This is a show that requires patience. I say this because it has overly exaggerated dialogue and a huge array of messy, blocky animation. I’ve been on a kick recently with this sort of art– Masaaki Yuasa’s Kemonozume is one of the series my anime club has been watching and like Ninja Slayer aren’t anime that everyone can dive into. Prior to seeing this episode though, I’ve checked out the English dub for Ninja Slayer and I feel it doesn’t do any justice for the story in the slightest. Ninja Slayer relies heavily on Japanese customs with an old-school perspective both Eastern and Western on the subject matter of Ninjas. I believe that the translation is missed in the English dubbing to get these characters’ motivations across. Especially when its a series that focuses heavily on food culture. Sushi, tofu– this episode we see one of the characters only eating tamagoyaki. I wonder what we are going to have next?
Previously, we’ve been introduced to a few Ninjas that might play a role in Ninja Slayer’s quest for revenge and now we get to see gauntlet wielding Shigeki down on his luck trying to redeem himself in this life and the next. I wonder if we will ever see him again? He and Ninja Slayer are both traveling down the same path for different reasons– I like how this reflects in the archetypes this episode utilizes. The first enemy Ninja Slayer faces off is Bandit-san–he’s cookie cutter to the Scorpion/Sub-Zero character models from the Mortal Kombat games! I remember in my days as a teenager playing those games and it was such a sight to see in this show take a nod to that.
Laomoto as we’ve seen before is definitely viewed as the final boss for Ninja Slayer and it’s great to see his influence throughout the city. The pharmaceutical company Yoroshin challenges Laomoto’s Keiretsu group by refusing the cloning process. This is another instance where Japanese dialogue comes in handy especially since most of this episode builds upon the idea of Japanese corporate structuring. In Japan, there is this business structure called the “keiretsu system” in which this show takes from and ultimately runs with it. Before I dive into this concept here’s an example of how it works in real world Japan. Normally, a Japanese horizontal keiretsu is “Mitsubishi” where the “Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi” sits at the top of the keiretsu. Part of this core group is “Mitsubishi Motors” and “Mitsubishi Trust and Banking” followed by “Meiji Mutual Life Insurance Company” which provides insurance to all members of the keiretsu. “Mitsubishi Shoji” is the trading company for the “Mitsubishi” keiretsu. Basically, it’s a collection of companies with close business relationships and shareholdings. Very informal, which makes sense as to why drinking meetings are so prevalent in the business world of Japan [and why we see the geishas in this show sitting next to Laomoto serving him alcohol]. It’s a bunch of companies that are centered around a core bank system. The Big Six that represent these core banks that remain the focal point even today are Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Fuyo, Sanwa, and DKB. Each one of these banks focus on important industrial ways of life to better improve the country: trust banking, marine & fire insurance, trading companies, steel, chemicals, shipping and life insurance. Put these pieces together with what we’ve seen of this Studio TRIGGER anime series and it all makes sense! Laomoto discussing the manufacturing of 1,000 horsepower ZBR drinks with the corporate man is a direct correlation to the structure of Keiretsu. The 1,000 is supposed to represent the astronomical figure of firms that make up the Japanese entertainment management business. Once again, this anime uses a well-researched idea with an over-exaggerated effect, especially when it kills off Ninja Slayer’s enemies through the use of explosions.
These explosions derive from what many Keiretsu structures know as “Burning Keiretsu”. A corporate group that handles insider accounts. They do not reveal affiliations with other entities but in actuality have relations that are only known by deep insiders within particular businesses that are always a part of “Burning Keiretsu”. Laomoto and Dark Ninja represent not only this “Burning Keiretsu” but the horizontal link between the old-fasioned 90’s idea of the underhanded syndicate. I’ve seen this done to death in many American action/drama films between 87′ and early 2000’s–this is another reason why we see a tie back yet again into Ninja Slayer and its similarities with the idea of the American Ninja. The guy calculating numbers on horsepower drinks is the vertical stature of keiretsu–working for a legitimate business that is focused on financial services. The Six Soukai is also a take on the Big Six of keiretsu. I like how these small details make up a lot of Japan’s social economic structure.
This episode puts an emphasis on the horizontal and vertical branches of keiretsu by drawing parallels with its animation too. Throughout the show we’ve seen Ninja Slayer and Yamoto moving their entire bodies when they attack, I feel that this stylistic choice and its narrative widely portrays the Japanese corporate business world intentionally. Perhaps I’m looking too closely at this show for what it is.
Up until now I’m seeing more resemblance to the 1993 feature film Ninja Slayer with its villains. The wheelchair Soukai Beholder looks like he’s pulled right from the Eight Devils of Kimon and I really like how Beholder uses his abilities mixed with the tofu Shigeki’s been eating to turn on Ninja Slayer, losing an arm and realizing his life has been spared. Especially since the attack was landed by Naraku Ninja and not Fujikido Kenji. Has he harnessed his Ninja Soul [power a bit more? This was probably the coolest part of the episode–Ninja Slayer transforming into Naraku Ninja to avoid Beholder’s manipulation and a fallen Shigeki realizing there is more to life than just tofu.
I want to point out how much the Narrator at the beginning reveals Shigeki’s fate by the end of this episode. The egg really does represent salvation for him. After losing his arm and receiving the gauntlet he lost his ink-wash painting skills but it is the egg and Beholder manipulating him that he is able to find his way to Ninja Slayer–removing his maintenance fees of the gauntlet and the 4th generation arm itself! He can start life with a clean slate.
ED: “RADIO” by 6EYES
Back in 2002, 6Eyes had originally formed as a quartet in Nagoya but today they are a six-person band that has a style that is more in line with J-ROCK. What separates this group from a lot of other J-Rock bands is the addition of the saxophone, played by Kei Satou. Their style is a bit lighter than what we’ve heard in the previous Ninja Slayer endings– has a grunge sound to it especially with Chikara Tsuchiya’s husky vocals but the melody is soft. I like this song. It’s not my favorite from this show but it’s been definitely a lot stronger than some of the others I’ve heard.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10