Genre: Comedic Contemporary Ninja Tale
review in one breath
This light-hearted and comedic story places Ninja Hattori-kun in a final "training mission" smack in the middle of contemporary Tokyo. A well-established and beloved character in children's books and anime, the adventures of pure-hearted Hattori will appeal to younger audiences and those interested in a good-natured and frequently funny humanitarian tale which packs a whole lot of ninja action and antics.
Produced by director Suzuki Masayuki and starring SMAP boy-band star Shingo Katori (as Hattori), this films aims squarely at mainstream family audiences and thoroughly succeeds in providing a well-polished and remarkably cast action tale.
The character of "Ninja Hattori-kun" is well-established in children's anime and appears regularly in television, manga and software productions. Hattori is a pure-hearted yet highly trained and formidable ninja whose contemporary adventures often include important humanitarian lesson for the child or children likewise caught up in the story's action. This live-action version is no different and although the film casts the relatively older Shingo as Hattori, the narrative still has him befriend Kenichi, an 8 year old boy struggling with issues of isolation and inferiority. Shingo's Hattori is SO pure-hearted and urban-naive (this is his first adventure away from his father's mountaintop recluse) that despite differences in stature Hattori and his younger companion basically speak on equal terms.
Hattori is literally culled from a completely different era, speaking archaic Japanese to the surprise of those who hear him, and is completely befuddled by things such as rice cookers, refrigeration and neon. Thus in many ways Kenichi helps Hattori acclimate to 21st century life while Hattori instructs Kenichi in lessons of confidence and defending oneself.
As a final step in his Ninja training Hattori is sent by his father far from their mountaintop home into the depths of "Edo", which turns out to be contemporary Tokyo. Hattori soon befriends Kenichi and awkwardly invites himself into his home and routine, all the while remaining out of the sight of Kenichi's routine-laden yet well-meaning parents. Kenichi's frequent mention of a ninja is taken as childhood fantasy, and the fact that he finds himself on the sidelines of school life make his friendship with the quaint ninja even less noticeable.
While in Tokyo, Hattori encounters several other ninjas of various schools, most of whom have "retired" to become teachers, actors even mimes. These retired ninja's go about normal daily lives believing their trade to be obsolete. Until, that is, an evil ninja from the Kuro Kage or Black Shadow School begins paralyzing the pathetic and actionless ninjas.
By the time Hattori can confront the Kuro Kage Ninja, Kenichi has been captured and held hostage in a bid to lure Hattori into a fatal trap. Will Hattori's training be enough to vanquish the evil Black Shadow and will Kenichi's self-determination and courage finally manifest themselves? ... WHO KNOWS!?! :p
This is a really fun film and the humor comes across consistently and subtly. There is plenty of CG effects which allow Hattori to accomplish super-human ninja tricks (such as jumping off the top of the Tokyo Tower) and the entire film is done with tongue-in-cheek. The redeeming value, however, is the traditionally strong humanitarian lesson this film packs. The action, humor and effects all serve the higher, central purpose of depicting and presenting a message of traditional value to its intentionally younger audience.
But this is far from Captain Kangaroo. There are plenty of sword fights and shuriken attacks by demon-eyed assailants who clearly have death and destruction on their mind. For this reason, this will have appeal to older audiences as well, with the caveat that they know this is not intended as an adult action film.
Version reviewed: Unsubtitled VHS
|Well done live-action version of the very popular Ninja Hattori-kun.||Plenty of hand-to-hand and weapon-to-weapon combat, none of which results in blood or death, though paralysis via ninja poison proliferates.||Hattori-kun hasn't even heard of a rice-cooker before, let alone "the little man in the boat"!||Very fun and good-natured ninja tale set in contemporary Tokyo.|