Shuriken and Pleats Vol. 1

illus. by Matsuri Hino. 192p. Viz Media. Mar. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421585253.
Gr 7 Up—In the first installment of this beautifully illustrated manga series, readers meet Mikage Kirio, a seemingly ordinary teenage girl who is a ruthless ninja assassin. Her name means "beautiful shadow," and she has never known life outside of the Shadow Village Company, a private ninja training academy and service for hire. Mikage has been chosen as a personal bodyguard by Mr. Rod, an international humanitarian businessman intent on ending world hunger. Taught from a young age that ninjas should be "shadows" who never show emotion, she struggles to maintain this mandated stoicism when she forms an emotional bond with Mr. Rod. Her infatuation soon begins to interfere with her effectiveness as a bodyguard and results in Mr. Rod being killed during an attack by enemy ninjas. Despondent, Mikage is able to find hope when her boss at the Shadow Village Company tells her that Mr. Rod has left her a lifetime's worth of wages so that she can leave the ninja lifestyle. This first installment foreshadows the challenges that Mikage will face for the rest of the series as she tries to live her life as a typical teenager while resisting her roots. This is a quirky tale that juxtaposes adolescent teenage emotions with harrowing crusades. The cunning and powerful heroine is a refreshing departure from the typically male-dominated narratives of the ninja world.
VERDICT Fans of the author's "Vampire Knight" series will quickly be gearing up for this adventure.

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