Adult Swim’s Ninja Kamui is proof that bad anime is still being produced

AFTER a strong opener, Ninja Kamui drops off so hard in quality that it will inevitably be taught in future animation and writing classes on how not to develop a modern anime.

In the series’ fictional America, lone individuals are being brutally murdered by a group of mysterious assassins. Eventually, the group attacks Joe Logan, a white man living on a farm with his wife, Sara and young son Kyle, brutally murdering them.

The group is revealed to be ninjas from Japan tasked with assassinating former members that fled the clan. Revived in the hospital, Logan sheds his alias and assumes his real identity as Higan, a former Japanese ninja living under an alias and disguise thanks to a digital face-altering device.

His wife, whose real name is Mari, was also a ninja that defected with him. Seeking vengeance against the clan and its leader Yamaji, Higan embarks on a path to revenge.

Upon finding out that Higan is alive, Yamaji tasks Zai, a former close friend of Higan and Mari, to hunt him down.

All of this occurs in Ninja Kamui’s first episode, and in the next 12 episodes, show creator Park Sunghoo turns his own creation into an absolute disaster.

$!The sixth episode is where Ninja Kamui’s quality visibly dips.

Shedding its style

Up to the fifth episode, Ninja Kamui is relatively watchable. The first two episodes feature a lot of good action, particularly emphasising the hand-to-hand combat between Higan and the ninjas fighting him.

There are quite a few scenes that employ something called “sakuga animation”, which is highly detailed hand-drawn art to bring out explosive action elements or facial expressions. The exact moment this stops is the fifth episode, at which point the hand-drawn action begins to be replaced by 3D CGI.

Then the action, all the hand-to-hand combat and the ninja stuff, is completely abandoned in the sixth episode, when cyborgs enter the fray.

Soundtrack to its funeral

Before broaching Ninja Kamui’s obsession with cyborgs, the series’ terrible music needs to be highlighted.

When it comes to samurai or ninjas, there is an expectation that the music will reflect Japanese sounds in line with what is being shown on the screen. In Ninja Kamui, the only sounds that accompany it are pop rock ballads.

The action sequences or quiet moments in the show could have benefited from a score that features musical arrangements of Japanese instruments like shamisen and koto strings, shakuhachi flute melodies and taiko drums.

Instead of traditional Japanese music, Ninja Kamui assaults viewers with generic, out-of-place rock music.

$!The final episode is marred by sloppy animation and CGI.

Misguided and lazy

At a very visible juncture, the anime takes a pivot, transforming the original story about a man fighting against his former ninja clan into a story about a ninja clan taking over the world using cyborgs.

Park then introduces a secondary villain Joseph Evans, the founder and CEO of Auza. A multi-billion dollar tech company, Auza created the cyborgs, as they too hope to take over the world.

What was once a story with personal stakes involving family and ninjas has escalated into a nonsensical world domination plot with too many villains, characters, character motivations and subplots. The cyborgs was such a detrimental addition that it also ruins the series’ ending.

In the final two episodes of the series, Ninja Kamui is almost entirely CGI. The final episode has several back-to-back fight scenes, where Higan fights Yamaji, Higan fights Yamaji and Zai, and then Higan and Zai fight Yamaji. All of the sequences were poorly animated with CGI to the point that the fights look like streaming YouTube videos with a poor internet connection.

Anyone looking for a great anime should avert their eyes from this series that should have been titled Cyborg Kamui.