Based on a novel by Wada Ryou, "Shinobi no kuni" brings a story that blends history and fiction as it shows the struggles happening during the 16th century in Iga, a region famous by the Iga Shinobi, the ninjas from Iga.
A 7 to 10 series. It’s very entertaining, has a “strong MC” and a memorable art style, contains a lot of humor and no less gore, though its ending is rushed and some developments are, maybe, suboptimal… But, well, let’s not rush the review at least.
It’s necessary to give praise where it’s due, especially since this can be a decisive moment for many readers. The main character of this manga is ungodly badass, he’s just like… the design, the movement, the battle prowess, the laid-back personality when not murderous – he has it all. And he is fun – he has a lot of comedy
moments too. Truly a character to remember and love. (By the way, he is not the one we follow in the first chapter, so stick with the story for a bit.) The interesting moment is that I don’t think he is completely self-insert…
Eh, why’s that, since it’s practically the tradition? Well, the important thing to remember while reading Shinobi no Kuni is that the characters don’t think like you and me. The author went for the alien historical mentality. You need to pay attention to the characters’ backgrounds and upbringing and follow their reasoning, though you may not agree. Maybe it’s because this is based on a novel. It’s a good move in most cases, but I think that the author has not always succeeded. No, the variety and the scope of the cast is impressive, and it consists of memorable figures, but the narrative is a bit unpolished. There’re a lot of moments when you are not sure the story is serious and many plottwists rely on either the “we predicted it all” kind of scheming or on the actions of somewhat hysterical characters (combined with the alien reasoning it makes the motivations untransparent sometimes). On the other hand, the plot delivers a lot of powerful scenes, and it is engaging almost all the time. In short – treat is more as a fun adventure story than a serious historical drama.
Which may not be obvious from the start, cause the manga focuses on the question of humanity. Being a bit rough, as I’ve mentioned, the story both has interesting thoughts on the matter and doesn’t understand some of its own strengths. But, mind it, I mean it in the rough gem sense and compare it to the almost flawless masterpieces it had chances to join, this is in no way a bad series. I can’t discuss the plot in details without spoiling, but, schematically, it looks like this: At first we get a black and white picture from one POV. During the course of the manga a more complex question is tackled and the very flow of the story touches upon other aspects and allows for grey undertones. A twist in the middle has the potential to make it a beautiful clash of views. But in the end it all falls back to the black and white pov. Actually I am not sure, maybe such matters are black and white, but up until recently I’ve considered matters of loyalty and betrayal a complex matter, also I don’t think that calling people monsters work, well, at least when you talk about a certain, say, nation. In the end they are people, at least potentially. It’s also a big question whether children should answer for their fathers. It’s all somewhat lost for the ending of this manga, though it is present in the body. And the trope of leaving your nemesis for later got to my nerves a bit. Still some twists were interesting, and quite a few less beaten topics were touched. It’s just that I can’t help but think that the story was a bit more complex than its own conclusions.
Ah, and, of course the art. It has this brushy warm feeling to it (the MC is the brushiest of them all, yeah). Sometimes this style makes understanding what’s happening difficult, but only rarely, for the most part it is comprehendible, pretty and spectacular. Reading for the sake of the art is totally an option. The covers are simply to die for.
In the end, I recommend picking it up. The problems I’ve mentioned (more for the sake of summing my impressions, of course) are very high-level and didn’t stop me from binge-reading this manga in the course of one night. I had a lot of fun and will remember it’s main cast for sure. If you can put up with a small volume and the rushed ending (the last two chapters), you can very well enjoy it for the setting, the art, the protagonist, the engaging plot, the darker humor or the epic fights. Though I’d recommend it for the readers not looking for an ideal masterpiece, but those with the skill and the mood to ease away from the flaws and enjoy the potential.
A simple & wonderful story that was executed to perfection.
A story based on the legendary Iga ninjas with Mumon, the best ninja in the village as the protagonist. Mumon is a man who only cares about himself, as long as you don't interfere with his life or anyone & anything in his life then he will not bother you. This simple story takes on the eternal theme of morality, what is wrong? who decides what's right? Why can't I decide what's right? etc.. The story use characters to portray the different opinions of this theme.
Art is very good, Story is simple yet very complex
but thankfully its not bombarded with the philosophical stuff so it doesn't bore you and the characters are excellent and was used very well to present the story's plot & theme. It's very dark & thought provoking whilst funny & action packed.
TYPE A series with a rating of 10/10.
Note: Only downside is that its 22 chapters.
Shinobi no Kuni is an epic read following traditional good and bad guys, where Shimoyama Heibe is seen as the voice of morality in the book and Mumon, the badass Shinobi ninja, is seen as the ultimate killer. And so we view the battle of Murayama and the battle of Iga from both their perspectives with much killing, bloodshed, back-stabbings and violence.
I liked the story. It had a lot to do with ethics which is something so very rare in Manga; deserving the author a definite nod of respect and approval for pushing those boundaries so seldom pushed. In all its complexities there is
still a healthy dose of gore that brings the book down from the boring-ethics-lifestyle-and-more-boredom-bookshelf and adds a, strangely enough, more realistic twist on things. Its stellar quality remains untarnished in the series until its suspenseful ending.
The art was a tasteful display of style and detail that ALL readers will notice and appreciate. I think it's absolutely incredible that the Manga finished without the illustrator becoming sloppy; the characters’ personalities and actions were definitely enhanced and magnified by the illustrator's style of drawing. Even though the images lacked proportion (SIGH) but let's forgive the illustrator, dear readers, because I think the overall impact of the Manga was powerful even without proportion.
The characters were solid with their idiosyncrasies and characteristics, they attract your interest and make you develop a kind of bond with them like they're not only characters in a Manga but people you KNOW. You can connect with them and can imagine yourself thinking the same way had you been in their shoes.
Now that we have concluded that the characters were remarkable, the next step is...
The finale, which is would I recommend this?
Yes, I would. Definitely a good read and ultimately, a twisty plot to remember, so get your ethically-arid brains pumping with some politics and gore by reading what could be your undiscovered favourite Manga.