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Ninja Nonsense Complete Collection Litebox Anime DVD Review

12 min read

Ninja Nonsense
Ninja Nonsense
This should really be titled naughty nonsense considering what Onsokumaru puts poor Shinobu through.

What They Say:
Take one totally cute (and naive) ninja-girl trainee, add a ninja horde under the tutelage of a perverse headmaster – a strange, yellow, spherical, pudgy… creature… named Onsokumaru – and you get the kind of “super-explosive ninja insanity” that can only be found in what’s been called “the runaway nuclear reactor” of anime comedies!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is the same as the previous editions as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the English language dub at 192kbps. With it being a kind of wacky comedy series, there’s a lot of things going on across the screen which means characters flying every which way and an audio mix that has to handle that. There are some really good stand out sequences where the dialogue moves around beautifully across the forward soundstage and really helps the scene work even better. We listened to a good bit of the English track as well and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show uses the same single volume releases as before so we get four discs with three episodes on each with a few extras on them as well. The source materials are in good shape here and the encoding has captured a lot of the visual beauty of the show in its rich palette of colors. There’s a great mix of colors between the traditional ninja motif and that of the normal world and they blend very well. In particular, the many gray outfits of the ninjas maintain a very solid feel while the backgrounds and sky areas don’t show any blocking. There are a few instances along the way where there is a bit of cross coloration stemming from some line noise, but over the course of the show it’s very minimal and largely unnoticeable during regular playback.

Packaging:
The litebox edition of this release is one that’s all about being compact and it works nicely as we get my favorite piece of artwork for it. The front cover gives us the three female leads running along Onsokumaru’s head while a ton of ninjas are flailing about in the background trying to act all cool. It’s light, bright and silly looking and it achieves the right look for the show itself. THe logo is kind of busy with its style but it also fits well in how it uses the localized name to good effect. The back cover uses similar colors overall and has more character artwork that definitely sets the right tone with the girls while also providing a few shots from the show itself. The premise is very simple and short, which works well enough, and it breaks down the extras included cleanly. Add in a solid technical grid that covers everything in an easy to read format and even notes where you can see a preview episode online and you have a solid package that doesn’t included any show related inserts or a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu replicates the design of the front covers from the single volume releases and expands upon them a bit with some simple but effective animation. Set to a bit of bouncy vocal music from the show, it’s a good looking menu that’s easy to navigate and with quick access times. In another plus, the disc correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
There are a few extras included with this release that are spread across all of the volumes that are fun to check out. There are the original TV spots promoting the series, something that I always love to see since it’s interesting to see how shows are promoted differently, as well as clean versions of the various opening and closing sequences, which are just really fun to watch. Also included in the later discs is a two piece interview with the Japanese cast that runs a little bit and is a good touch of light and fluffy fun with them. Also neat to see is the full version of the closing sequence which manages to be even more amusing with its dolls and claymation.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Way back when Ninja Nonsense was released, it was the kind of show that just hit all the right kind of notes for me. Ninjas have never been a huge thing for me, especially with anime, but doing them up in comedy takes an extra bit of style and effort and Ninja Nonsense did it all right. Filled with verbal and visual gags, clearly showing its influences in the media version of ninjas and intent on being as racy as they can be at this particular time and place, Ninja Nonsense was just a really great viewing experience that had us laughing far more than I expected, especially when you consider how hard full on comedies can be.

The series revolves, sort of, around a young kunoichi named Shinobu. She’s been spending her time going through her ninja training lessons and the head master has sent her out on a mission that will determine whether she becomes a full fledged ninja or not. It’s all quite simple and straightforward when looked at like that, but it’s all so much more. Shinobu’s actually something of a ditz, or at least of low intellect, since she can’t even follow maps and she believes that by applying the phrase “ninja technique” before something it means she can do it. Such as becoming invisible, which we see her execute quite early on when she “sneaks” into the room of high school student Kaede. Kaede of course can see her plainly and is close to whacking her with a tennis racket but Shinobu goes right up to her and speaks out loud about how Kaede can’t see her.

This starts a new awkward friendship of sorts as Shinobu latches onto Kaede as a new friend and continually visits here. Their relationship is even more awkward from the start because the mission she was on for her exam was to steal underwear from a high school girl. Even worse, the second exam has her needing to get a hickey from a high school girl! A lot of the reasons for this becomes more apparent after Kaede ends up visiting the ninja residence and meets the head master. This is almost tricky as the head master is essentially a combination of the big yellow ball guy from Di Gi Charat and Haro from Gundam. He’s a sizable yellow ball named Onsokumaru, which literally means “sonic ball” and is quite accurate for his personality. The head master is a perverted ball of weirdness, drama and overacting that can turn himself into a well muscled human form but it retains the yellow nature and the big round head.

Even worse, he’s got a small legion of fully garbed ninjas that are at his beck and call, all of them seemingly called Sasuke, and these guys are just a hair or two better than Shinobu. For example, Shinobu has a great little pouch for keeping her throwing stars in but she doesn’t put them in there since they’d ruin it with the poking and the iron smell. One of the regular ninjas can’t help either as apparently he keeps little yellow chicks in his pouch! A lot of the insanity does revolve around Onsokumaru though and his very strange ways of thinking. The combination of him and the others, as well as introducing Shinobu’s younger and more refined sister who is skilled in magics, helps the show maintain a really frenetic pace for a lot of the time. It moves great from one joke to the next, especially since the first few episodes are done in half-episode style similar to old Urusei Yatsura episodes. This lets the show do some more concentrated gags and bits without having to have a storyline to carry the entire episode.

