First Look: Ninja Slayer

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Novel Adaptation by Trigger
Streaming on Funimation

Premise

Left for dead after his wife and child are murdered by evil ninja, Kenji Fujikido becomes possessed by a vengeful ninja spirit. Vowing to murder the evil ninja responsible, he becomes the Ninja Slayer, and wages his war against Neo Saitama.

Jel’s verdict: Wah Wah Inferno Cop Wah Wah

This is a joke, right? This all just a nod to Inferno Cop fans and we get the real thing next week, right? I was already a bit wary hearing Ninja Slayer was cut to 15 minute episodes (really more like 12) and this pretty much confirmed the worst. In a bubble it might not be that bad. Short bursts of action and blunt humor can be entertaining, if not particularly satisfying in the long run. But let’s be honest – anyone remotely familiar with Trigger’s work is going to compare this to Inferno Cop. I didn’t care for Inferno Cop myself, but I understand the appeal. There was something unique about the crude finger puppet animation and silly dialogue that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Carting that exact same style out in another series just feels… lazy? I would never say that about the Trigger team, so maybe… stubborn? That might be more accurate. It’s like they wanted to make another Inferno Cop series but needed to do something more financially viable, so they just forced it into their next project. Whatever the reason, I’m really disappointed because the bits that are animated seem pretty cool and the series almost has enough style to carry it regardless. Maybe I’m a victim of my own expectations or I just don’t worship Imaishi like some fans do, but I’m not really interested in watching more at this point.

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Iro’s verdict: My Hopes Ninja Vanished

I attended the Studio Trigger panel at Anime Expo 2014, wherein they spent a fair amount of time and effort into plugging their brand new show coming in 2015, Ninja Slayer. It’s not like I expected another Kill La Kill or anything, but it’s just utterly baffling that Trigger would pour so much money into advertising and building up their next anime and then have it turn out to be Inferno Cop 1.5, complete with moving cutouts and bizarre humor. It was definitely entertaining, but I can’t help but worry about Trigger’s future if they’re going to keep cranking out this type of anime, even as a joke.

Marlin’s verdict: I, For One, Welcome the 4th Destroy Finale.

I think what helped me come out of this show with a positive light is that I never really had any big expectations from Ninja Slayer. Even from the scant promotional videos we had, there were all sorts of red flags that this wasn’t going to be a normal production. 4:3 aspect ratio? Weird retro aesthetic? Honestly I feel like I couldn’t’ve been mad no matter what they did. Fact is I’m probably the only person that thinks this entire experience might be improved by using an Inferno Cop art style. The juxtaposition of that Newgrounds quality flash animation with occasional glimpses of vision were enough to have me in stitches and keep me engaged the whole time. Everything that made Inferno Cop work was put to use in this first episode. I don’t really expect anyone that didn’t grow up on flash websites as a teen to understand, but those kinds of intentionally horrible looking animations always have a special place in my heart. I don’t expect people to like this show on principle. I know people were expecting more. What Trigger did was a bit odd, considering the marketing power they put behind it especially in appealing to fans in the West. I just can’t help but have a big dumb smile on my face regardless.

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Gee’s verdict: YEEART!

As resident Trigger/Old Gainax fanboy, I was pretty excited for Ninja Slayer. After Kill la Kill’s success and the promising future of Little Witch Academia 2, it seemed Trigger was on a roll. Suffice to say, I can’t say I expected Ninja Slayer to be the spectacle it ended up being. Sure, between the weird aspect ratio and ridiculous color palette, I knew Trigger was hiding something up their sleeve, but how could I have known it was the spiritual successor to Inferno Cop hiding in there? And I guess that’s the strangest thing. Despite its shoddy visuals and complete disregard for common sense, Ninja Slayer is undeniably entertaining and stylish. Trigger are the masters of visual comedy, and Ninja Slayer is the funniest anime I’ve watched this season. And when Ninja Slayer shines, the animation talents of the studio come to the forefront. Dynamic and stylish, it moves with a kind of spastic fury that keeps your eyes occupied.

In the end though, the sheer juxtaposition between the dynamic full bodied animation and the stupid cardboard cutouts is so jarring that I find myself straddling the line between hilarity and disappointment. And perhaps more problematically, Ninja Slayer has been advertised since last year. If after a year, this is what they have to show, just what state is the studio in? All in all, Ninja Slayer isn’t going to be for everyone. Trigger has always had a very Western sensibility, and it shows in Ninja Slayer. More akin to the kind of cartoons that would show up at 2 in the morning on Adult Swim, it’s undeniably funny, but how much more you get out of it will hinge on your tolerance for Trigger’s unique quirks.

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Artemis’ verdict: No Expectations, No Disappointments

At fifteen minutes per episode, artwork that looks like it was cooked up in MS Paint, and animation that stretches the definition of that word to its limit, I doubt many people are going to be particularly happy about this show. Personally, I don’t much care either way – I never watched Inferno Cop, and it seems likely that Ninja Slayer wouldn’t have been my kind of anime even had the visuals been more conventional in style. I guess if you can appreciate this specific brand of tongue-in-cheek humour, classically cheesy ‘ninja’ dialogue, and cartoonishly lurid violence then you might find something of worth here, but I just assume this is Trigger having a bit of a laugh at everyone else’s expense.

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6 thoughts on “First Look: Ninja Slayer

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