Mamoru: The Shadow Protector Volume 1 - 2
By Sai Madara
Publisher: DR Master Publications
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Comedy
Price: $9.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Volume 1 Summary:
Mamoru Kagemori is a dull high school boy who’s not handsome, athletic or intelligent.  but things aren’t always what they appear.  He’s actually the eldest son of a 400-year-old Ninja clan that specializes in protecting their neighbors, the Konnyakus.  And the object of Mamoru’s protection is none other than their only daughter, Yuna Konnyaku, a natural-born troublemaker.  Mamoru must continue to protect her to carry out his duty, no matter what adversaries strong, bizarre or stupid.  And will Yuna ever learn who her protector is?

Volume 2 Summary:
When Yuna enters an idol contest and makes it to the finals, despite her hilariously bizarre performance.  Mamoru has to go all out with his ninja skills in order to fend off perverted judges and crazed fans!  But if Yuna becomes an idol will Mamoru still be able to protect her?

Mamoru: The Shadow Protector is a lot like it’s main character.  It starts out showing you a fun-filled romantic comedy, heavy on the comedy, but then like a ninja, tries to switch out into a harem comedy, where the laughs fall flatter than a dull shuriken.

I really enjoyed the first volume of this title.  While the premise seems a little stall and silly, with a family of ninjas guarding their neighbors because a Lord 400 years ago loved konnyaku so much that he wanted the konnyaku maker and his family protected so future generations could enjoy it as well, it’s actually fairly entertaining.  The first volume reads more like a parody of typical ninja story conventions, and is quite successful at it.

Cookie cutter characters usually annoy me, but in this comedic environment, they worked perfectly.  Mamoru, our ninja hero, usually looks nerdish, with thick, swirly glasses and an indifferent attitude.  But this is just his disguise so Yuna, the damsel-in-distress, won’t be suspicion of what he really is.  Not that there’s much hope of that happening, since Yuna is a klutzy ditz.  I normally hate girls like her, but her cluelessness and klutzy ways actually work in this title.  Airi is Yuna’s best friend who wants to keep Yuna all for herself and resents Mamoru’s presence.  And then there’s Tsubaki, the samurai girl who is committed to serving justice and is easily tricked by Yakuza to go after Yuna.  I like Tsubaki the most, because despite her serious sword play and samurai training, all she really wants is to be a normal teenage girl; go shopping and go on dates.  Her fantasy moments are great!

So, Mamoru spends the first volume protecting Yuna from the Yakuza and Tsubaki.  The chapters are fun, and Mamoru makes a good protector, always making sure Yuna never sees who rescues her.  The romantic side of this romantic comedy is subtle.  Yuna appears to have feelings for Mamoru, who seems oblivious to them, as he only sees Yuna as an assignment that cause him no end of trouble.  She can’t get up the courage to tell him though, so it’s implied.  It’s all very cute.


Then I read volume 2.  The cute, fun, ninja parody was swept away for more harem elements.  Besides Yuna liking Mamoru, Airi starts to show an interest in him.  Mamoru’s parents like Tsubaki as a potential partner, since she’s skilled and knows of his mission.  She starts to have feelings for Mamoru too, when he tries to teach her how to behave on a date.  And then, the worse plot complication of all: the childhood fiance.  Yamame is the daughter of Mamoru’s mother’s best friend, so of course they arranged for them to be married when they were older.  Yamame’s introduction is done in the way I hate most.  Her bag has a hold in it that she is unaware of, and Mamoru picks the dropped items up and returns them to her, one item being her underwear.  So what’s her first reaction?  To call him a pervert of course and beat on him.  This is before they know who each other are.  When they are finally introduced Yamame is disillusioned over Mamoru, not that she ever had an accurate picture of him to start with, but at the end realizes she has made a mistake and can forgive him.  I so HATE not just that plot, but the characters in them.  Yamame ruined this volume for me and the growing harem drops the title’s enjoyment as well.  The first volume introduced a good formula that is now getting needlessly complicated.

Mamoru: The Shadow Protector has a good shot at being a fun title.  The art has a nice cartoonish feel to it, emphasizing the comedy.  Chibis adorn the cover and splash pages of the title, but never in the story itself.  The inside art remains relatively realistic.  If it had stayed on the comedy/parody track instead of hopping over to the comedy/harem track, it would have made it.  These new elements, if they continue, will lead it to be just another average harem manga.  Which is really too bad, since it had such a good thing going to start.

Review copies provided by publisher.

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