Time travel is a HUGE aspect of this series, occurring way more than necessary. I feel like the characters are always going backwards and forwards and backwards again; it’s a gimmick that gets old quickly. At varying points in the story I felt that the author could have taken a route separate to time traveling that would have led to the same overall finale. Maybe I’m just upset that she didn’t get more creative with the whole concept. The tedious nature of these “time jumps” began to bore me far sooner than I had anticipated.
The characters themselves are nothing truly special. They follow your standard shōjo tropes making them invariably lackluster. The female protagonist is a spoiled girl who has two guys that fall for her, the good boy and the bad boy. The bad boy has mommy and daddy issues that contribute to his douche-bag nature. But the woman that he cares for so fondly for helps him realize the error of his ways so he vows to become a “better person.” Meanwhile, the good boy follows said female around like a lost puppy until they reach their inevitable happily ever after. You also have your badass villain boy who is more handsome than the other two, but also has issues stemming from a horrid childhood that makes him the monster. Does he mend his ways? Why of course he does! Isn’t that the standard shōjo way of life?
I didn’t absolutely hate everything about the series. The ninja backdrop that makes up the past for two of the male characters is actually pretty interesting. I don’t think I’ve come across a manga series with such a motif before; at least not in a shōjo romance type series set in modern times. These facets provide two of the male characters, Hitaki and Kagetora, with much more depth than any of the other people in the series. It explains the conflict characteristic of the story’s development and is probably the best written portions out of the whole damn thing.
The art was immensely disappointing when I first started reading Shinobi Life. It felt very sloppy and rushed. The expressions on each of the character’s faces were uninspired. I really didn’t care for the way that the mangaka drew their eyes whenever they were feeling sad or sorrowful. I’m not sure if she just didn’t know how to express it, or if she believed that a pile of lines would amount for something called countenance. But whatever it was, it wasn’t good, however. I did see improvement as the series went on. The lines and images began to have a crisper feeling to them and the character’s moods were discernible in a more fluid way. It’s still not the best thing out there, but it was far better than the first chapter of the first volume.
I will give the series as a whole three stars, which is an entire star more than it deserves. Art improvement and an interesting premise are worth more than nothing, I believe. Also, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t get invested in what would happen next. It was compelling to an extent.