Ninja Nonsense Complete Collection Limited Edition (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, December 04, 2007
What They Say
Take one totally cute (and naive) ninja-girl trainee, add a ninja horde under the tutelage of a perverse headmaster â€“ a strange, yellow, spherical, pudgy... creature... named Onsokumaru â€“ and you get the kind of "super-explosive ninja insanity" that can only be found in what's been called "the runaway nuclear reactor" of anime comedies!
It is a nonsensical show about ninjas; what more do you want? Throw in non-stop insanity and perverted humor, and what we get is a tour-de-force of hilarious action.
For this viewing, I primarily watched the English 2.0 dub; a Japanese 2.0 track is also offered. For a show such as this, with random insanity taking place at all times, a solid audio track is needed to be able to take it all in. We get this with Ninja Nonsense. Despite typically having at least three things happening at the same time, there was never a point where I had to rewind to catch something, as each sound was able to come through clearly and separately from everything else, with decent directionality used throughout. The only minor beef I had with the audio tracks is that with so much action, a full 5.1 treatment would have made the aural experience even better. However, even in 2.0, the audio handles the daunting task admirably.
Again, with so much insanity at all times, a good video treatment is needed as well, and again Ninja Nonsense delivers. Presented in a 4:3 full-frame aspect ratio, the video transfer here is terrific. Every visual has its own distinct look and stands out well from the rest of the image, regardless of how much is currently going on. Colors a bright and varied throughout, with nice contrasts between foreground and background elements, and there are no technical issues at any point. Visually, this is a very well done show.
Another aspect that was well done for this release. The box that holds the singles and extra booklet features two great pieces of original art: one with Shinobu holding Kaede around the waist from behind with both wearing the other’s clothing, and the other features Miyabi using her magic to force Onsokumaru and Sasuke to kiss each other. Inside the shrink wrap also comes a small box that fits on top, though does not attach, to the set box. This smaller box holds the Onsokumaru squeeze toy and headband that come with the set.
Each of the singles feature reversible covers. Both sides of each cover are almost identical. The front covers also have pieces of original art that each feature Shinobu in some way, while the back covers give episode and special feature information. The difference between each side of the cover is that the main side has the English versions of the various logos, while the reverse covers have the Japanese logos. The reverse sides also omit the technical information and barcodes; unfortunately, the reverse sides, which I prefer, also omit a neat image of the Sasuke Army that spans the four spines, but one cannot have everything, I suppose. That said, the packaging is really a high point with this set.
As great as everything has been so far, the menus come out as a little underwhelming. The main menu has a nice opening animation reminiscent of the ending credits, a Shoji screen opening after some fist pumps from the Sasuke Army while “Kurukururin” (the closing theme) plays in the background. The menu itself is static, showing the same image from the front cover of the disc. The menus are still well designed, however, with the selections standing out well, and a helpful ninja star guiding your cursor. The rest of the menus have a bit of a simpler design, as one might expect, however there are some amusing short animations that transition from one menu to the next. I particularly like the one of Onsokumaru eating yellow ninja stars like he is Pac Man. Solid effort here.
The extras for this set are a bit hit-or-miss, depending on whether it is the DVD extras or the physical extras that are being taken into account. Each disc has the standard set of extras: clean openings and closings, TV spots, character bios, cast interviews, and trailers. The only one that really stands out is on the last disc, which is a longer version of the closing. The standard closing for Ninja Nonsense is an amusing, claymation scene of the Sasuke Army chasing Onsokumaru after they catch him wearing panties on his head, which, like most closings, is considerably shorter than the song that is playing, “Kurukururin.” However, on the last disc, they show a version of the ending where the creators extended it to the full version of the song, almost four minutes long. This is a lot of fun to watch.
Yet, it is the physical extras where this set really shines. A small box that comes shrink-wrapped to the top of the package contains a decent sized squeeze toy of an irritated Onsokumaru, almost like a stress reliever, and a replica of Shinobu’s smiley-face ninja headband (which I am currently wearing). Inside the main box is a small booklet that contains a short comic made solely for the DVD box set and a number of pieces of original art.
Finally, each single comes with a nice, full color booklet that contains productions notes, doodles, character profiles, and liner notes. These booklets are really fun read on their own, as they help point out numerous smaller details that might otherwise go unnoticed due to the non-stop randomness, including the reasoning for making the longer closing mentioned above. The Right Stuf really went above and beyond with this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ninja Nonsense is a perfect example of what can be called random comedy. While a premise is present, it really has no bearing on the progress of the show. This goes for the series as a whole and for each individual episode. While it may start off one way, there is nothing that says it has to continue down that path. It is a fast paced show, filled with as many random jokes and moments possible in the time frame. This is definitely not a show for everybody, if for no other reason than watching it can be completely exhausting, but for many it cannot get much better than this show.
With Ninja Nonsense, we get the “story” of Shinobu and her attempts to become a full fledged ninja. I put story in quotation marks, because while the show has that theme, there really is no cohesive plot to grab onto. What there is instead is twenty four mini-episodes (twelve minutes or so, two making a full episode) dedicated to various days in the lives of the many characters. While there is an ending of sorts, there is really nothing in the previous episodes that can be said built towards that ending.
As the English title suggests, this is supposed to be Nonsense. Each episode is filled completely random and off-the-wall plot ideas, moments, and actions. This begins with the opening credits, as we get images of plenty of zany moments that never actually appear in the show in any form. It is a shame, because I was looking forward to the conflict between Shinobu and her evil-twin, which apparently was actually planned but cut due to time and budget concerns.
