Having an anime with the story set in a high-school isn’t a new thing by any means.
Quite the contrary, actually, as the high-school setting is kind of the norm in anime as a medium. There’s just something about secondary education that just appeals to the Japanese, I guess.
Well, in any case, it’s pretty much rampant at present time, so what do a lot of stories do?
They spice it up, of course, combining other concepts in order to freshen up the stale concept of school as much as possible. Of course, that doesn’t always work (looking at you ASTERISK WAR, MAHOUKA, & CLASSROOM CRISIS), but sometimes the combination of genres actually work to a degree if done correctly (good example being Hyouka).
Today we’re looking at yet ANOTHER high-school story, but this time, we’re mixing it up with some ninjas, assassinations, edgy backstories, and a whole lot more.
What’s up everyone! Ken here, from thebuttonsmashers.com Anime&Manga Reviews, and without further ado, let’s head straight into the shuriken-throwing, shadow-sneaking, schoolgirl escapade known as: Shuriken & Pleats.
Story & Characters:
Shuriken and Pleats follows the story of Mikage, a young female ninja who is eternally dedicated to her master, James G. Rod, who hired her as his personal guard. Despite that, however, eventually James is killed, and according to his will, he leaves Mikage with a large sum of money to be able to live a normal life in Japan like she had always wanted to. In Japan, Mikage hopes to enjoy the life James had planned for her. Mikage enrolls in high school, where she finds other teenagers, especially Kotaro Suzuki, to be curious.
Soon, however, Mikage is drawn into the machinations of a powerful family, after she saves a man named Mahito Wakashimatsu. And, before she realizes it, her past as a ninja catches up to her again…
Now the plot may seem very interesting, and to its credit it is quite a nice and unique hook, but as I read on, I realized that this manga has a surprisingly odd pace for a premise as action-oriented as this.
Apparently, Shuriken & Pleats is supposed to be a one-volume manga, and that is heavily apparent in the first volume, as an abundance of backstories, flashbacks, plot threads, and plot twists are all stuffed into it, which makes the whole thing seem very rushed. Sure, it offered tons of action, but also did have its slower, more exposition based moments.
This is essentially the biggest gripe I have with the manga: its pacing. The whole thing seemed super-duper rushed, but then you have these jarringly slow bits of dialogue and info-dumping that just halts the whole fast-paced tone of the series into a crawling halt, and that really brings me out of immersion. In fact, there were times when I thought that the story was racing to its conclusion because it was a single-volume manga, but also times where I figured it would have more chapters because of how much build-up the story is creating. If a series is too fast, it’ll be too difficult to keep up (this isn’t as big of a problem for manga, though), however if a series is too slow, it’ll be difficult to maintain both focus and interest, and that’s basically my beef with this manga series.
Now, on to the good bits.
Shuriken and Pleats Volume 1 definitely has plenty of action involving ninjas (and who doesn’t like that) and also lots of intrigue in terms of the plot. The fact that it’s not just moving from story point to story point is also another factor in my enjoyment of this series. It doesn’t follow the traditional “point A –> point B”-type of storytelling: it goes from point A to point D to point F to point R then BACK to point A then to point C. And the best part is that everything is tied into each other and each event has a meaning that supports the story as a whole. Just the whole convoluted-ness of the chain of events draws you in and keeps you turning the pages in order to find out what happens next, despite pacing problems. It keeps up a nice degree of intrigue in order to hold on to your attention for at least one more page.
And then, before you know it, you’re turning another page.
And another page.
And another page.
And another page.
Alrighty moving on, enough with the memes.
Characters ranged from interesting to generic cut-outs.
Fortunately, our main protagonist Mikage is on the interesting side of things. Initially, one would view her as a stereotypical “strong, silent, and emotionless” character, someone who locks away her feelings because it is “the way of the ninja”. However, what I love about this is that we actually see her growth and how she opens up to her emotions. We sympathize with her development knowing that she learns how her emotions are important and how she copes with them initially considering that she was brought up to be an emotionless doll. My complaint would definitely be that her development was a bit rushed and was mainly from flashbacks no less, but it was still something impressive seeing how such growth can be fit into such little space.
Another thing that the series does well is its shroud of mystery over several of the characters, making the reader wonder whether any particular is a friend or foe. This is something that not a lot of stories pull off effectively, so I’m glad that they put it, for a ninja-manga no less. Too bad that those “mysteries” won’t be solved in a satisfying manner seeing as the second volume will be nothing more than an epilogue, but hey, c’est la vie.
I’m not exactly sure why this was made to be a one-volume series (with the second volume being released as a sort of epilogue), considering that there are still plenty of story and character development that could’ve been brought to life (especially between Mikage and Kotaro), but for the characters that we got, it’s not all that bad.
The art is noticeably lacking, with lots of white space and no tone or shading in many panels. The lack of detail was so heavily apparent in some of the panels, that you would think that a scene was taking place at an empty room or something. In terms of character designs; with a few exceptions, nothing really stood out for me and everything felt fairly generic.
Also the sketchy art, which doesn’t demonstrate any feelings of the characters, made a lot of the content feel remote and unaffecting, greatly impacting the effects of any particular scene.
So, all in all, what did I think of this manga?
It’s actually quite an engaging read.
The premise was nice and the actual format that the story used was a breath of fresh air from the norm we see in a lot of anime and manga plots. It construes 2 different plot-points seamlessly into one cohesive story.
In addition, the characters for the most part were great and were interesting enough to warrant our attention, and there was enough action to go around to warrant it being in the action genre, so there’s that.
Not bad for a one-volume manga.
Sadly, that in and of itself is why this could’ve so much better.
By the end of this volume, I felt as though twice as much should have happened as it did. The potential is definitely there, it’s just saddening that it had to be severely limited like this to the point where it can’t even be used to it’s fullest. This makes the overall pace feel either unfinished or rushed. They also could’ve expanded on the school-life genre a bit more, considering it’s a vital part of the story, and a lot of character relationships could’ve been polished more if, again, we had more volumes/chapters/whatever.
All in all, for what we got, it was an engaging story with unique characters sadly set in a finite span of time that could’ve been expanded more on given the opportunity to.
Hopefully this isn’t the last we’ll see of this series, and if it is, well, it was definitely fun while it lasted.
If this review has piqued your interest in the manga, then you can pick up either a physical copy from your local bookstore or a digital copy from Viz Media’s website. You can download their digital app and legally read manga with official translations on the go wherever you are.
As per usual, leave a comment down below pertaining to your thoughts on this review, on the manga itself, or if you would like me to review anything. And, speaking of liking, give the review a thumbs-up if you enjoyed it and follow me on twitter @tbs_ken for updates and general shitposting, if you feel like doing so.