Ninja in Manga and Anime
The mystique of ninja has made them especially suitable to be central characters in various stories in manga, anime and films. Even today, ninja are heroes for many kids and young people in Japan. One of the best examples is “Ninja Hattori-Kun,” also known as “Little Ninja Hattori.” This introduces the art of the ninja through the story of Kanzo Hattori, a boy ninja around 10 years old who moves to today’s Tokyo from his ninja hometown, while depicting friendship with a family where he stays. In Tokyo, little Hattori consistently creates troubles, becoming involved in sticky situations that must be overcome. Today “Ninja Hattori-Kun” is also aired in many countries overseas and particularly popular in China and India.
One of hit ninja anime “Nintama Rantaro.” Rantaro (middle), the main character, is fast and great at drawing pictures. In the story, he aspires to be a great ninja with his friends.
© NHK, SOBEI AMAKO, SOGOVISION.
Similarly, another televised anime featuring ninja and popular among kids is “Nintama Rantaro,” also known as “Ninja Kids!!!” overseas. First broadcast in 1993, this anime is still on the air today. It traces the adventures of the lead character, 10-year-old Rantaro Inadera. With a burning desire to become a top ninja, Rantaro enters an elite ninja academy, but Rantaro and his two best friends consistently fail both their classes and tests. However, with an ever-optimistic and endearing disposition, Rantaro and his friends overcome one difficulty after another on the strength of their friendship. Rantaro’s tireless enthusiasm and fearless attitude have made him a favorite of kids around Japan.
The ninja epic “Naruto” is immensely popular both in Japan and overseas. © Masashi Kishimoto, Scott/SHUEISHA Inc., TV TOKYO, Pierrot Co.
“Naruto” is another ninja-themed hit anime made for television that readers may be familiar with in Japan. This is the story of the adventures and growth of Naruto, a young ninja who learned ninjutsu fights against his enemies to become the top ninja. Naruto has proved so popular that it has been made into both movies and video games, acquiring many fans in the United States and Europe.
While these manga and anime are based on part of the stories of actual ninja and the art of ninjutsu, they emphasize the mystique of these spies and their techniques, which are different from real ninja or ninjutsu. In addition to their lively and entertaining plots, ninja win over the hearts of young fans around the world with their special techniques and fighting spirits.
Ninja Experience with Shuriken
Dressing up ninja style and taking a weapon in hand: a recipe for fun. Women favor bright-colored ninja outfits. (Koka Ninja Village)
If you want to do something like ninja, there is Koka Ninja Village in Koka City, Shiga Prefecture, reportedly the birthplace of ninja, to experience such ninja activities. Entering the village, kids typically make a beeline for the ninja dojo (hall). Borrowing ninja outfits and looking like little ninja, kids learn the ninja basics, such as scaling rock walls and moving about on water. When their training is complete, they receive a certificate of completion of the ninja training.
A visitor focuses intently on her target to throw a shuriken. (Photo courtesy of Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, Iga city, Mie Prefecture)
Another fun ninja experience not to be missed is learning to throw shuriken, or ninja’s missile weapon. On site, staff members teach little ninja how to throw shuriken. If a shuriken whirring through the air lands in the heart of a target, the little ninja can feel like becoming a professional ninja. At Koka Ninja Village, a museum displays many old ninja weapons, including explosives and shuriken as well as texts on the art of being a ninja. There are similar ninja villages in two other places — Iga city, Mie Prefecture, and Togakushi in Nagano city, Nagano Prefecture. Consistently a favorite of children, these ninja villages are increasingly finding popularity among young women who come with their friends to enjoy the day as ninja.
Experiencing ninja activity of “Walking on water” requires balancing delicately with floats and a rope. (Photo courtesy of Kid’s Ninja Village in Togakushi, Nagano Prefecture)
Ninja with special skills once really existed in Japan. While actual facts surrounding their existence remain unclear, the mystery and legend of cool ninja continue to be loved by people the world over.