One thing that becomes much more apparent as the series progresses is that as much as we would like to believe otherwise at times, Onsokumaru is indeed the lead of the show. The first volume gave the illusion well that it was about Shinobu primarily and then her relationship with Kaede, but as it progresses you get the impression that it’d be easier to call the series “The Onsokumaru Show” and just let the little yellow guy get all the glory he wants. This isn’t a bad thing mind you as I can’t help but admit I love the perverted little guy and all the weird things he says, does and perpetrates on everyone else. There’d be plenty of comedy without him but he’s the one that’s able to send it completely over the top.

Like most “slice of life” shows, Ninja Nonsense hits up a lot of traditional concepts to tell its stories with its slightly off kilter angle. We get the summer heat wave where everyone is just laying about trying to survive and find some way of staying cool. Piles of Sasuke’s laying about in various clothes is disturbing enough but they go even further after they find Shinobu and Kaede in a small blow-up pool outside. Proving that the team behind this is mocking everyone with their fanservice, the ninjas all dress up in various swimsuits (while still keeping their masks on) and put on a fashion show that actually calls it a “Moe” event in the title. The also follow through on another summer concept in doing the summer festival where the girls dress up in yukata’s and everyone else works stalls and events, again in various outfits but still with their headgear on. Onsokumaru wrecks havoc throughout both of these events as he oversees all the debauchery that he wants to have happen during them.

There are some fairly wacky adventures that happen along the way as well; one episode has at typhoon hitting the town and everyone’s stuck indoors, which means it’s like the summer heatwave in that the Sasuke’s all come up with bizarre indoor games and trade their “Costume Removing” porn magazines around. Onsokumaru has a great bit here where he sneaks out and goes in golden yellow human form and takes up residence in Kaede’s house and tries to put the moves on her. Another similar episode has the girls going into the mountains for mushroom picking and Onsokumaru and all the ninjas end up picking hallucination inducing mushrooms. It was doubly amusing having just watched another show that dealt with mushrooms and odd spellings of them.

Another fun piece later in the series is when Shinobu and the other girls want to do some fun stuff outside but Onsokumaru and his band of goofy ninjas are intent on playing baseball. And to him, baseball is a man’s game and no silly girls are allowed to play. Of course, Shinobu won’t let that sit and the group ends up in the only way that you’d expect it to, with a boys vs. girls match to settle it all. Not that anything is ever truly settled with Onsokumaru, but it does allow for some really good sports gags and a fair bit of fanservice along the way. Onsokumaru gets so completely frustrated during it that it’s just hilarious to watch him.

One episode that didn’t surprise me but is just plain weird while still a lot of fun is the obligatory hot springs episode. It’s a pretty basic setup in the trip to where they are, but the girls are fully aware of what Onsokumaru is going to be up to when they get there. There is plenty of humor in how Onsokumaru tries to get around the guards that Miyabi sets up, but the real humor I found was in watching the various ninjas going through all the varied kinds of hot springs that are there. Seeing them inside what are basically stews or the whole hot tire spring was just priceless, a nice send up of the various kinds of springs from the Ranma days.

One of the more interesting episodes in the series is one that focuses around Sasuke and the ninjas in general. Giving Sasuke a chance to stand out and not just be supporting all the hilarity manages to work well, though it certainly wouldn’t carry an entire episode. The first half is a more traditional action piece where you get to see Sasuke as a real man but even then, like most things within this series, reality doesn’t quite match up with what Sasuke is believing or seeing. The second half is a bit weaker as they do a play with the story of the “Grateful Crane” being the subject. This isn’t quite so much a Sasuke episode, though the ninjas do feature prominently, but more of an abuse piece for Onsokumaru.

The show does manage to close out with a very amusing episode where they deal with the plotline dangled before us a few episodes ago about how Shinobu has some deep dark secret associated with her. Thanks to Sasuke who has it on tape and the rest of the ninjas who want their show to not end like other anime series, they force it out of Onsokumaru. It takes a few tries to get the real story but in the end it’s just very well done. A lot of shows don’t hold up well when they’re self referential but Ninja Nonsense manages to play the line just right. The ninjas go into a small spiel about how animation quality is only good on first and last episodes and hope that it doesn’t happen here. Then they make the spot on statement about how it’s something that should be done right the first time and not fixed up on DVD. You wonder whether they’re echoing the thoughts of the creators or just playing up to fans, but it’s nice to hear it actually said in some way. The gags are plenty mocking about how most shows end, the silly formulas used for it and so forth and it just brings the show to a very satisfying close.

In Summary:
Series that are strictly comedies, as opposed to action or romance shows that have a comedic element to them, have always been very hit or miss with me. This is even more true when you have to balance against weekly installments or a marathon session like this – or the original three episode per volume singles I initially experienced. Ninja Nonsense landed squarely in the funny category for me, particularly with the somewhat raunchy nature that Onsokumaru brings to the table and the manner in which the show is told. Keeping it to half-episode plotlines ensured that the jokes setup didn’t get old, there wasn’t a need to stretch out the humor to fill time and it just generally felt much sharper. With the litebox edition here, the show is more affordable than ever before, takes up less space and is still just as funny as it was ten years ago. I’ve seen the show a few times since the original run and the antics of the cast, from Shinobu to Onsokumaru to that large gaggle of hilarious ninjas, simply hit all the right notes for me time after time. It may not be perfect, and you may want to space out your viewing, but it’s the kind of show that will almost always bring a smile to your face.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Bios, Japanese Cast Interviews, TV spots 1-18, Textless Openings and Closing, “Kurukururin” (Closing) Full-Size Video, Original U.S. Trailer

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P 3D HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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