A guest review by Jenre
In his first mission as a shinobi, Sora Sanada has more than its success riding on his shoulders. Every move he makes is a reflection on his clan’s honor. So when an unexpected scuffle leaves him injured and the mission in jeopardy, he’d rather be left behind—but his partner, the mysterious, masked Kaname, has other ideas.
Kaname breathes a silent sigh of relief when the younger, less-experienced Sora agrees to a plan to throw their enemies off their trail. As a member of the deposed Takeda clan, the last thing he needs is more disgrace heaped upon the family name should he lose the Sanada princeling.
His plan to disguise themselves as naked lovers is a rousing success in more ways than one. It sparks a bond that shakes them to the core—and the Shinano Province to its foundations…
This short story, which is strongly yaoi based, had some interesting ideas, but the choppy pacing and the sudden changes of scene made it rather difficult to follow what was happening at times.
The story begins with a breathtaking chase across the countryside of ancient Japan. Sora and Kaname are Shinobi, spies for their clan leader. They have been discovered and are being chased by dogs. In order to protect themselves they strip off and stand under a waterfall, pretending to be lovers. It’s a tense opening and one which caught my attention straight away. Unfortunately the tension is all ruined, when the true situation is discovered – something that made my jaw metaphorically drop in its complete inanity after such a thrilling opening. The story then chops and changes through different scenes, many of which involve people we meet only once for a page or so and then never see again. Quite a number of these scenes seemed completely extraneous to the plot and I couldn’t understand why they had been included, except maybe to show the day to day life of a Shinobi in ancient Japan.
This was my main problem with the story, it was such a jumble of ideas, scenes, characters and situations that it was very confusing at times to follow what was happening. The scenes that worked best were those between Sora and Kaname, especially when they showed the dynamic between the younger Sora, who was supposed to be the one in charge and the older Kaname who had the wisdom and experience lacked by Sora. The scenes that didn’t work as well were those where the reader was supposed to imply information through the actions of minor characters, for example I was never quite sure what the exact relationship is between Sora and his friend Yuki or why we needed the character of Akira, another man under Sora’s command, at all.
I was also a little confused at times about what kind of tone the book wanted to adopt. On the whole the story was quite serious with a number of tense scenes. As with many Japanese set books, the theme of honour and respect towards those in charge or the family was strongly present in the book. There were also many references to the bloody nature of the life of a Shinobi. However, on at least three occasions there were scenes which were supposed to be humourous and I felt those were misplaced within the context of the rest of the book. Perhaps if the format had been longer then scenes such as these would have had a place in the story, to lighten the tone at times. However, in such a short format they jarred with the rest of the serious themes.
I said at the beginning that the book was yaoi based. I’ve read a number of yaoi novels/manga and I can see parallels with this story and yaoi – the older/younger heroes, the half-formed secondary characters, the odd humourous scenes. However, yaoi novels/manga do tend to be longer than this story and so having all those yaoi ideas condensed into such a short format didn’t work as well as it may have done in a longer format.
Those of you who like historical stories – and I have to admit this one seemed to be well researched in terms of historical accuracy – and like yaoi, will probably like this short story. It had a lot of potential in that the writing was well executed and the opening was very exciting, but ultimately too much crammed into too short a format meant that the story didn’t work as a whole for me.