sound like he’s not her biological father, even though James later calls him her father. (The Japanese version, from which I can tell, also makes it sound like even if Mikage was his “true daughter”, he wouldn’t be easy on her.) Later, we meet Mikage’s mother, a flight attendant who visits her daughter once a year and who just might be the biggest dunce ever. First, she mentions that she hates speaking to “your” (Mikage’s) father, and Mikage is shocked that “Boss” — then corrects herself to “Dad” — talked to her mother. Sounds like they’re divorced, but then… why would a non-biological parent have custody of Mikage? A line later makes it sound like he wouldn’t give up his rights to Mikage, so maybe he is her real father, and the line just was poorly written? Or a plot idea that was retconned? Plus, Mom has no idea that Mikage and her ex-husband are ninja. Did she not know that Mikage was living with a strange adult man (James)? And if she did know, what did she think Mikage was doing living with him? Again, Mikage’s mother very naive to say the least, but there’s no answer here that would make either the characters and/or manga itself look good.
Don’t even get me started on the whole seeds thing. I read both of these volumes back-to-back, and I don’t know if I didn’t care or if the manga did a poor job explaining, but you can imagine that if the manga is unclear about who Mikage’s father is, other details are also muddy. Suffice to say, Mikage tries a couple of times to be an average schoolgirl but fails as new problems arise. Both Mahito and James would like her to be free and normal, but while you can take the girl out of the ninja company, you can’t take the ninja out of the girl. If you think this means Shuriken and Pleats is at least good for a few laughs, it’s not; this is a drama, one that’s mostly serious.
Chances are, if you even gave this manga a second glance, it’s because you recognized the author’s name and her style. This series isn’t as stylish as its predecessor, but that’s to be expected considering Mahito is on the run and Mikage is attending an average school. Most of the character designs aren’t too far off from Vampire Knight, but the main thing is that is looks good. That being said, James and Mahito should have looked less alike, especially considering one is American or British while the other comes from a very Japanese family. Like everything else in the series, the action scenes are rather short, but Mikage isn’t just throwing knives from a distance. Otherwise, the manga is better than the average two-volume manga, as Hino has been drawing for years versus a rookie trying to get their first hit.
No honorifics are used. Some use of “shinobi” is switched to “ninja” in the English version. “Master” is used for “Goshujin”, which is a direct translation. The reason the font is different for Mikage’s first words is because she’s speaking English, a fact I didn’t pick up on until I looked at the Japanese version.
But the only part I was slightly disappointed with was that the adaptation doesn’t keep Mikage’s habit of using her name. She does use “watashi” (私, feminine/humble “I”), but she also tends to use “Mikage” a lot to refer to herself. While some characters in other anime/manga use their name to sound cutesy, it’s also fairly common to hear servants and warriors use their name when addressing their master or liege. So, for instance, when Mikage is apologizing for accidentally scratching her master with a menu, the English line is: “I allowed… …an injury to mar your face.” Here, in the Japanese, she uses “この美影”, “kono Mikage”, which could be adapted as “I, Mikage” or “this [unworthy/lowly] Mikage”. Personally, I think something like “This unworthy Mikage… …has inflicted an an injury on Master’s face!” might have kept her humbleness and servitude a little better. FYI, she uses “watashi” in the next panel as she explains it must have been from her menu as she dashed passed him, but the idea of sounding more lowly in such situations.
Otherwise, this is a short series, and there’s not much else to say.
Seriously, pass. Shuriken and Pleats not the worst short manga I’ve ever read, but put your time and money into something that doesn’t feel like it was axed about 10 volumes too early.