Anime Review: Ninja Slayer

Ninja Slayer is an anime produced by the popular company, Studio Trigger. It’s thanks to the people at FUNimation who provided the copy for me to review. One of the first things that caught my attention was the overall design of the product itself. The design helped to establish the tone for the show with how crude it looked. Most of the time with a show or movie, positives remarks would be put on a box to try to sell it to those who browse through the anime section. For Ninja Slayer, there are negative reviews placed on its cover continuing the gag. The discs themselves are designed to have a bootleg like look to them adding to the running joke of this show being something horrible. These things help illustrate that Ninja Slayer is a poorly made show and everyone is acutely aware of this and embraces it.

The main character of the show is Fujikido Kenji aka Ninja Slayer. He is a man who was killed along with his family but was brought back to life to get revenge on the ninja’s responsible for their deaths. At times Ninja Slayer battles for control over his body with Naraku, the ninja spirit inside of him that gives him ninja powers. Throughout his adventures, Ninja Slayer is assisted by allies such as Nancy Lee, a hacker who puts her consciousness into computers (she also provides a fair about of fanservice in the show). Other partners include Yamato, a school age girl who has become a ninja after an accident. She uses origami as her primary weapon and is training to be a master of the ninja art of karate. Dragon Yukano is a traditional ninja who assists Ninja Slayer in fighting the Soukai Syndicate (which I’ll explain who they are soon). Later in the series, she loses her memory and begins being called Amnesia. All in all, Ninja Slayer proves to have many friends to help him face obstacles that come his way.

The primary antagonist of the series is the Soukai Syndicate, a criminal organization that has been causing trouble in the city of Neo-Saitama. The basic grunts of the Soukai are Yakuza clones whose only primary purpose is to die in large numbers. Notable members of the Soukai Syndicate include Darkninja, the ninja responsible for killing Ninja Slayer and his family. He acts as a primary rival for Ninja Slayer. The leader of the Soukai is Laomoto Kahn, an incredibly powerful ninja whose goal is to become governor of Neo-Saitama. Many other ninjas are a part of the Soukai Syndicate that Ninja Slayer fights but many of them do not live long enough to be that memorable.

The main plot of the show usually has Ninja Slayer or one of his allies fighting a ninja from the Soukai Syndicate. Most of the fights in the series have Ninja Slayer greet his opponent by saying domo and has an explosion appear behind him. When a ninja is slain, they will usually give a death haiku and yell sayonara, followed by a real explosion appearing over their body. The battles themselves are a crazy mess of poorly animated action, extreme close-ups, blood spraying from wounds. And yelling “yeeart.” As the series progresses, Ninja Slayer learns about his families’ death at the hands of Darkninja. When Ninja Slayer first confronts Darkninja, he manages to defeat him but does not kill him. The finale of the series starts when the Soukai Syndicate kidnaps Nancy Lee. Ninja Slayer now must find a way to rescue Nancy Lee and take down the Soukai Syndicate.

The animation is one of the most noteworthy things about the show but not in the way that many people would think. To be blunt, the show is horribly animated on purpose for the sake of being a joke of how Japan saw the U.S’s infatuation with ninjas. Scenes will linger on characters for far too long, there will be long moments of pure talking with nothing else going on, the animation will be recycled multiple times, and characters will move by simply having their bodies float towards someone. All these things would make me say that the animation is a detriment to the show, but the poor animation works for the comedy of the show. The poor animation at times is funny for just how bad, and over the top, it looks. While the animation is bad on purpose, the soundtrack was taken seriously, and it is enjoyable. There is a new ending theme for every episode which was a detail I didn’t think would be viewed due to the overall feel of the show. It was purposely made to be crude, and the fact that there were little changes here and there made me enjoy the series more than I thought. The background music serves its purpose of enhancing the mood of what is going on in a scene. It is nice that even though the animation is done poorly, the soundtrack wasn’t also made a part of that joke.

The Blu-ray set is very light on extras. It only comes with some trailers for FUNimation shows and one episode commentary. It is disappointing that it doesn’t have one or two more episode commentaries or even clean openings and endings, something which has been standard for most FUNimation releases. The one good thing I can say for the set is the menu presentation, which has a very nice 80’s feel to it. Other than that, it feels underwhelming for the bonus content put in the set.

My overall feelings on this show are mixed. It would be easy to say that this show is awful due to its poor animation and silly plot. Saying that would almost be giving the show exactly what it wants. Ninja Slayer is a dumb and poorly put together show that intentionally aims to be so bad it’s good. Early in the series, it does succeed at this. The major issue is that the joke drags on for too long. At first, it was enjoyable to see just how crazy things could get but by the end of the series, I was used to the absurdity, and it stopped being funny. The series was funny and entertaining for a bit, but I would have a­­ hard time recommending it. By the end of the series, the charm of the jokes wore out, and all that was left was a poorly animated show with a ridiculous plot.