Ninjas are a well-known and much-loved fixture in entertainment as characters, settings, and a genre in and of themselves. They have maintained their presence in movies, television shows, comics, books, and every other conceivable form of entertainment for decades, with no signs of slowing down.
Now, newly bursting onto the ninja scene is an animated feature film called Ninjai: The Little Ninja – at a particularly slow period in ninja-themed entertainment. The past couple of years have been a lull, with no real new notable ninja entries appearing on the scene – until now.
An Epic New Adventure in Ancient Territory
This brand-new animated feature film centers around the titular character of Ninjai – a young boy and expert ninja who has embarked on a quest of self-discovery, searching for forgotten answers to his true identity.
A teaser trailer was released online which gave a general idea of the plot – Ninjai is travelling across a landscape resembling ancient Asia, and he is being pursued by a shogun-esque warlord named Takagawa who commands a battalion of soldiers. Takagawa’s second in command is a fearsome assassin who controls a terrifying weapon: a tattoo around his arm which can uncoil itself and launch into the air, becoming a flying demon-like creature that can shred through anyone it hunts.
The teaser showed a great balance between spiritual and philosophical musings, moments of levity, and heart-pounding action sequences rich with fantastic martial arts choreography and fights. Ninjai: The Little Ninja looks like it will be one of the best animated debuts, of all time, but certainly of the last five years, and it will be raising the bar on what we should expect from both this genre and the format.
The reason we classified it as an “indie” film is because it is produced by a small but talented group of artists who call themselves the Ninjai Gang. They have been working on this project for years and have not had the backing of any major studios, instead working on the film purely as a passion project that they have been very dedicated to. So, in that sense, while Ninjai: The Little Ninja is an “indie” project in terms of its development and production, it is definitely a top-tier project in terms of its production quality and massive blockbuster appeal. Looking easily as good as or better than any of the animated films of the past decade and blending a clever mix of Western animation styles with Eastern art direction and influences, especially from the anime world, this small but mighty ninja and film both look extremely promising.
The Ninjai Gang have currently not announced any official release date for the film, but the movie’s IMDb page does have 2022 listed for a release time. We are still fresh into the new year, so it is entirely possible this could yet be true. Despite only having a teaser trailer out, Ninjai already has a dedicated fan-following online, and there are numerous fan-run channels, sites, and blogs that are all speculating and theorizing about a mid-to-late 2022 release date.
An un-official Ninjai site and as well as this fan Ninjai account also contain various snippets of concept art, promotional images and other Ninja-related content that can give you a better look at the upcoming film.
The Relevance of Ninjai in the Ninja Genre
In a time where the ninja genre, whilst not necessarily suffering from poor entries, is not exactly doing too hot, a movie like Ninjai: The Little Ninja could not be showing up at a better moment.
While franchises like Mortal Kombat, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Naruto continue to prosper, there is very few original titles being released in the ninja genre, although the same can be said for most genres due to the big-studio commodification of the entertainment industry. It is more important now than ever for fresh, new properties like Ninjai to be released at a time when the creative landscape is in an original IP drought. Especially in such a well-established genre and world as that of ninjas, these stealthy warriors cannot be allowed to die out.
What Makes Ninjas Special and Worth Continuing
Ninjas are well known as the stealthy, skilled, intrepid warrior assassins that they are. They can also be said to be the precursor to the modern assassin or spy, and the inspiration behind the spy and espionage genre themselves. Before there were secret services or Navy SEALS, there were ninjas – secretive, mysterious warriors who were capable of penetrating and infiltrating any defense to accomplish their mission.
This ancient line and craft have been kept shrouded in mystery due to its being passed down selectively, sometimes being kept within family lineages. There are few bona fide ninjas remaining today, and while the actual craft and knowledge of ninjas may eventually fade into obscurity, their impact on popular culture will not, and cannot be allowed to.
Ninjitsu: A Long-Lost Martial Art
In the same way that ninjas can be considered the precursors to spies and several types of special forces, the martial arts they practiced, collectively known as Ninjitsu, can be the first multi-discipline martial art: the precursor to modern mixed martial arts.
Ninjitsu involved a variety of skills and practices, from proficiency in numerous short and long-ranged weapons, to acrobatics and agility-based movements, to stealth and concealment, camouflage and remaining undetected while moving, and a range of other applicable skills for the assignments which ninjas often received.
Ninjas – The Warriors of Yesterday, The Stories of Today
While ninjas as a functioning class of warrior may no longer exist in the present day, their influence and impact on culture, storytelling, and entertainment is sure to be felt for many decades, if not centuries to come. You can know more from a recent posts in Fairmont and Entertainment monthly.
The addition of Ninjai: The Little Ninja to this storied genre is an important moment in a flagging field of animated films and is sure to rejuvenate the genre and elevate it to new heights, establishing a new benchmark for what can be expected from it.