Top 3 Greatest Ninja Anime

Topic started by AlexEL on March 3, 2013. Last post by tronboy 1 year, 7 months ago.
Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

Previous Lists... Top 2D Fighting Games *** Top Soundtracks *** Top Miyazaki Movies *** Top Forgotten Fighting Games *** Top Manliest Men

What’s up Vice-Corps! Last week we bravely tackled the TOP 5 MANLIEST, but that was just the beginning. Today, we’re counting down the sneakiest, most ruthless, and most unseen killers that stalk halls of anime. Watch your back and be perfectly still, because this is the TOP 3 ninja anime. They’re right behind you!

Unfortunately (and somewhat shockingly) there just isn't that much truly great ninja anime out there. I hated to do it, but when I found myself considering things like PUPPET PRINCESS and NINJA RESURRECTION to fill out the list, I realized some things had to be cut. In the end, I decided it was better to focus on what's actually good then to extend the spotlight to include inferior anime that happens to fit into the category. Now, on to the list!

HONORABLE MENTION == DAGGER OF KAMUI

This is some epic ninja filmmaking. KAMUI is a classic revenge story - - with one-armed ninjas, evil monks, nefarious ninja treachery, cover-ups, Japanese history and shurikens flying all over the place. What more could you ask for!?

At over 2 hours (132 minutes!!), this film could test the patience of less-dedicated viewers, but every scene is lovingly animated with fluid movement, beautiful settings and expressive gesture. This is definitely an old school heavy hitter. If you’re a fan of this era of animation, this is not to be missed!

I miss the era of hand painted backgrounds...
I miss the era of hand painted backgrounds...

Rintaro directed this beast of a film, and while he has something of an inconsistent track record, this is among his best and best looking work. Watching this could almost make you forget all about HARMAGEDON.

NUMBER THREE == BLOOD REIGN: CURSE OF THE YOMA

Back in the 90's, this was released in America as CURSE OF THE UNDEAD YOMA; which is a hilarious and pretty misleading name. While I actually prefer the old title for its over-the-top-ness, this is not the zombie-ninja epic that name implies. In fact, BLOOD REIGN is a fun little two part ninja/horror OVA with some really nice action, solid designs, surprisingly nice music and quite impressive animation in places.

This falls pretty comfortably into the “wild-man” days of ultra-violent weirdo OVAs being released in the states. Things do indeed get weird, violent, absurd, and even hilarious (possibly unintentionally so) here, but it’s all for the good. BLOOD REIGN has a charm to it that’s hard to resist.

I'm pretty sure this exact shot is in every one of these movies.
I'm pretty sure this exact shot is in every one of these movies.

Oh, right - - there’s also an evil horse with fangs that parts the sea to trample a dude, then drowns in that same ocean about 5 minutes later.

And, of course, the usual giant spiders, brain-pods full of naked best friends munching on human heads, ninja-wolverine-claws, sexy burn-faced girls, evil living trees and horrible butterfly monsters (that’s right butterfly monsters) complete with terrifying twinkling wings.

I bet you thought a butterfly monster couldn't possibly be scary! Well, you're right, but this one is definitely trying its hardest.
I bet you thought a butterfly monster couldn't possibly be scary! Well, you're right, but this one is definitely trying its hardest.

Early in the first OVA, our hero Hikage fends off two Iga ninja in a fight sequence that’s still surprisingly tense, gripping and effective. It’s a very well storyboarded sequence, with strong animation and a somewhat realistic feel. Things get nuts pretty quickly, but this first fight is a real standout and a large part of why BLOOD REIGN nabbed the number 3 spot.

NUMBER TWO == WRATH OF THE NINJA (The YOTODEN movie)

Ah, the classics. This is actually a compilation movie of the YOTODEN OVAs, which is unfortunately the only way to get any YOTODEN on DVD in America. It’s been slightly edited down to fit into a theatrical runtime, and it suffers a bit as a result. Still, WRATH has a lot of heart and the kind of classic ninja antics you should expect - - no, that you should demand from your ninja anime.

