Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 20th 2006
DVD 2: Psychedelic Summer
Summer has come, and the students and Headmaster at the Ninja Academy Shinobi attends suffer from the oppressive heat. A visit to a secret water hole takes a dramatic turn for the worse when an unexpected problem arises, but that's nothing compared to the fuss over Shinobi's kid sister Miyabi possibly having a new boyfriend. Later, Onsokumaru's bold statements about how well he'd handle Hell are put to the test, but he manages to return to tell ghost stories and oversee a festival involving a Bon Odori dance. After the festival, an approaching typhoon leaves Onsokumaru and the male students in a pickle when Shinobi happens to be visiting her friend Kaede's house at the time, but they endure sufficiently well to go out mushroom-hunting afterwards. Along the way they encounter a group of ninja cadets from an all-girl ninja academy, one whose Headmistress is a former classmate of Onsokumaru.
A tiny hint of potentially serious content creeps in towards the end of episode 6, but beyond that the second volume of Ninja Nonsense continues the pattern of high energy, perverse silliness, and all-out fun established in the first volume. The jokes don't always work, and some entire segments (especially in episode 4) fall flat because of that, but enough do work for the good to more than outweigh the bad.
As with its first volume, the second volume basically has no plot, with each episode just being a pair of half-episode-long gag bits arranged in roughly chronological order. Given the spastic energy of the content, though, watching it only a half-episode or full episode at a time will prevent it from wearing out its welcome. The one plot point it does bring up is that Onsokumaru is keeping some dark secret from Shinobi (presumably beyond the obvious, that she's not really being trained in the ninja ways and is just there to cook, clean, and serve as eye candy), but this is only hinted at before the volume ends and involves only a small portion of the content. Usually these three episodes are just rollicking good fun, which is what the series does best anyway.
While nominal main character Shinobi plays the cute, clueless ditz, her sensible friend Kaede serves as the much more grounded and sensible “straight woman,” with Sasuke (the only named male student amongst a horde of look-alikes) performing admirably as comic support. The true star of the show continues to be Onsokumaru, whose seemingly unlimited energy and insatiable perversions are the driving force behind much of the comedy in the show. He, and the series in general, don't hesitate to be crude, rude, and socially unacceptable to garner laughs; the phrase “sausage fest” comes up at one point (yes, it means what you think it does), and one character uses the classic pick-up line “let me be your toilet.” The fan service never progresses beyond girls in sexy swimsuits and implied female nudity and hanky-panky, although bare buns are much in evidence and at least one scene has to be pixilated. Overall, it's much the same style of content as seen in the recent Desert Punk, albeit quite a bit less crass.
Fancy CG effects aren't necessary for an anime series to be funny, and none will be found here. The artistic style favors relatively simple designs and a palette of colors balanced towards the bright side, although background art is good. The animation is smooth where used but takes a lot of shortcuts – but detailed animation isn't necessary for good comedy, either, as other series have proven. The neat closer, which mixes stick puppets and claymation, offers another animation alternative.
The visuals aren't the only thing good about the closer, which sounds like an energetic, cutesy J-pop number set to an American country twang. The opener is an even more energetic and enthusiastic number, which strongly sets the tone for the series. In between is a jaunty musical score which hits all the notes just right to enhance and support the comedy. Also neat is the insert song in the second half of episode 5, which retains the original Japanese singing.
The English script stays as close to the original as can reasonably be expected given the comedy content, even retaining most of the original Japanese nonsense words. The only significant changes involve using “demons” instead of “ogres” and Americanizing some slang. Many of the best jokes carry straight through, though. The English dub performances, courtesy of NYAV Post, are generally a match for the Japanese originals, with most VAs hitting exactly the same comedic tone as the original. The one exception is in the critical role of Onsokomaru, where veteran Sean Schemmel absolutely owns the part. Rather than copy the dry tone of the original performance, Mr. Schemmel delivers his lines with unparalleled zest and vigor, which amply suits Onsokumaru's personality. This is one of the truly great English dub performances, one so good that it drives the entertainment value of the whole project and elevates it beyond the level the original dub attained. It is more than worth watching the English dub for that performance alone.
On-disc extras for this volume include Character Bios, several Japanese TV spots, and a clean version one of the original Japanese TV openers. Joining a reversible cover in the packaging is an eight-page booklet of liner notes, which include production notes, artist doodles, a more detailed profile on Kaede, and liner notes. The latter clarify a few jokes and parodies that don't survive translation well (or at all) and explain a few details unlikely to be familiar to American viewers, which makes certain jokes more appreciable.
Ninja Nonsense may not be the funniest title released in the States this year, but its second volume definitely reinforces its position as one of the funnier ones. It's light, energetic fun that will amuse without straining your brain.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B+
+ Outstanding key English dub performance, hefty dose of humor.
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