July 28, 2008
by: Adam Beck
The love-twisted master and servant heat up!
Manga Description: THREE’S NOT THE CHARM!
Yuki is the heir to the Toudou martial arts family, and Kagetora, the ninja assigned to teach and protect Yuki, is in love with her. Unfortunately, his honor forbids him to act on his feelings. Enter Kujou, a big clumsy guy who wants people to stop picking on him. He asks Kagetora to give him some lessons in self-defense, which will be no easy task. But when Kujou meets the beautiful Yuki, things really get tricky!
Includes special extras after the story!
Content: (This section may contain spoilers)
Do you remember my complaint that the last volume of Kagetora didn’t necessarily move further but went back in time, instead? Well thankfully, this volume takes place in the present time—or whatever present time is in the story—and focuses on Kagetora and his new apprentice. This is similar to the seventh volume of the series in the sense that the focus is mainly centered on an outside character that might have feelings for another character, but in this case, it switches to feelings towards the heroine of the story.
The new character, Kujou, gets involved right off the bat. There is also no formal introduction to the seventh volume other than Kagetora flinging around a couple guys who were trying to pick up Yuki. I actually liked that, getting straight into the action and acknowledging the new character without any wasted time. Having seen Kagetora’s ways, the ninja-otaku Kujou tracks down Kagetora and begs him to let him be his disciple. The 38th chapter is basically an introduction to Kujou and showing off how little he knows about martial arts and weaponry. His training is actually quite comical and he comes off as a goofball, but you can tell he is a dedicated individual; he isn’t going to give up on this so easily. And in the end, it seems that he is growing somewhat attached to Yuki as his emotions begin to run wild, getting flushed when he is near her and even saying she is “so cute” out loud.
Following this new adventure, the 39th chapter is a favorite chapter in this volume considering it involves some rather comical and compelling moments. First off, Kosuke—the monkey—never gets enough air time. He has shown up in the past for a couple chapters, but he has never really been a big central character. This time around he plays the role of Kujou’s master for the day as Kagetora goes off on call and his methods and comments are rather funny. He is also very deadly as for the first time—I believe it’s the first time—when he uses force to prove a point, and he is probably the strongest monkey ninja I’ve ever seen … but then again, I really haven’t seen too many monkey ninjas.
Training with the lovable Yuki brings him closer to her, but his progress quickly lost as he finds himself helpless when other guys throw him aside to get to Yuki. While Kujou may be big, he definitely has no fighting skills, so he’s not someone you can depend on when it comes to protecting something or someone. This only sparks his dedication to his work as he exerts himself forward even more. This is also about where I started to like Kujou. I never really liked him that much considering it seems like this is all a game to him, but now that he is ready and has something to work for, he goes all out. That is something you want in a character, not just some slacker looking to get better because he has an addiction to it.
The next chapter is properly titled “Secret Crush” for good reasons. This begins the intense training for both Kujou and fellow friends of Kagetora and Yuki. I was kind of wondering what happened to Aki and the others, as it has been quite some time they’ve shown their faces in the story. They, like many times before, only serve as filler characters to help Kujou train. Unfortunately, Kujou seems to be even weaker than the fellow classmates as he’s always the first one to fall. Still, his heart is pure, though this chapter does make me question if he is really trying, or just likes to be around Yuki. He continues to pursue the idea that he needs to be able to protect her, but all he ever does is want to accompany her wherever she attends. Again, while his heart may be in it, it seems like his actions don’t necessarily live up to his hype. Aki’s performance was actually one of the better ones of the chapter considering she is a lot stronger than most of the characters and speaks her mind. I’m kind of glad that she got involved as it gave Kujou a new hope for things.
I can’t say that I thoroughly enjoyed the 41st chapter only because there really isn’t all that much that goes on. There is one big moment in the entire chapter and that occurs at the end. The rest is mainly fillers that, while are somewhat necessary for Kujou to better confirm with himself his love for Yuki, doesn’t create a lot of fun. Having spent so much time with Yuki, Kujou finally gains enough courage to confess his love to Yuki, and in the way he does it is pretty well done as the atmosphere is perfect for the situation. I’m kind of disappointed about this chapter considering they could have easily done so much more with Yuki and Kujou, but the confession at the end is enough to add to the drama and tension between most of the characters.
At the completion of the ninth volume, we are treated to one of the most emotional moments thus far. Well, okay, maybe not that emotional in comparison to other manga out there, but it has to do with the love Kagetora holds close to his heart, and the answer to Kujou’s confession. Kagetora’s mind is all mixed up because his feelings towards Yuki and his job as an oyakume—to protect his master—have collided and made his life that much more complicated. I’m kind of happy that Kujou came along; at first I thought he was kind of a brat, but in the end, he helped Kagetora possibly overcome his feelings by giving him a little smack on the cheek.
It has been an interesting experience but it looks like the series is slowly wrapping up as there are only two volumes left to go. And with Kagetora’s final comments of the volume being “…I’m going to stop running away…” it looks like things are coming to a close quicker than I thought. This is a great progression into the series after the last volume which was almost entirely backtracking. With action, romance and even comedy, Kagetora has found a place in my heart as a fantastic experience.
Artwork: The artwork in Kagetora is pretty damn good. My only concern is some of the environmental work such as trees in the hot springs and in the rain in the 41st chapter. These tress are very rough and don’t resemble the rest of the volume. Environments, for the most part, are done extremely well. From drops hitting the detailed panels of a roof, the rushing waters of a stream, everything looks fantastic. Sadly, there really isn’t a lot of variety when it comes down to background work. There are definitely some nice sceneries such as Kagetora’s training grounds and the festival Yuki and Kujou go to, but there really isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Most of the time we are spent cramped in the house and training centre of Yuki with only brief moments when things go elsewhere. Character models are done very well, but don’t expect a lot of realism when it comes to faces. Almost every character seems to have perfect skin as you can’t see a wrinkle on any of the characters. Clothing also has a lot of detail to it making it very lively. But what sets this apart for most manga titles is the amount of detail seen at a distance. What I mean is most environments and characters are usually toned down when the panel is viewing them at a distance. In Kagetora this is rarely the case as you can see a lot of detail for every piece of content in the novel. This includes the obvious eyes and motions. Kagetora has some wonderful visuals that, while don’t have a lot of variety, do a great job establishing the story.
Translation: The English-translation is absolutely phenomenal. Del Rey has done a perfect job immersing the content in detailed and wonderfully written dialogue. Even more, there are no apparent translation issues, whether it is errors in the dialogue, empty bubbles or untranslated sound effects, everything is perfect. The only things that aren’t translated, and really it isn’t much of a deal are signs on some buildings – more specifically on page 129. Other than that, this is a perfect, immersive experience. Sound effects are presented in the original Japanese form and translated into English nearby.
As for extras, there is a bonus page from Akira Segami who better details Ninjas, travelling, and weapons. After this we are treated to six comical short strips, special thanks from everyone who worked on the project, in-depth translation notes, and a translated preview into the next volume, which looks way too compelling to pass up.
The Bottom Line: Kagetora is a great franchise and volume 11 only continues its fantastic glory. The story is heating up with Kagetora finally no longer running away from his feelings. Kagetora involves some very interesting characters, an intriguing storyline a wonderful English-translation by Del Rey. Packaged with beautiful visuals, this is a story to remember for ages. Go, pick it up, and enjoy.