I’m talking about people being sliced in two, only for it to be reveal that they were logs the whole time (!!). I’m talking about mid-stream stare-downs with jump and slice conclusions, silly looking monsters and demons in disguise. It’s all here in this genre-defining series.

The fact that I find this image irresistible is pretty irrefutable proof that something is very wrong with me.
The fact that I find this image irresistible is pretty irrefutable proof that something is very wrong with me.

YOTODEN is kind of a big deal in Japan, voted number one OVA of the year in both '87 and '88 by the readers of ANIME V. I don’t think it ever really caught on over here, and that’s probably largely because it didn’t get released in the states until late into the 90's, with DVD releases in the 00's. By then, the art style looked pretty dated and I think most kids just passed it by. This is a shame because YOTODEN has a lot to offer and stands comfortably on its own merits, fully worthy of the Number Two spot on our countdown.

There's just no arguing with a mustache like this.
There's just no arguing with a mustache like this.

But let's be honest - - in the ‘90s and ‘00s, almost all ninja anime in the US was overshadowed by one super-popular release. So much so that many fans refused to accept other ninja anime as anything but a rip-off, despite what things like “dates” and “the facts” seemed to suggest.

Still, it’s easy to see why this one ninja epic from the 90's captured the hearts of so many degenerate American otaku. In fact, it’s our number one…

NUMBER ONE == NINJA SCROLL

This is probably the easiest decision I’ve had to make yet for this column. NINJA SCROLL is in my personal top ten anime of all time, so this is a complete no-brainer. Some of you may remember my forceful thoughts on the subject from one of my previous articles (here), but if not, here’s the short version…

Don't try to resist those bedroom eyes. If you're not on Amazon buying several copies of this movie, right now, then you make me sick.
Don't try to resist those bedroom eyes. If you're not on Amazon buying several copies of this movie, right now, then you make me sick.

Lets get serious, this movie is the bee’s tits. It has everything you could want from an action movie - - plus some stuff you probably didn’t know you wanted; plus some scenes that will make your girlfriend squirm. NINJA SCROLL is clearly of the opinion that “more is more” and delivers in stylish droves. The movie looks great and the designs are all memorable, and elegant.

I know how this looks, but I promise you she is NOT covered in pee.
I know how this looks, but I promise you she is NOT covered in pee.

This movie is never boring, and quite often over-the-top in the best way. If you’re at all familiar with the work of Yoshiaki Kawajiri, then you should know what to expect. If not, here are some Cliff’s Notes to give you an idea...

  1. A giant rock-man gulps down an unnerving amount of blood from a freshly-amputated arm.
  2. A midget with a honeycomb back shoots bees.
  3. A woman full of gunpowder gets jealous.
  4. Hundreds of faceless ninja foot-clan get sliced into tiny pieces.

In other words, NINJA SCROLL will put hair on your chest, regardless of your gender.

Brutal ninja times! Believe it or not, this is probably the least upsetting image from this sequence.
Brutal ninja times! Believe it or not, this is probably the least upsetting image from this sequence.

Sure, NINJA SCROLL is full of ridiculous/awesome/nutso shit but it’s also really well-paced, beautifully animated, and expertly directed. If you’re looking to watch a bunch of sneaky guys with swords stab and betray each other, there’s no better anime to turn to than this one.

EPIC.
EPIC.

Okay, elephant in the room: NARUTO is not on this list and you guys just have to deal with it. My personal opinions about the show aside, it's really just a shonen fighting anime with headbands and the word "jutsu" thrown around every so often. NARUTO is as much a ninja show as SAILOR MOON is a show about planets. Excluded.

I do encourage all of you butthurt NARUTO and BASILISK fans to leave inflammatory rants in the comments section below. I’ll be sure to ignore them.

