Manga Review – A Springtime with Ninjas

A Springtime with Ninjas Volume 1

A Springtime with Ninjas
花と忍び (Hana to Shinobi)
HASEGAKI Narumi
Shoujo – Action, comedy, drama, romance
4 Volumes (complete)
Kodansha Comics

Summary:

Tradition says Benio must marry whoever steals her first kiss. Because of this, Benio can’t go outside or have friends. When her uncle brings her home a friend, Benio is thrilled — but it’s a guy, not a girl! And a flirtatious one at that!

Review:

There’s an unlicensed manga out there called Shinobi Quartet (シノビ四重奏) that features a similar storyline but is likely a little closer to what people want out of A Springtime with Ninjas. This series is not as flowery as its name suggests.

Benio’s family is extremely wealthy, and now that her parents are gone, she has to carry on the family name. At age 15, she’s spent her entire life inside her mansion, but she dreams of enjoying her youth. Her uncle decides to introduce her a friend, but she’s incredibly disappointed her new friend is male — and, based upon his greeting, a player. Although Tamaki says he took the job because of the pay, he tries to cheer Benio up. But even the easygoing Tamaki refuses to let her sneak outside. She does escape thanks to a maid’s help, but she’s soon captured and is about to be engaged to a rich, haughty young man. But before he can kiss Benio, Tamaki swoops in and rescues her. Turns out, he’s descended from ninja sworn to protect Benio’s family. Tamaki begs her uncle/guardian to let her go to school, and he will protect her and never let her out of his sight.

He’s not doing so for the money or because of his family’s honor. Years ago, the two of them were friends, but after sneaking out when they were children, the pair were kidnapped. Benio’s memory of the time became hazy due to shock, so she has no idea that the only friend she had was Tamaki. To be fair, younger Tamaki was a crybaby, unlike his current confident, casual persona now. So that at least explains a little bit why Benio doesn’t recognize him… or that they promised to get married.

A Springtime with Ninjas Sample 1

A Springtime with Ninjas started out as a one-shot before getting serialized. Even then, it was scheduled to end after four chapters, then eight chapters, but it instead reached four volumes. Because of that history, the series tends to be a little inconsistent. Well, may not so much inconsistent as unclear. Like, the way Tamaki introduces himself, he’s the last ninja for the Kasugami family, but later, a second ninja who has known Tamaki since they were kids is introduced. Other aspects make even less sense than “must marry the first person you kiss” rule in the family: an 18-year-old Harvard graduate somehow ends up in the same class as a 15-year-old Benio. Not that it matters since he pretty much disappears right after.

A Springtime with Ninjas definitely has that “fly by the seat of your pants” vibe. Even as chapters connect through others wanting Benio’s fortune or to prevent her and Tamaki from dishonoring traditions, it feels like things just keep escalating. Yes, Tamaki has to face off against CIA members in the very first chapter, but the fights go from strangers to much more personal, from easy victories to on the brink of defeat. So even though guns are present from the beginning, the manga still feels like it’s going to be light in tone, but it doesn’t stay that way. It’s not serious serious, but don’t go into this expecting a silly, fluffy story.

You’ve likely read a manga (or watched an anime) with the overall gist of the story: a sheltered rich girl wants to expand her world, but her capable servant/guardian keeps needing to stop the heroine from getting mixed up in some sort of plot. But they mustn’t fall in love because of the difference in their social status. A Springtime with Ninjas might easily be mistaken for a reverse harem because of the world ninjas in the title, and one of the earlier chapters has Benio being drawn to a classmate because she believes he might be her first love. Other young men also pop up, but they all generally rotate in and out, having minimal roles if seen again.

So Benio goes to school, and most of what she knows of it she learned from manga. (Putting money into vending machines was not one of the lessons evidently.) She gains her first female friends, and she gets to experience some typical school events like a cultural festival and Valentine’s Day. Tamaki reached an agreement with Benio’s uncle to not be more than five meters from her at all times, which can annoy Benio. But the more irritating aspect for her is that he tends to veto her participating in things (being a club manager, starring in a play), and, of course, his reasoning turns out right.

A Springtime with Ninjas initially introduces Benio as the heir to the Kasugami family, and then Tamaki is from the clan that supports her. The manga then expands that world, but it boils down to, “It’S tRaDiTiOn!!!” Obviously, betting your family’s fortunes on stealing a kiss from the (always female?) heir is ridiculous, but gotta give them credit — it worked for 600 years, and the family is the richest in Japan. Surprisingly, you couldn’t tell that from Benio’s home, and I don’t know what they actually do to stay rich besides hang out once in a while with other aristocratic families.

So although Benio has had to take a lot of traditional Japanese bridal lessons (flower arranging for instance) and has presumably had tutors for basic school subjects, she seems to be fairly average. She doesn’t seem to be exceptionally brilliant (like, say, Kaguya of Kaguya-sama: Love is War), but she also isn’t presented as a klutz and a hapless person to succeed as heir. She also isn’t super polite or anything either. What Benio is, however, is rather tsundere in regards to Tamaki. Because he usually acts like he takes nothing seriously, when he suddenly catches her off-guard (either because he doesn’t want her to be in danger or because of jealously/longing), Benio tends to blush and push him away. Later, in the second half of the series, she becomes the more proactive one in regards to their interactions. Also in the second half, Tamaki almost acts like he’s several years older than Benio. Of course, he’s had a lot of training as a ninja, but I expected a little more forwardness considering his (somewhat forced) casual demeanor — even though we know from his past he is more sensitive and purehearted than one would think. He’s loved the same girl for almost a decade after all.