Once we get into the episodes, the plots themselves at times make no sense, even to the point where sometimes the main conflict is never even solved, just forgotten. Whether it is an elite ninja force taking time out of their schedule to go mushroom picking or ninja-master/yellow-pudgy-ball-thing Onsokumaru randomly finding himself stuck to the front of Miyabi’s clothes, nothing given in this show makes any logical sense, and since many of the plots are driven by Onsokumaru’s perverted attempts to see Shinobu, Kaede, and/or Miyabi with no clothes on, the insanity tends to ramp up even more.
In fact, much of the driving force of this show is not so much the randomness of the action, but rather the characters causing said randomness, and their interactions with one another. Shinobu is young and naïve, unwilling to accept flaws in anybody. One might even say she is dense; dense enough that she does not notice that the Ninja Master at her dojo is actually Onsokumaru in a fake beard. This makes her the perfect target for Onsokumaru’s perverted schemes. As Onsokumaru’s student, Shinobu blindly follows his orders as best possible. Of course, since she is fairly clumsy and inept, Onsokumaru’s plans are usually foiled.
Kaede is Shinobu’s best friend. They meet during an exam that Shinobu is taking: namely break into the houses of high school girls and steal their underwear. Despite catching Shinobu in the act, Kaede still becomes friends with Shinobu and usually gets dragged into whatever trouble Shinobu finds herself in. Kaede can see straight through Onsokumaru, but she can never convince Shinobu of the truth. As Shinobu’s and Kaede’s friendship grows, so does some sexual tension between them. Humorously, this tension exists solely to drive Onsokumaru crazy and give him something else to fantasize about.
Onsokumaru is easily one of the best anime characters I have encountered. While Shinobu might be the main character of this show, Onsokumaru is easily the most entertaining. As the Ninja Master, it is Onsokumaru’s duty to run The Valley of the Ninja and make sure Shinobu’s training goes well. However, as mentioned before, he is more interested in seeing naked girls and puffing up his own questionable reputation. Physically, Onsokumaru is almost the antithesis of a ninja because he completely stands out: he is an amorphous, yellow ball. At any time, he can grow wings to fly, or he can morph to human shape, though still very yellow. It is his perverse nature that drives much of the show, as he is always trying to push Shinobu into compromising positions. Onsokumaru is the source and/or butt of many of the random jokes that litter this show.
Rounding out the main quartet is Sasuke and the Sasuke Army. The Sasuke Army is the collective name of the ninja horde that live in The Valley of the Ninja with Shinobu and Onsokumaru. The Sasuke Army are notable in that, unlike Onsokumaru, they are completely nondescript. Each looks exactly like the rest: a stereotypical ninja. Sasuke is the only one that gets any real individual face time, and to be honest, at times I was not even sure if there was just one ninja named Sasuke who continually got singled out, or if they were all named Sasuke (hence Sasuke Army) and the other characters would just randomly grab whichever one was closest. Certainly, nobody ever has trouble picking Sasuke out from his identical brethren. Like Shinobu, the Sasuke Army tend to blindly follow Onsokumaru’s lead, and though they question his motives a bit at times, they usually get swept back in by his natural charisma.
The four together, if you count the Sasuke Army as one, work really well together in the context of the show. Onsokumaru tends to run everything, with Shinobu typically acting as the willing follower, and Kaede generally being the voiced opposition. Sasuke tends to be the bridge between Shinobu’s unbridled optimism and Kaede’s justified cynicism: he might go with the plan, but also might be hesitant on some of the details. What this does is bring a well rounded cast to the show as the four continually play off each other bringing their own narrow point of view to the proceedings. And yet, somehow they all seem to get along.
The show also has a rich cast of secondary characters: from Kaede’s parents, who at one point declare that Shinobu could move in because “they always wanted a daughter”, to Shinobu’s younger sister, who also sees through Onsokumaru yet is more violent than Kaede about it, to Devil, the crocodile-turned-ninja that Onsokumaru at times “wears” to make a more powerful version of himself. These characters, as well as others, just add to the already insane nature of the rest of the show as they play off well with the already fairly diverse natures of the main cast.
If I have any complaint about Ninja Nonsense, it is that I am unsure about its rewatchability. With much of the show’s humor being based on randomness where anything can happen, I can easily see where the jokes will not be as funny once they are expected. While I certainly would not expect the show to be bad at that point, I can see it not having anywhere near the effect of a first watch. However, that is something that only time will be able to tell.
Ninja Nonsense is the type of show that can be hard to get right. When delivering a breakneck paced, character driven comedy, pretty much every joke needs to be spot on or the entire effect can be lost. Ninja Nonsense gets it right. The characters play off one another perfectly, and the jokes keep hitting one after another. It really is the ADHD’s dream. If the lack of anything that even remotely resembles a cohesive plot is not off putting, then I really cannot recommend this show any higher. There is nothing here that can be considered ‘literary’ in its traditional sense, but that is not the point. Ninja Nonsense sets out to be a good laugh, and it delivers many times over. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character bios,Interviews with the Japanese cast, TV spots 1-18,Textless openings and closing, "Kurukururin" (closing) full-size video, Four booklets featuring production journals, "Happy Doodles" from the Japanese staff, liner notes,Special mini-manga by creator Ryoichi Koga celebrating the box set release,Onsokumaru squeeze toy,Ninja-trainee headband.
Phillips Magnavox TP3285 C129 32” TV, Samsung DVD-V5650 Progressive Scan DVD w/ DD/DTS, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Running time: 320
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Ninja Nonsense