Alex Eckman-Lawn is an illustrator and comic artists from Philadelphia. Check out his site - -alexeckmanlawn.com - - rumble with his Tumblr - -dudenukem.tumblr.com - - and hit up his Twitter: @alexeckmanlawn

Post by SamJaz (12,920 posts) See mini bio Level 20
Online Now

Nice work with the elephant. Good list!

Post by SuperTiencha (32 posts) See mini bio Level 11

THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS IS A GREAT LIST. I'm so glad Naruto is not on here.

Post by GokaiRed (160 posts) See mini bio Level 7

Ninja Scroll FTW!

Post by ReliusClover (784 posts) See mini bio Level 10

Only fear i had was the possibility that Nardo got on the list. So great job, NS deserves it's place.

Post by Kino88 (224 posts) See mini bio Level 6

I still have yet to watch the legendary Ninja Scroll.....

however it is one those things I have to do before I die Lol

Post by Kuma_From_Argentina (6,815 posts) See mini bio Level 13

If somebody says Naruto I'll hunt you down and kill you.

Basilisk is a nice choice for this top

Post by Marshal Victory (2,413 posts) See mini bio Level 13

What no Ninja Nonsense: The Legend of Shinobu !!! kninda not shocked at all. Seen title an thought i bet NINJA SCROLL will make the list. Kinda steam punkish ninja in some reguards tho.Good stuff from what i have seen of it. Was on my buy list just for animation an style.

@Kuma_From_Argentina said:

If somebody says Naruto I'll hunt you down and kill you.

Basilisk is a nice choice for this top

now am i not suposed to mention.. Naruto or was it Naruto Shippuden or NARUTO Spin-Off: Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals . I have not watched any of these but i did say their name :) Friend of mine loves the show.

Flame of Recca has it moments.Not NINJA SCROLL quality but it has its moments.

Post by Kuma_From_Argentina (6,815 posts) See mini bio Level 13

@Marshal Victory: I know where you live...

XD I was saying for the top, rather than just naming it... Naruto haves many things, but doesnt have real ninjas...

Post by metalsnakezero (675 posts) See mini bio Level 16

Man, talk about the classics.

Post by pikahyper (19 posts) See mini bio Level 15

No Samurai Champloo or Samurai 7? :(

Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

@pikahyper: those are samurais, not ninjas! totally different my friend! i was considering doing a separate top 5 samurai anime list though...

I am a fan of Flame of Recca, even though it's a shameless YuYu ripoff. still, it falls into the same category as Naruto for me.

see Ninja Scroll!! you wont regret it (probably)!

Post by pikahyper (19 posts) See mini bio Level 15

@AlexEL: close enough :P

Post by Sonata (35,514 posts) See mini bio Level 20
Moderator
Awesome glad someone took notice of Wrath of the Ninja very awesome show. Basilisk does need to be considered as well however:)
Post by CapeBarnes (500 posts) See mini bio Level 18

I loved Wrath of the Ninja when I was younger. Ninja Scroll was cool too :) But I wish Ninja Cadets had more episodes.

Post by sotyfan16 (1,341 posts) See mini bio Level 20

@Kuma_From_Argentina:

I agree that Basilisk should have been mentioned. It is my favorite ninja show and a really good series overall.

Post by sora_thekey (1,097 posts) See mini bio Level 16
Moderator

I'm relieved that Naruto is not on this list!

Post by AlexEL (52 posts) See mini bio Level 8
Staff

@CapeBarnes: wow, i completely forgot about ninja cadets! thats some obscure '90s ish. nice one.

Post by Marshal Victory (2,413 posts) See mini bio Level 13

@AlexEL: 1st sorry for late reply . i can see the 80s style of the two but it felt difrent enuff for me not to be "a shameless YuYu ripoff" tho i think its the shameless thing thats throwing me off.. also Brave 10 has alot of ninja moments. Just not alot of good quality down to earth ninja action out thier.

Post by tronboy (425 posts) See mini bio Level 9

naruto makes the list buddy he makes number 1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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