Title: Nabari no Ou Vol 1
Author: Yuhki Kamatani
Publisher: Yen Press
May Contain Spoilers
Miharu just wants to drift peacefully through life, content with his existence in the sleepy town of Banten. His path has already been laid out before him – he’ll finish school and then work at the family’s okonomiyaki shop. When weird ninjas start attacking him, he learns an unwelcome truth. The Shinra Banshou, or secret art, has been sealed in his body, and whoever possesses it has the power to do great good – or great evil. Can Miharu shake off his apathy long enough to stay alive and to keep the Shinra Banshou out of the hands of the Iga Grey Wolves?
It took me a few tries to actually read through this first volume of Nabari no Ou, and I am puzzled as to why. I enjoyed the book each time I started it, but something always distracted me and made me put it down and forget about it. I finally sat down and read it cover to cover, and though it doesn’t stray far from familiar shounen ground, it’s a fairly solid read with some quirky characters.
Miharu is the kind of kid who just goes with the flow. He has decided long ago that it is easier to just go along with life’s currents than to try to swim against them. At first glance he is very indifferent to everything, but it is soon apparent that he is dedicated to his grandparents and that he’s a good kid. He keeps himself apart from everything else, and when he’s attacked while running an errand for his grandmother, he refuses to accept the reason why ninja thugs are after him.
After he’s saved by his English teacher, Kumohira, he learns that there’s a hidden ninja realm, and that Miharu holds the key to ultimate power sealed within his body. The Shinra Banshou, or all of the knowledge of the world, has been sealed inside him, and if he can awaken the power, he can become stronger than anyone else in either the surface world or the shadow world. Miharu wants nothing to do with secret ninja arts, or even ninjas, for that matter, and he ignores what Kumohira is trying to tell him. His life was just fine before he found out about the Shinra Banshou, and it will be just wonderful once he forgets about all of nonsense he’s just heard.
Life in manga is never that simple, so Miharu’s destiny keeps nipping at his heels. Kumohira, a ninja from the Banten clan, has pledged to protect Miharu with his life, and it’s probably a good thing he did. Soon, rival ninja clans are trying to take possession of the Shinra Banshou, and Miharu needs all of the friends he can get. The other ninjas don’t care much for his well-being, and the struggle to stay alive might just shake him out of his carefully crafted indifference.
Nabari no Ou has an interesting premise, and there are several plot points that have me intrigued. What happened to Miharu’s parents? Why is the Shinra Banshou sealed in his body? Is Kumohira really that terrified of public transportation? In addition to all of the fighting, there is a sense of humor woven in to the story to lighten it up when things are looking pretty grim. There’s a surprising amount of mangled body parts, so things would be pretty dreary without a break in the middle of all of the grim tidings.
There isn’t much here that hasn’t been done before, but Nabari no Ou reassembles standard shounen fare into an action-packed and exciting tale. Miharu is a likeable character, but you can’t help but hope someone will come along very soon and shake the indifference out of him. I think that if his character was a little more accessible, the book would have provided a more satisfying read. I am looking forward to seeing how he changes as the series progresses.
Review copy provided by Yen Press