Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
DVD 1: Enter the Ninja
Shinobu is the only "sexy" female ninja at the hidden Ninja Academy, run by the perverted, shape-shifting yellow ball Onsokumaru. In her first mission during her ninja training, Shinobu is sent on an errand to collect high school girls' panties... and promptly runs face-first into Kaede, an average high schooler who's life is about to become decidedly strange.
Anime comedies, almost as a general rule, are largely hit-and-miss. Either they're tremendously steeped in the language and culture of Japan (thereby making them inaccessible to a lot of people) or they're shrill, over-the-top parodies of anime clichés that have been driven into the ground over and over again. Ninja Nonsense (formerly known as 2x2 Shinobuden, a title that barely makes sense anyway) thankfully avoids most of the pitfalls that plague other comedy series and, in spite of being a little obnoxious, is probably the best comedy show of the year.
The comedy in Ninja Nonsense is definitely from the school of absurdity; there's no subtlety here, so don't expect dry wit or sarcasm. This is frying-pan-to-the-face, kick-in-the-testicles stuff, sprinkled with a liberal dose of bawdy sex jokes, and surprisingly, it works very well… if you're in to that sort of thing. This is primarily sophomoric slapstick, with a dose of wit and plenty of charm, and it revels in being exactly that. It's very good at what it does, and shows a kind of confidence in the humor it's presenting (with writing good enough to back up that confidence), but if you're not in to this sort of thing, then the show won't have much for you; at least in the three episodes on this initial volume, this show is pure comedy. There simply isn't a lot to it.
In fact, the show's nonsensical, rapid-fire humor seeps into every facet of the show, to the point where the plot feels just as random as the jokes do. In all three episodes on this disc, the story is definitely in the backseat; you're going to wind up scratching your head a lot since plot developments happen at a mile a minute and rarely do they fully explain everything to you. It's probably best to simply strap yourself in for 80 minutes, hold on tight and don't ask too many questions.
The show's characters are where most of the humor comes from, and thankfully, they are unique, to say the least. The chipper, clueless Shinobu teeters on the line that separates cute from annoying but never crosses it; Kaede, the series' straight man, is mostly there to react to how zany the other characters are. The real stars of this show are Onsokumaru, the shape-shifting, perverted yellow ball that also runs the Ninja Academy, and his army of ninjas (presumably all named Sasuke). 90 percent of the show's humor comes from these two, and their antics are the highlight of each episode.
The production values are above reproach as well; the animation is surprisingly solid for a comedy series, where corners are usually cut thanks to the manic action, but in this series, it's smooth as silk. Character designs are pleasant and distinguished, if a little too round at times, but that's forgivable. The opening and closing themes are cute little numbers that complement the show very well; it's a total package.
The dub is, without a doubt, a masterpiece. The English language track for this series could have been a totally unfunny train wreck, but thanks to stellar performances by Emily Blau and especially Sean Schemmel as Onsokumaru, it's actually a bit better than the Japanese track. The dub has been “reversioned” a little, a'la some of Funimation's dubs; there are adlibbed lines, added jokes, some different lines and most of the explicitly Japanese gags are swapped out for something that's funnier in English, and as a whole, this is a remarkably good example of a show that's been rewritten just enough to flow perfectly (and, more importantly, be funny) in English. If you're a purist, however, the subtitles are remarkably accurate to the original Japanese and the DVD even comes with a colorful, glossy booklet of liner notes to help you understand some of the obscure references. The show is undeniably funnier in English, however, and the folks at NYAV Post should be applauded. It's very difficult to make comedy work, especially in translation.
There are a few downsides to the series; it can be a little too shrill and a little too loud, and it's easy to get sick and tired of watching these characters shout at eachother, so it might be a good idea to watch this show one episode at a time. This first DVD is a little short; there are only three episodes included on this disc for a runtime of only 80 minutes. The plots can be a little ridiculously paced as well, and perhaps the writing could have been touched up a bit to help the audience out, but for what it is, Ninja Nonsense is the front-runner for best comedy of the year, mostly thanks to its confident humor and excellent English adaptation.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Great dub, confident writing; a surprisingly funny comedy.
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