Following up on that, you could ostensibly end A Springtime with Ninjas at volume 2. It would be a bit open-ended, of course, but it would be equivalent to watching one season of a romance anime that was written without a definite second cour.

The first chapter, as I mentioned earlier, was written as a one-shot, so had A Springtime with Ninjas been planned a serialization from the start, Tamaki’s identity as the boy from Benio’s past would have almost certainly been kept hidden. Heck, maybe he would have even hid his ninja side, just “finding” her or “showing up” after being saved. But the art is a step down from the rest of the series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hasegaki had only minimal assistance versus a set group of helpers for the rest of the series’ run.

The art isn’t awful in its debut, but it certainly levels up. Benio’s face becomes more stable, and Tamaki has less exaggerated playful smiles. Hasegaki tends to use large panels, and Benio’s slight cat eyes gives her a more unique appearance (too bad her bangs often hide them). As I mentioned earlier, Benio’s wealth isn’t on display much, which I felt was a missed opportunity. We can see signs of her lineage with her Japanese household and such, but it isn’t until her birthday party does the manga really emphasize this is the richest family in the country. Because of that, I thought maybe the series was a bit older than it was (started in 2015).

Another reason it looks a few years older is the abundance of screentones. It kind of seem like it was hand drawn and then used a computer, as screentones were everywhere: dot patterns, sparkles, stripes, everything! I think she relied on them a little too much to fill in the background, clothes, and other details, and I didn’t think she needed to. But in some cases, the screentones look so pasted on and fake. Like in one panel, Benio is angled at about 30, 45 degrees from looking the readers straight-on. But her plaid dress’s squares are perfectly lined up in 90 degree rows from our perspective. So it looks like a drag-and-drop job on a computer. Could be cut and pasted too, but either way, the point stands. This is only, according to the author’s notes, her second serialized work, and her style is not a mess, so the screentone aspects like that are distracting.

Translation:

Honorifics are used. Western name order is used. The original title and its romanization is kept in between chapters. This series uses several different fonts to show emphasis in angry/happy dialogue bubbles. A couple of footnotes are included, with volume 3 having translation notes. Benio’s nickname of “Hime/Ohimesama” is translated as “Princess”. Benio calls Tamaki a チャラ男, chara-o, which does mean playboy/a frivolous guy. Tamaki’s “Hey girl” is “Cheese” in Japanese. One girl in school’s name is written as “Momoé”. “Zaibatsu” is kept. “Ninja” is used over “shinobi”, which is common. Benio’s uncle is referred to by others as 当主, Gotoushuu, which means current head, and “Lord/My Lord” is used in the English version.

“Ninpo” is kept, which is often translated as “Ninja Art(s)”. The technique itself is translated though, so it leads to a bit of a strange mix. For example, Tamaki’s first attack is “Ninpo Ghostly Kama”; in Japanese it’s 忍法・鎌鼬, Ninpou*Kamaitachi. Also, if you recognize the “kamaitachi” name, that’s because it’s a fairly common name/attack in Japanese fiction. “Kamaitachi” is the name of a yokai that is also called the sickle weasel, but it’s also used as the name of air cuts/whirlwind vacuum attacks. (See One PieceFlame of Recca, Pokémon and others.) I’m guessing the “Ghostly” part of the English name is supposed to refer to the sickle weasel, but “itachi” by itself is weasel. It’s an odd name. “Wind Cutter” or even something like “Weasel Strike” would have made more sense.

I also was a little surprised Benio, a rich ojousama who has polite speech, would use insults like “ass”, but that’s just my opinion.

Final Comments:

A Springtime with Ninja‘s setup seems tailor-made for some funny comedy, especially for a series that wasn’t created as a series. But despite the manga being on the serious side and pacing issues, Benio’s personality makes it fairly easy to relate to her frustrations about being sheltered and the struggle of dragging people into the 21st century.

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7 Comments

  1. renxkyoko

    Krystalina, have you read BIBI ? If you have , can you give us your a review, most especially the ending. I’ve been following this mahnwa since forever, maybe more than 10 years.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I have not, but it’s something I’ll look into. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Reply
  2. Grand Admiral Nyan King (BiblioNyan)

    I remember this manga! I remember liking it. I appreciated that it was super short too. I’m a sucker for anything ninja, so I figured I’d like that bit at the very least haha. Great review!

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It was a nice short read. And who can resist ninja! 🥷
      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  3. dreager1

    This one definitely sounds like fun. I like the artwork from the screenshots at least and it seems like a fun premise. I may be shaking my head about that tradition since it really puts the heroine in a tough spot but as far as gimmicks go to kick things off it could be worse. The main guy seems fairly decent considering his character type too. Like the player angle doesn’t seem to be too exaggerated to the point where it would be getting in the way of the romance the whole time. Crazy that the series seemed to keep on getting renewed like that though, I’m thinking the series would have ended up being way different if it ended after 4 chapters

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Yeah, most manga series end up being shorter than what the author hoped. Even getting 1 extension is cause for celebration, but this one got at least 3!

      Since Tamaki’s true identity is revealed right away, his feelings aren’t obviously hidden behind a facade like most shoujo heroes with a secret. So in that way, he is a step up. And plus, being casual is generally better than being a jerk.

      Reply
  4. alsmangablog

    The ninja protector who’s secretly a childhood friend sounds like a fun setup, and I could see the kooky elements being enjoyable if the series leaned into the craziness of the situation. I can see how the fact that there wasn’t really a plan for where the story was going would work against it, though. That Shinobi Quartet manga you mentioned sounds interesting though.

    Reply

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