Otaku USA Magazine
[Review] Ninja Slayer: Machine of Vengeance

On the cyberpunk streets of Neo-Saitama, a mysterious figure wages a one-man war against the Soukai Ninja clan: Ninja Slayer. Leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper, armed with shuriken and katana, he alone can fight the brutal ninja who enforce the rule of Omura Industries and the will of their evil CEO, Laomoto Khan.

Slashing his way across the city, Ninja Slayer meets yakuza clones and drunken salarymen, sending them pissing their pants with fear (literally, several times) before the inevitable battle with his true, honorable foes! (“Domo, Ninja-Slayer-san,” an enemy ninja says: “After the pleasantries are dealt with, a gruesome battle to the death will follow.”) Can anyone survive this orgy of violence?

With its exaggerated, muddy artwork, its hysterical tone, and its endless parade of clichés (haiku, sushi, geisha), Ninja Slayer seems like an untentional garbage dump of every stereotype about Japan going back to the 1980s. (Plus a few stereotypes that aren’t about Japan, like the African American street thugs.)

The secret: it’s actually an intentional garbage dump, a tongue-in-cheek parody series making fun of Western ideas of Japan. (Of course, you’d have to Google it to find that out, and it’s 90% likely that a random American picking this up in a store would think this is completely for real.)

One giveaway that it’s all a joke is the dense Stan Lee-style exposition: nearly every panel is covered with huge text boxes redundantly describing what’s happening (“Smith screams out some intimidating yakuza slang! How scary!” “Like a bio-starfish sunk into the abyssal plain, Ninja Slayer’s murky mano-vijnana consciousness floats helplessly amid the neuron darkness.”)

This kind of overwriting is about as funny as Ninja Slayer gets, but even if the conceit behind the series is some kind of brilliant, the joke gets old fast: what’s funny as a comedy skit rarely works as a full-length movie, and like Mark Millar’s ironically evil superhero comics, Ninja Slayer becomes what it’s pretending to be making fun of.

The result is an ugly, tedious read; even if you like trashy retro manga, as I do, synthetic retro trash just isn’t the same. But who knows; people love Kung Fury.