Story/Art: Koutarou Sekine
Created By: Bradley Bond, Philip Ninj@ Morzez
Translation/Adaptation: Ko Ransom
What They Say: In the gritty, futuristic city of Neo-Saitama, the streets run slick with acid rain and blood. Here, an army of cybernetics-clad ninjas runs amok under the menacing rule of the Soukai Syndicate. As incessant strife wrought by a ninja turf war takes the lives of all citizens who end up in the crossfire, one can only hope to end the day without getting a shuriken to the skull. But in these dark, tragic times, a spirit of vengeance rises to kill all wicked Ninja who terrorize Neo-Saitama. This crimson avenger is Ninja Slayer, and he will not rest until all Ninja have been slaughtered at his hands.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
This manga is bonkers. Right off the bat we get something special, a manga based on an American novel about ninjas. You couldn’t write a stranger origin. Well, the writers of this manga couldn’t. See, Ninja Slayer Kills! is a book built from the ground up to be “extreme” exclamation point. I’m not too keen on this manga for various reasons I will get to, but for some reason I actually like it.
Our story is set in Neo-Saitama, a mega city run by large shadow groups who use magical ninjas for their own gains. An unassuming man is dining out with his family when they are all murdered in a tragic attack by ninjas. The man, in a fit of rage and despair, binds his soul to a demonic ninja spirit and transforms into a ninja. Our hero is the Ninja Killer, a mysterious entity out to destroy all ninjas and avenge his family’s death. Oh my god, so many ninjas and we haven’t even gotten past the origin story!
So, right off the bat everything in Ninja Slayer Kills! is ripped straight out of a 90’s anime. You have ninjas with super powers running around a city in the future cutting everything to bits with swords and shuriken. The hero has a tragic backstory and wants revenge for his lost loved ones and must kill a bunch of powerful ninja to achieve his goal. And you’ve also got a bit of the ultra-violence for good measure.
This is all just really silly, and luckily the manga knows that. Rather than play everything straight, some of the characters have some outrageous or goofy personalities. One of my favorite parts is when Ninja Killer is just walking around town in normal clothes, but he’s still wearing his huge obvious mask. How is that subtle? You’re a ninja! It’s moments like these, and when the villains explode after being defeated for no reason whatsoever, that makes Ninja Slayer Kills fun to read.
So basically I can summarize the rest of the manga in a few more sentences, Ninja slayer goes off to kill more ninjas and meets a few quirky friends along the way. Actually it only took one. There is one saving grace of this manga, the art.
The artwork is actually really good in Ninja Slayer Kills! The greatest hurdle of a good action manga is the art. Everything is clean and well drawn, so you’re never left staring at a page trying to figure out what just happened. Going further with the 90s homage, the manga has a very gritty and rough style, though the style becomes more modern as the manga goes on. When fight scenes erupt, for example, there are more black tones and shading around the characters to give them more depth and impact in the fights. It’s a good style and I really like how clear everything is drawn on the page.
Before I forget to mention it, the women in the series. Oh god, the women in this series. Breasts are everywhere in this manga and it is shameless. Be warned.
I want to give some praise to the character designs, despite how bad the women look. Everyone in Ninja Slayer Kill! has a unique look and style to them. No one gets lost in the shuffle because they all have such an outrageous design. It really works to the manga’s advantage at times, and then there are times it just becomes goofy and over designed. My favorite design is Dark Ninja. He has a simple design of a man inside of robotic samurai armor (which doesn’t exactly fit the ninja theme I suppose). Then you have Minute Man who’s a mess of belts and buckles. There’s no real clear theme to him, and he represents the first real villain for Ninja Killer. Still, the art is really nice to look at, I just wish there was more cohesion with some of the designs.
Unfortunately, the worst part of Ninja Slayer Kills is the translation. Rather than adapt the book for an English audience, the translator decided to keep in some Japanese words either because they’re hard to translate or they sound cool. The ninjas greet each other with “domo” which is can mean hello, but what’s wrong with just using hello or greetings? Stuff like this creates a barrier for readers new to manga, and it only gets worse when the ninjas start using strange terms for their powers. It is all but impossible to gather what the characters are saying at times, even through context clues. This is a rough translation on par with fans who think Japanese words are super cool and Kodansha should hold themselves to a higher standard than this.
Sure, there is a glossary of all these Japanese terms, but it’s in the very back of the manga. You have to flip to the back every couple of pages, possibly seeing spoilers in your mad dash to find out what “wazamae” means. The translator even put a forward at the beginning of the manga asking the readers to read the glossary first. That is a terrible thing to do. You do not ask your readers to do homework. This is one of the worst translations I have ever seen in an officially published book, and it is all but impenetrable for new readers to manga.
All that being said, and with all its flaws stacked against it, I still enjoyed my time with Ninja Slayer Kills! If you have the time and money, this is basically a throwaway book you can read in an hour. It doesn’t waste your time, but there’s nothing substantial to sink your teeth into or challenge your brain. It’s trash, but it’s flashy trash you can pick up at any time and enjoy. I’ll give it a recommendation if you’ve got nothing else to read for a while.
Ninja slayer Kills is a bonkers series filled with ultra-violence and well-done fight scenes. A man must fight an organization of powerful ninjas to avenge his family. The book looks great but is brought down by a dodgy translation and a flat story. Give it a pass unless you’re hankering for some high octane ninja action.
Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: D+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: September 1st, 2015