Shelf Life Ninja Nonsense
by Paul Jensen,
We have not one, but two new releases this week that feature main characters who take a lot of naps. That's a terrible thing to have to write about when you're running short on sleep, my friends. Good thing I reviewed a super high-energy comedy to balance it all out. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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On Shelves This Week
Synopsis: High school student Kokone Morikawa dozes off instead of studying, only to find that her dreams of a world full of machines are connected to a family secret.
Tanaka-kun is Always Listless - Complete Collection BD, DVD, Limited Edition
Sentai - 300 min - Sub+Dub - MSRP $69.98|$59.98|$149.98
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf|$38.99 Right Stuf|$97.49 Right Stuf
Synopsis: Tanaka wants nothing more than to nap through every school day, but his laid-back personality somehow attracts a variety of quirky and energetic friends.
Shelf Life Reviews
I took a look at Ninja Nonsense for this week's review. This zany comedy from the early 2000s just got a shiny new Blu-Ray collection from Nozomi Entertainment, but how well does it hold up after more than a decade?
The story (what little exists) follows Shinobu, an apprentice ninja who has plenty of energy but isn't necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed. Her instructor, Onsokumaru, is a shape-shifting yellow ball with a massive ego and a mile-wide lecherous streak. While out on one of Onsokumaru's questionable “exams,” Shinobu encounters and befriends a regular high school girl named Kaede. When the quick-tempered Kaede is introduced to the quirky and generally incompetent ninjas at Shinobu's school, hijinks inevitably ensue.
One of the first things the average viewer will notice about Ninja Nonsense is that it's completely bonkers. This show specializes in absurd, high-energy, screwball humor, and it's pretty darn good at it. While some of its half-episode storylines may use familiar setups, there's enough unhinged creativity in the writing to keep things interesting. Sometimes the show veers into self-aware parody (the characters spend most of the last episode trying to figure out how to end the series), while other times it simply takes a silly idea as far as it can go. The balance of personalities within the cast helps, with Kaede serving as a furious voice of reason to the airheaded Shinobu, the amusingly pervy Onsokumaru, and the legion of laughably pathetic masked ninjas.
There is some mildly raunchy material here, mostly stemming from Onsokumaru's shameless monologues and the ninjas' lusty fantasies. To its credit, Ninja Nonsense is pretty good about prioritizing comedy over sex appeal, and it's often so far over-the-top that the sleaze factor is kept to a minimum. If anything, I was actually surprised by how many of these dozen episodes wrapped up on a reasonably warmhearted note. The ninjas are portrayed as well-meaning goofballs rather than expendable subjects of ridicule, and even Onsokumaru is more bark than bite. I wouldn't quite call it harmless, but it's certainly more palatable for a general audience than some more recent titles within its genre.
The problem is that its humor is all Ninja Nonsense really has going for it. It's so light on narrative substance that it actually makes jokes about this problem. This hurts the show in two ways. In the short term, it means that each episode lives or dies by the strength of its comedic delivery. Most are at least reasonably entertaining, but a few segments feel like they're missing something. For the bigger picture, the singular focus also hurts Ninja Nonsense's rewatch value. Now that I know what all the punchlines are going to be, I don't feel the need to ever sit through it a second time. More than anything else, that's what puts it at the high end of Rental territory instead crossing the line into Shelf Worthy.
On the visual end of things, the series is starting to show its age. The character designs are appropriately colorful and the show gets some good use out of Onsokumaru's shape-shifting abilities, but the animation quality is inconsistent at best. It doesn't really strike me as a series that needed an upgrade to blu-ray format, but I must admit that Nozomi Entertainment has done a fine job with this release. There's a nice selection of on-disc extras, including some helpful translation notes and an extended version of the delightfully silly ending credit sequence. The English dub is also noteworthy, especially considering its age. While it takes an episode or two to settle in, the lead performances are all solid and Sean Schemmel's take on Onsokumaru might even be an improvement on the original. The writing also strikes a good balance between keeping the translation faithful and adapting cultural references for an English-speaking audience. After bouncing back and forth between the two audio tracks, I eventually found the dub to be my preferred option for this show.
Ninja Nonsense is a fun series, and its humor is sharp enough to carry it through its twelve-episode run. Even though it's short on substance and staying power, I'd recommend giving it a shot. In particular, it proves that you can make a ridiculously raunchy comedy without veering into excessively sleazy territory. It's good, clean, dirty fun.
That wraps things up for this week. Thanks for reading, and remember to send your anime collection photos to [email protected]!
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