by Rinko Ueda; adaptation by Tetsuichiro Miyaki
published by Viz; $8.99 US
The premise of this new series is one of those “only in manga” ideas — Usagi’s grandfather runs a ninja village, but she’s clumsy and untalented. Since she can’t carry on the family tradition, her only use is to be given to the leader of another ninja village to bear babies for him — but it’s executed with enough skill to keep me reading, even while I’m thinking “this is such cheese”.
I knew what was coming even before it got there. For example, Usagi gets herself in trouble while traveling. A gorgeous mysterious stranger saves her, and she falls in lust with him. Of course it turns out to be the guy she’s being sent to marry.
Usagi is self-centered, impulsive, shallow, and thoughtless to the point of causing harm to others. I found it hard to consider her the heroine (perhaps I should just stick with “protagonist”) because I kept getting the feeling that we were supposed to find her cute and charming in spite of it all and to root for her to get the guy she wanted (and fate had destined for her). I didn’t think that. At times, I wanted her to go ahead and get killed or maimed because of her inexperience, even though those around her loved her for her innate cheerfulness and later, her unexpected ability to make medicine.
This is not a book to think too much about. I wanted to know, for example, just who Mamezo was. He looks like a little boy, but he’s much more accomplished than Usagi is, and he has a tail tied on with a belt for some unexplained reason. Is he her brother? Some other relative? A random orphan? Her servant? A sprite?
Just how many ninja villages and clans were there, anyway? This story makes it seem like there’s one under every bush.
If you’re going to send a 15-year-old off to be a brood mare, shouldn’t you make sure she has some idea of the facts of life first?
Once the beautiful, accomplished, mean rival for the role of wife shows up, it becomes clear what this is: it’s a Harlequin romance with a really unusual choice of setting. It doesn’t matter that Usagi has no redeeming qualities; she’s going to win the guy just by virtue of being herself. The plot point of being forced into intimacy with a handsome stranger is common to those types of stories, with some outside family or contractual force providing the glue keeping the couple together until they want to be that way on their own. The story is pure escapism, an excuse for girls to live vicariously and dream of love with gorgeous men.