Shinobi Life Volumes 5 and 6

I think we’re slowly catching up to the Japanese release of this series since six volumes are out here now and there are nine Japanese volumes so far. This is still one of my favorite current shoujo series. Shinobi Life started out ok with the first couple volumes then really got much better with volume three and has continued to provide readers with a compelling romance story about time traveling ninjas.

Beni and Kagetora have decided to take it on the run and flee the toxic influence of her family. Beni is convinced that as long as they stay in the present they’ll be hounded by her father so she decides that she has to travel to the past with her personal ninja. Unfortunately as the couple fall into the time portal they get separated and end up in different eras. Beni sees Kagetora when she wakes up, but it is a younger 14 year old ninja in training instead of the adult ninja that she fell in love with. Kagetora keeps returning to the present and traveling to the past over and over again in an attempt to find Beni. Since the time portal to the past is located in a pocket of space that can only be reached by flinging yourself off a tall building, this takes a considerable amount of courage. Beni’s rejected fiance Rihito is beginning to figure out the mechanics of time travel, and suspects that the predictions of Beni’s mother came from time traveling to the future. Rihito is dealing with his own issues as he copes with pressure from his father.

I appreciated Conami’s attention to character design when the younger version of Kagetora appeared. His eyes are bigger, face rounder, and his body is less developed but he’s still recognizable as the younger version of the ninja that dropped out of the sky and into Beni’s life. While it is nice that Beni can see a different side of her favorite ninja, I spent most of these volumes very anxious about what might be happening to future Kagetora as he searches for Beni.

Beni’s journey to the past allows her to meet a younger version of Kagetora’s enemy Hitaki. The more innocent combative child is nothing like the ninja who has vowed to destroy Kagetora in the future. While Beni stays with Kagetora and his master in a training house, the rivalry between ninja clans might threaten the young ninjas in training as well as their guest from the future. Being confronted with a younger version of her boyfriend frustrates Beni, since she can’t reveal their future relationship to the young ninja. But Kagetora begins to drop his formal manners around Beni and starts to enjoy spending time with her. A big section of the volume focuses on Hitaki, showing details from his past and explaining why he’s so fiercely motivated to be the best. Out of all the main characters in Shinobi Life, so far each one is getting and individual backstory and motivations for their actions. Only the fathers of Beni and Rihito seem evil for the sake of being evil so far, and I’m guessing that Conami will explore their pasts and relationship with Beni’s mother as well. One of the reasons why I enjoy this series so much is that even though there’s plenty of fighting, time traveling, and ninja antics the larger focus is just on telling the individual stories of the cast that Conami has assembled. That’s why Shinobi Life doesn’t really seem stuck in a genre rut even though it relies on time travel to bring the different characters together.

Review copy of Volume 6 provided by the publisher.