Having only read the last volume of this series, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be an easy read because it involved none of the characters from the series, or a difficult one because it involved all of the characters and constant foreshadowing.  It turns out that this book is mostly the former.  I don’t know enough about Tail of the Moon to know if any of the four likely candidates from this book make appearances in the regular series, or how this book is related timeline-wise to the other one (Are these someone’s parents?  Does Tail of the Moon pick up at the wedding celebration of these two?).  Also, again, both this and Tail of the Moon have a lot to do with Japanese history, and while the history is footnoted in the back, it’s not the same as going in with some knowledge of the historical background these people are working against.  Hm.

But as a one-shot story, it’s okay.  The main character, Kaguya, goes from an amnesiac working at a brothel as help (because the scar on her back makes her an ineligible prostitute) to a ninja princess hired to assassinate a feudal lord.  There’s a love story involved, two guys fighting over the same girl, a poorly timed wedding, and some ninja action.

I don’t really have that much to say about it.  The romance is fairly cute, but it’s kind of superficial since both characters are guilty of “true love at first sight.”  There are complications, but they aren’t really in any danger of breaking up.  The rivalry between the two Hattori Hanzou was kind of interesting, especially in reference to their relationships with Kaguya, but… yeah.  Not a whole lot to sink my teeth into, and I felt lost the entire time because I felt like I was missing out on both the Tail of the Moon references and the history references.

It’s actually kind of a nice one-shot if you’re familiar with the series, but it seems like it might be easier to start with volume one of Tail of the Moon and pick this up afterwards.  And for what it’s worth, it sounds like Rinko Ueda wrote this volume before the rest of Tail of the Moon… but I think volume one is still the better starting point.  Probably.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Tail of the Moon 15

February 20, 2009

I grabbed this one at random from my stack because I’d heard that Rinko Ueda was a fun and light read.  She is, and I was pretty happy with this volume, even after it had so much stacked against it.

I was a little disappointed after I realized this was the last volume in the series, because it’s a bit harder to follow the end of a series when it tries to wrap everything up than it is to just jump in the middle of something.  I was doubly put off by the fact that this is a historical romance with a lot of figures from Japanese history.  I tend to dislike stories like this because I always feel like I’m missing something by knowing zilch about the subject matter.  Also, it’s always just hard to jump into a series this far in.

But it was fun.  After reading the plot summary and firmly establishing in my head that the main couple was Usagi and Hanzo, I just followed along as the series played out its end in action, betrayal, war, and revenge.  I knew none of the characters, but some of the romances in play were pretty sweet in their way, and everyone’s fondness for the main character also made it somewhat easy to follow what was going on for some reason.

I especially liked the fact it included a “several years later” story in the back following one of the young characters from the main series.  I always love it when stories do this, especially longer ones, because it’s just fun to see how everyone lives their peaceful lives in the end.  Even if you don’t know who anyone is.

It also occurred to me that this is probably the only manga I’ve read with ninja (ninjas?) in it.  I was thinking about it, and I could come up with no other series I have with ninja, which I thought was just bizarre.  I thought maybe it was because I avoided historical-type manga, but I own several samurai stories, and all the other historical manga I could think of, even from Dark Horse, had samurai and not ninja.  Maybe Shadow Star is about ninja?  Maybe I’m thinking too hard about this, though.  Maybe there’s something big I’m forgetting.  Maybe it’s something everyone else reads and not me, something insanely popular I’m just missing the boat on completely.

Honestly, I’m not going to go back and pick up the early volumes of this series, and there are far better things to read.  But it is really fun and addictive, and I have a feeling I would have gone back for the whole thing had I started with an earlier volume.  If you happen across it, give it a try if you’re looking for a light read.  It’s definitely not hard to get into, even with all the history, which is copiously footnoted in the back, something I thought was nice.  It’s probably especially good for kids, and even in the last volume in the midst of war, the violence was pretty light (there was one death, but it was not a bloody death).  If you’re as old as I am, you’ll hate yourself a little bit for liking it, but I can imagine young girls eating it up.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.