*Tail of the Moon Book 9 — Recommended

Review by Ed Sizemore

Usagi is a female ninja in training. She is undercover in Kyoto when her true identity is discovered. Her finance and fellow ninja, Hanzo, rescues her and takes her to his safe house in the city. Ranmaru, a retainer for the local lord, is scouring the city to find the ninja spies and restore his honor. Usagi must stay hidden in the house while Hanzo continues their information-gathering mission. She stays busy trying to create a medicine that will help improve the failing eyesight of Mitsuhide, a newfound ally.

Tail of the Moon Book 9 cover
Tail of the Moon Book 9
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I was surprisingly impressed with the writing in this manga. First, even though this is volume nine of the series, the book was accessible to a new reader like myself. You can tell that you’re coming into a story already in progress, but you never feel lost because of what you’ve missed. Any information needed from the previous volumes is introduced within the narrative flow. Of course, this also works well for faithful readers of the series. You don’t have to worry about memorizing every detail of the story in order to understand each new volume. (A couple of American comic companies could take lessons from this writer.)

Second, there is a lot of back story revealed in this book, but you never feel overwhelmed by what you’re learning. In fact, I didn’t realize how much had been communicated until I thought back over the book for this review. Suddenly, I found out I knew a lot about Usagi, her relationship with Hanzo, and even her relationship with an old friend who shows up at the end of the book. The author, Ueda, does a wonderful job of delivering little bits of information throughout the narrative, instead of flooding the reader with pages of back story all at once. (Did I mention, some superhero comic writers might want to use this book as a study guide?)

Third, Ueda has created a great cast of characters. They’re all likable people, and you quickly empathize with them. Hanzo is a serious, slightly older man who has mastered the ninjutsu disciplines. He’s focused on their mission but makes sure to spent time with Usagi. His maturity helps him to properly balance the competing responsibilities he has. Usagi constantly learns from the example he unconsciously sets.

Usagi is the perfect shojo heroine. She is a teen girl deeply in love with Hanzo who finds her emotions occasionally get the better of her. Sometimes she is so happy to be reunited with Hanzo that she forgets the seriousness of the situation they’re now in. She struggles with self-doubt and is still discovering new things about herself. She’s full of energy and throws herself whole-hearted into her work. She keeps the mood positive throughout the book.

The artwork is the only slight disappointment I have. It’s generic shojo art. The characters and backgrounds are well drawn, but there’s nothing distinctive about Ueda’s artwork. Of the ‘house’ styles, I tend to like shojo the most, so the art being average didn’t bother me greatly.

Another nice feature in this book is the extras at the beginning of most chapters. Japanese readers have written in requesting to see various characters dressed up in different costumes or clothing styles. There is a marvelous sense of humor to the art. I love the way it shows how Ueda and her characters really connect with the readers. There is also usually a piece of trivia on the chapter title page. These are useless bits of random information that are nonetheless fun to read. I enjoy this book so much I’ve put the series on my ‘things to read next’ list. (A list that is slowly becoming its own book in length.) Ueda has captured my imagination and I’m interested to see what I’ve missed and what’s coming up next. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a good historical romance with generous doses of adventure and political intrigue.

(The publisher provided a complimentary copy of the book for this review.)

10 Comments

  1. [...] on DVD. Johanna Draper Carlson checks out vol. 1 of Honey and Clover and Ed Sizemore recommends vol. 9 of Tail of the Moon at Comics Worth Reading. Michelle enjoys vol. 3 of Nana at Soliloquy in Blue. Mely’s inner [...]

  2. The preview of Tale of the Moon featured Shojo Beat didn’t impress me much. It seemed to have a haphazard storyline and I hesitated to start collecting it. I was a big fan of Ueda’s From Far Away, and your review makes me think I should have given this series more of a chance.

  3. Kevin Lighton

    Dawn: From Far Away was by Kyoko Hikawa, not Rinko Ueda.

  4. Ed Sizemore

    Dawn, I can’t speak for earlier volumes, but this one has a very focused storyline. It wouldn’t suprise me if the first volume of the series lacked focus while the artist was refining the characters and the setting. I’ve seen that in other series.

    Kevin, thanks for the correction.

  5. How stupid of me! Thanks for pointing that out, Kevin.

    Good point, Ed. You make Tail of the Moon sound very inviting, either way.

  6. [...] with the previous volume I reviewed, I found this book to be accessible to new readers and a delight to read. My favorite part of book [...]

  7. [...] any possible spoilers to a minimum, I won’t give a summary. I’ve previously reviewed two other volumes of this series if you’d like to learn more. Tail of the Moon Book 12Buy this [...]

  8. [...] era of Japan doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy. Johanna asked if I wanted to review volume nine, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least read it and see what happens. Boy, was I surprised! [...]

  9. i love this book but i can’t find tale of the moon vl 9

  10. Ed Sizemore

    Dane,

    It’s still in print. You can order from Amazon following the link provided in the review, or have any local bookstore order for you. Just because it’s not on the shelf doesn’t mean they can’t get it.

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