Sunday, October 30, 2011

10 Things I Hate About Anime: Implausible Ninjas

Sorry for the wait guys! Now it is time to see what 10 things boil my blood about anime!
Before I start I have to say again that I generally like anime, and “hate” is a strong word, so I would say this list is more like “10 conventions that I find silly, unnecessary or annoying in anime”, but as you can see this title doesn’t have the same ring to it. I also originally intended to have this all be one post but the first one ended up being really long, so I decided to make them separate. So over the next ten days I will post one per day! YAY!

So… onward!    

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"Do these look like ninjas to you!?" (From Naruto)

I think that we can all agree that ninjas are pretty cool, hence their universal popularity and appeal. Ninjas come from Japan, and anime comes from Japan, so it stands to reason that there are many Anime series featuring ninjas. This is not inherently bad. My problem is how these ninjas are portrayed. Let’s look at what ninjas are at least based on what we actually know about “real” ninjas (which is not all that much actually; they are not often mentioned in historical texts). We know from… uh… books n’ stuff that Ninjas were used mostly in the Sengoku period (a large period of history that is broken down into smaller periods) which had all sorts of warlords fighting against each other, (it would make sense for fighting warlords to have used ninjas somewhere between the end of the 10th century to maybe sometime after 1600? although it’s hard to say if ninjas, as we know them now, existed in those early times prior to the 15th century) and that they were supposedly used for reconnaissance, information gathering, stealing, and assassination (kind of like how the CIA is portrayed in films!). So ninjas are already pretty interesting right? We don’t know too much about them so there’s lots of space for creativity if we wanted to a make a story about them right? Well manga and anime creators take this to an EXTREME!
               
  
This "ninja" seems to have been highly trained in the art of making spider webs? and controlling frog-lichen hybrids? Ya know! Ninja stuff! (from Ninja Scroll: The Series)


 In anime, ninjas have CRAZY powers. I’ve seen series where there are ninjas that use their hair to block bullets or shoot complex, bodily generated chemical compounds out of their mouths and all manner of malarkey. Yes, its true we don’t know much about ninjas, but one thing I think we can all safely assume is that THEY WERE HUMAN BEINGS! But whatever, this is an animated medium were dealing with, so this could be acceptable, except for ONE MAJOR DETAIL! Based on their functions, you would think ninjas were supposed to be stealthy right? I mean they would have to be to do their aforementioned jobs effectively RIGHT? Well in anime no one seems to think this is the case as in anime ninjas are often portrayed as fighting one another or other adversaries in fully confrontational FURIOUS POWER BATTLES!!! This would be fine and exciting, only that THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FRICKIN NINJAS! Why make ninjas who don’t act like ninjas? Why not have them just be super powerful samurai or something? That would make so much more sense! IT’S STUPID! Its like if I made a pirate show that took place on land and the pirates ran a Starbucks and baked cookies! They wouldn’t be pirates would they?! Occupations are defined by actions and functions! But this isn’t even the worst anime ninja convention. That, my friends, is “the sentimental ninja”, the most hated and implausible of all anime ninja conventions (in my opinion).
                
Do the man and women in this romantic couple look like ninjas? NO!!! (From Basilisk)

 Alright, so ninjas are supposed to be taught from birth to be ruthless and efficient assassins and whatnot. So its really STUPID when you see an anime in which Ninjas are A. showing remorse after carrying out a job or B. Falling in love with each other. Think about it, if you are trained from birth to kill the people your lord tells you to, then why would you even care about why your doing it? You have been programmed since you were old enough to speak to obey and kill! Why would you even second guess that? It would be all you knew! The fact that a number of anime feature such ninjas and assassins suddenly growing consciences and choosing not to kill someone (and often later being condemned for it) is STUPID! And it happens in ninja anime SO OFTEN! Then there’s ninja love… Ninja love is a bit more plausible… I GUESS. Alright, so ninjas are supposed to be these hardened killers who live for their lords and not much else, they could die at anytime and were likely forced to perform tasks with a sort of objectivity, i.e. emotionally removed from the task at hand. This doesn’t seem like very fertile ground for romance does it?! Suffice it to say the sheer amount ninja romance in anime is ridiculous! When you take into account how most animes portray romance, i.e. cute and sweet and pink and butterflies and rainbows and stuff, that’s not what you wanna watch when you see ninjas! You wanna see badass, cold assassins killing evil! Not some bumbling, overly melodramatic teen romance! ARGH!!!!  
                 
Now THAT is a ninja. (Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba as Hatori Hanzo as seen in Kage no Gundan 3)
 So what is my point here? Well basically ninjas are already cool! I find realistic ninjas WAY more interesting than all this melodramatic mumbo jumbo. Though I am aware of some mangas (comics) that portray ninjas in relatively realistic light, I have yet to hear of an anime which features at least a plausible representation of what being a ninja might have actually been like. Seriously… don’t you think that might be really interesting? I'm not saying we can't have shows that have fantastic "what if" scenarios concerning ninjas. I mean, I am all for creativity. But the problem is, that's all there is! I want me some real ninjas! If you want to see a Japanese show that has ninjas doing good ol’ ninja stuff and features a much more plausible outlook, check out “Kage no Gundan” its not anime and its pretty old, but if you wanna see (sort of) REAL ninjas then look no further, the first season was released in North America under the name “Shadow Worriors”.     

DVD box for Basilisk - though not a terrible series, is to be avoided at all costs if you like realistic ninjas.
Worst offender: you might expect me to attack Naruto (an extremely popular series featuring “ninjas”) but Naruto takes place in an alternate world where ninjas are something different than what we are used to. No, I think Basilisk is a much worse offender in this regard. Though not a horrible series, it features a real-world historical setting with some real-world characters, but with ninjas so implausible I actually got pissed off watching it.
Okay! So that was way longer than I expected... the next post will probably be considerably shorter...                                   

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