Synopsis: Beginning with Kagetora’s kidnapping by fellow time-traveling ninja Hitaki for Beni’s arranged fiance Iwatsuru, volume three jumps right into the story. By bargaining to become Iwatsuru’s girl, Beni is able to save Kagetora from torture. Feigning happiness to protect Kagetora, Beni suffers in silence. Her self-doubts about Kagetora’s feelings for her, and a blunder by Kagetora himself, push Beni to believe that Kagetora really still loves his first princess, Beni-Hime.
Meanwhile Iwatsuru seeks Beni’s attention in order to discover for his father how Beni’s mother had the ability to predict the future. When Iwatsuru tries to force his affection on Beni, he despises himself and realizes that he has truly fallen for Beni, despite what his father desires.
Ashamed that he can’t protect her, and burning with jealousy at Iwatsuru’s affections towards Beni, Kagetora lashes at out Beni in anger when he discovers she has been protecting him all this time. Depressed and disheartened, Beni escapes her father’s confinement only to fall down a well on her own property. When Kagetora finds her, sparks ignite as the two act on what really lies in their hearts.
Review: Shoko Conami continues the journey of her star-crossed lovers in this third installment of the series. Filled with pages of high strung emotions, this volume focuses on Beni’s depth of feelings for Kagetora, and the complications from her newly announced engagement. The passionate sentiments displayed by Beni, Kagetora, and Iwatsuru reveal how their perceptions of each other have evolved. Beni wears her heart upon her sleeve, and even when confronted by Iwatsuru to love him, she points out that she can’t make her heart love him (especially when she already loves someone else!). Iwatsuru really wants Beni to be happy, and struggles with his own inability to provide that for her. Kagetora finally acts upon his rage and jealousy, showing Beni how he truly feels towards her. While some may be turned off by the soap-operatic feel of this series, others will be engrossed by the romance and angst at the heart of the story.
Though there are usually more action sequences in Shinobi Life, volume three focuses on character development using dialogue scenes. That may sound boring, but Conami pulls it off with her talent of expression. Key plot elements are revealed through these conversations, and the character dynamics play a large role in story development. Through her feathery drawings and fervent dialogue, emotions flow off the page so effortlessly that you can’t help but empathize with the main characters.
With such emotional content, the toning greatly impacts the mood of the scene. A strength of this particular series is that along with well chosen panels, contrasts in toning help focus in on the character actions and expressions. Add to that the attractive character designs, and the pages really are easy on the eyes.
A word of caution, though. Without previous knowledge from the first 2 volumes, readers will be lost trying to fathom the story starting at volume 3. The plot would be confusing not knowing the back story of Beni-Hime and Kagetora. Plus, the time traveling aspect would need to be better explained. Begin at volume one if this story piques your interest.
Romance Rating: Steamy – Heart-breaking sacrifice and intense kissing scenes spice up this volume. This time-traveling drama will captivate audiences that enjoy adventure along with an epic romance.
Media Status: Serialized in Princess magazine since 2006, Shinobi Life is being released by Tokyopop here in the states. Volume 3 was released November 10, 2009.