Tail of the Moon Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 8.99
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 1421507641
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tail of the Moon Vol. #01

By Patricia Beard     April 16, 2007
Release Date: October 03, 2006

Tail of the Moon Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Rinko Ueda
Translated by:Tetsuichiro Miyaki
Adapted by:Tetsuichiro Miyaki

What They Say
Usagi is the granddaughter of the leader of a prestigious ninja village, but she's such a klutz she's never made it out of the kiddie class. Frustrated with Usagi's lack of progress, her grandfather sends her to marry a local lord and have lots of ninja babies. But the lord has no interest in her or her childbearing potential!

The Review
Lord Hanzo is not the only person that Usagi needs to impress - she needs to win over the reader!

The cover is done in primary colors and shows Hanzo embracing Usagi. The back cover has Hanzo in thoughtful repose. The print quality is good with only the former color pages looking dark and muddy. A glossary of terms relating to the ninja and their place in Japanese history and culture is provided.

Ueda's art is accomplished and looks deceptively simple. She does not depend on surface patterning of the page to provide the visual energy that often substitutes for character movement. Her characters display a variety of physical poses and attitudes that translate well into a visual shorthand for movement. Panel placement and panel variety reflect the right level of energy - not static, not frenetic.

Ueda has an extensive repertoire of expressions and attitudes for her characters. Her wistful and dreamy looks (especially in profile), as well as expressions of disdain and disinterest, are very effective and distinctive of her style. However, while I wasn't having any trouble distinguishing characters, I did want to see more originality. I did get the impression that I was looking at variations of stock types. Her forms are proportioned and balanced with surface pattern that is visually enriching and backgrounds that provide a sense of place without overburdening the page.

SFX are done by substitution with no adverse effects on the artwork. There are no obvious errors and this reads well for the most part.

Contents: (may contain spoilers)
Usagi of the South Iga clan is not just a klutz. She's lazy, sloppy, disinterested, and still not qualified as a ninja at 15 years of age. Her skill level is that of the youngest aspirants. It is this Usagi that is sent by her great-grandfather, Momochi Tanba, to Seguchi to marry Hattori Hanzo and bear his child.

The first half of this volume emphasizes the character of Usagi. Ueda sensei does not hold back on desultory depiction. The reader sees that from her cruel attempts at humor at the expense of Mamezo (her loyal, earnest and hardworking little companion) to her indolence and near slovenliness, Usagi is not the usual shoujo heroine. There's not a lot to like about Usagi at this point. She may be cheerful, but all she has going for her is the determination to win Hanzo.

The plot requires that Usagi remain close to Hanzo after his marriage rejection, so Usagi is conveniently allowed to stay in Seguchi until she qualifies as a ninja. (She intends to milk this situation to the fullest, but finds that she has one year to qualify or she's out.) Complicating her plan to win over Hanzo is Yuri Fujibayashi, a rival contender for Hanzo's attention. Yuri is beautiful and accomplished, scheming and underhanded, yet fares no better than Usagi in winning Hanzo over to marriage. In another convenient circumstance, it is discovered that Yuri is not a qualified ninja either, and it is arranged that Yuri remain in Seguchi until she gains her qualification.

Usagi's life in Seguchi consists of household chores (that she avoids) and ninja skills practice (with the babies!). Through cancellation of the water spider class due to the elder's cold, it becomes known that Usagi has skills as an herbalist, a traditional ninja occupation. This earns her the respect of the village and a request for her services from Hanzo, who tells Usagi that she has taught him that everyone has at least one redeeming quality.

It is the recognition of Usagi's skill as an herbalist that initiates the change in how she is perceived by the Seguchi community and by the reader. It also motivates much of the rest of the storyline. Usagi gets into all sorts of trouble when she goes out to sell medicine, and her misadventures introduce her to a possible reason that Hanzo will not consider marriage. She also gets a chance to show that she understands people in need and even convinces Hanzo to provide support to a needy individual after he originally declined to provide it.

If the reader can disregard initial feelings about Usagi (along with misgivings about what is motivating concern about her on Hanzo's part), and ignore a few "convenient" plot devices, Tail of the Moon is a light, decently paced, fun read. (However, it can be cheesy. Consider this dialog spoken by Kami no Hanzou - "Sara is Oda Nobunaga's daughter, and an elite ninja. And she's my girlfriend!" Shudder.) There is lots of physical comedy that is well executed and the story does not fail to elaborate into a more complicated narrative once Usagi gains some significance and empathy. And there is the fanservice in the form of cute guys, not an inconsiderable bonus.

First impressions of a character are important. It is in the introduction that the reader finds those points of empathy or identification that invite further reading. The Usagi to whom we are introduced has no redeemable characteristics. Ueda sensei is taking a chance with reader engagement by making Usagi's negative qualities over-the-top right from the outset. We know that the mangaka intends to have Usagi and Hanzo as a couple, but it requires quite a suspension of disbelief to see how this messy girl will reform and redeem herself to be worthy of the caring and noble Hanzo.

I simply went with the flow on this one and decided that I would not fight the relationship. Once I gave myself up to this, I could enjoy the story. I like Usagi. I like Hanzo. Just not together.


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