Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
DVDs 3-4: Ninjas on First & Exit the Ninja
Shinobu, Onsokumaru and the gang return for the utterly absurd, plotless second half of this utterly absurd, plotless show. Onsokumaru and Miyabi fuse together, everyone celebrates Christmas, Shinobu adopts a man-eating plant, everyone plays baseball, Onsokumaru's perversity runs rampant, and Sasuke and company watch anime and save the Ninja Academy from marauding ogres. No matter how bizarre things get, the Ninja Nonsense crew face events with the same unflappable calm, but can they maintain their sangfroid in the face of the most terrifying development of all... the series finale? With a little narrative tinkering by Sasuke and the ninja crew, they just might.
Calling Ninja Nonsense high energy is akin to calling Hannibal Lector a naughty boy. Ninja Nonsense isn't high energy, it's the runaway nuclear reactor of comedies. Just without the bleeding sores and three-headed babies (although if you watch it in the presence of infants, I won't be held responsible for the results).
Frenetic comedies are common, but Ninja Nonsense distinguishes itself on the strength of its unflagging pace, a physically and psychologically adorable cast, and Onsokumaru. Nominally, Shinobu is the lead character, but the true driving force is Onsokumaru, a shape-shifting perverted yellow blob with a personality even uglier than he is. The dynamic between the innocent Shinobu and her thoroughly corrupted master (and his otakufied male pupils), while undeniably hilarious, also lays the comfortable, human foundation upon which the show builds its twisted comedy structures. It may be little more than a series of gags strung together by the thinnest of threads of continuity, but it has a warmth that belies its sometimes crude humor and elevates it above the comedy muck that soulless sludge like Nurse Witch Komugi and Papuwa are content to wallow in.
The headlong pacing—the show seems to have packed an entire episode worth of jokes into each half-episode story—makes Ninja Nonsense ill-suited to marathons of any length (one episode at a time is optimal), and the sometimes vulgar humor won't appeal to all tastes. If the sight of a yellow blob wearing briefs and sprouting buttocks at inopportune moments strikes you as the height of bad taste, then you may want to leave this show on the shelves for those for whom such things are the height of hilarity.
Ninja Nonsense's formal elements are just as wildly variable as its narrative. Animation ranges from smooth actions that approach the quality of those in many A-list shows to flat, caricatured simplicity. The art matches the vagaries of the animation. The only constants are that, no matter what style of animation used, no matter how distorted or wild the art, it is always appropriate to the joke or mood of the moment. Both animation and art are often best during parodies (including one in the final episode that will send you snooping furtively through the pile of dirty boxers that you hid your G-Gundam DVDs under). Characters, when not drawn in a style cribbed from the shows being parodied, are round-headed, apple-cheeked, almost unbearably cute, and sometimes incongruously sexy.
The music is all over the map, but like the other technical merits, it is always appropriate, whether it be quietly emotional, carnivalesque, outright rocking, or mere humorous tinkling. The opening and ending songs are hyper, and hyper-cute, pop that is catchier than it has any right to be.
Right Stuf's cast acquits itself admirably in these volumes. Their comic timing, while not perfect, is good, and all of the characters are appropriately cast and reasonably well-acted. The linchpin of the dub, of course, is Onsokumaru. Sean Schemmel's excellent performance wisely forgoes imitation in favor of a reinterpretation that is fully his own while remaining true to the spirit of the character. Language preferences will inevitably be split down the usual dub/sub line and the dub isn't unassailable (it lacks some of the camaraderie of the original) but it is a fine piece of work that can hold its head high even when compared to the Japanese. Purists be warned that the script does wander on occasion.
Extras, the usual: Right Stuf previews, slews of Japanese television spots, and character profiles.
Extras, the good stuff: Colorful booklet with an episode-by-episode Japanese production journal, comments and doodles from the production staff, and plentiful (and necessary) translation/cultural notes. A two-part roundtable discussion with the main Japanese cast spread across the two DVDs, and full-length stop-motion music video for the ending theme.
It's lighter than a hot helium balloon, crude enough to anger the prudish, and moves at headache-inducing speeds, but Ninja Nonsense is also very funny, and possesses a resource that is in short supply in the ranks of comedies: a heart.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C+
Animation : B+
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Very funny; surprisingly warm; Onsokumaru is a blast (in both languages).
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