Shinobi Yoru Koi Wa Kusemono by So Kirishima

Shinobi Yoru Koi Wa Kusemono (roughly translated as “love come secretly”) is another favorite that recently finished at 5 volumes. Sadly, there is no North American license so this remains unavailable in English. The artwork here is beautiful – intricate and clean with a lovely pseudo historical feel. The story itself is fairly straightforward but rewarding more for its nuanced two male leads rather than the somewhat simple female protagonist. There is a bit of a love triangle but author Kirishima wisely doesn’t over play it and instead concentrates on creating interesting a nice slow burn of a romance amidst the ninja action.

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Story: Kanade was raised as a shinobi – a secret bodyguard to her beloved childhood companion, the lonely and quiet Keigo Toujo. When Keigo comes of age to attend a prestigious finishing school, Kanade goes with him, though dressed as a boy in order to be able to attend the all-boys school. At the school is Keigo’s ancestral rival – Eishi Toyoda. The two boys respect each other but there is always the undercurrent that Keigo will have to assassinate Eishi if the Toujos are to finally come out from under Toyoda thumb. In the middle of the two boys is Kanade – torn between introspective and subtle Keigo and outgoing/laid back Eishi. Keigo doesn’t want to lose the only thing that he ever felt truly belonged to him – Kanade – to Eishi. And Eishi wants to live a more normal life – without ninja assassination attempts. The two boys will be pushed and pulled by their families as they fight to survive and make their own way in the world. And both will try their hardest to convince Kanade to choose one over the other.

A great part of whether this type of story will work for me is if I like and respect the male leads. In this case, we have two very different boys, each obsessed with Kanade for different reasons. Eishi is laid back but also serious – he’s not a fluffy idiot and Kirishima gives him surprising depths. Keigo, on the other hand, bears the psychological scars of a childhood tormented by elders obsessed with advancing the family’s fortunes. Keigo can look on with growing amusement at Eishi’s infatuation and then obsession with Kanade – and then suddenly realize in desperation that Kanade may just return Eishi’s feelings and he may lose her.

As a main character, Kanade is pretty much a foil for both boys. She’s simple, straightforward, but intensely loyal. Her coming realization over the course of several volumes that Eishi’s laid back personality is hiding a will of steel is rewarding. Similarly, the silent and strong Keigo slowly crumbles as his absolute hold on Kanade slowly deteriorates with Eishi’s orbit. Both boys want to be friends but also have to deal with the years of conditioning that they will some day have to eliminate the other in order to survive.

The artwork is incredibly rewarding – clean lines and panels and the needed pathos. Keigo’s undercurrents are especially beautifully illustrated – a complex mix of emotions when forced to evaluate Kanade. Eishi also is fun – his carefree attitude hiding a man carefully raised to be the next head of a huge empire.

There are plenty of assassination attempts and action interspersed with the gentle romance of Eishi and Kanade. I greatly enjoy slow-burn type of romances and this was an especially rewarding one.

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