Reiri was a manga brought to my attention by a friend. And it immediately caught my attention for few reasons. For one, the story was by Iwaaki Hitoshi of Parasyte and Historie fame, which I had enjoyed. It also happened to be set in the Sengoku Jidai. The Sengoku Jidai was one of the most turbulent periods in Japanese history, firing the popular imagination through the exploits of several interesting historical figures. This period was equally known for the social events and philosophical ideas which have had and continue to have an impact on modern Japan. Last but not least, it followed the Takeda clan. Takeda Shingen is quite possibly my favorite figure from that period. So, I was sufficiently invested in checking out this series. In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to breakdown the work and keep the spoilers as less as possible
The story is set in the aftermath of the Nagashino war, which saw the preeminent position of the Takeda undermined by the allied forces of Nobunaga. There is however hope for the Takeda in the grandson of Shingen, who has been likened to Shingen himself. Thus, confidence is still strong in the future of the Takeda, who are looking to claw their way back to the top.
Onto Reiri, our protagonist. Reiri is a woman trying to find meaning in her life following the disruption of her normal life due to the ravages of war. She finds no happiness in staying alive and has an almost nihilistic approach towards everything. She navigates her way in these chaotic times to find purpose in life. Throw Reiri into the Takeda, and you have the seeds for a really interesting series.
One of the strong points of the series is the presence of Reiri herself. A strong independent character, functioning akin to Oscar from Rose of Versailles, as a window to that time period. Through her inclusion, we are able to see these historical figures in a new light, interacting and being influenced by Reiri, with Reiri often serving as a sounding board to several interesting ideas.
Reiri also has a strong sense of agency and is willing to follow through on her convictions, even if it might be seen as going against her betters. It is this quality of her which enables her to grow as an individual and form her own beliefs, equipping her to navigate the various challenges of life better. The supporting cast is sufficiently fleshed out to make these interactions with Reiri not feel hollow. The big personalities of their days feel like how they were represented in history, with a change here and there to keep them fresh and fun to follow. The art does a decent job in conveying the emotional state of the characters with the background being fairly well detailed.
The work however is like any other historical fiction series, in the sense that while Reiri is charismatic enough, she is ultimately limited in what she can do, as it would affect history otherwise. The plot itself often feels like a listing of series of events that took place, thus taking away from the immersion in the work. This is definitely one series which would have benefited from a longer runtime, enabling it to explore and expand on a lot of ideas introduced in the series. I would have also enjoyed if there were more conflicts raised due to her gender itself. There were allusions to the fact that her being a woman would prove a hindrance in the battlefield. But it was never sufficiently explored, which is a lost opportunity sadly
That being said, I still enjoyed my read, finishing the entire thing in one sitting. It is still worth the time for people wishing to read an engaging historical fiction series. Having seen Kagemusha, the work does seem like a natural continuation of it, showing certain characters in an almost sympathetic light vs the movie. But if looking for something more in manga, Hyouge Mono is the work to check out.
Final rating: 6/10