Honor And Blood Across The Stars: “Space Ninja”

Copyright © 2011 by Dark Maze Studios.

Ed Glaser is a reviewer and contributor to the website That Guy With The Glasses, but today, I’m not looking at him so much as a reviewer as a producer.  Because without him, we would never have gotten the cool story of Space Ninja.

Written and animated by Alex Mitchell and scored by Chuck Cirino, Space Ninja is an interesting blend of space opera and chambara tales–or better yet, it’s a samurai film set in space and the far future.

The Story: A Lone Warrior Fights For Justice In The Cosmos

In the far reaches of space, there is a war between the Demon Lord and the people of his empire, who chafe under his oppressive taxation.  To quell their resistance, the Demon Lord sends out his elite soldiers, the Space Ninjas, easily recognized by their black suits and eerie red eyes.  However, on a mission to claim the engine of a giant enemy temple, one of these ninjas has a change of heart, refusing to kill a little girl and her uncle, the master of that temple.

Now branded an outlaw by the Demon Empire, the rogue ninja and the girl travel across space, taking shelter in various “kingdoms” and protecting the engines that power them from the iron grip of the Demon Lord.  Warriors of all shapes and sizes are sent after the rogue ninja, raising his status as a threat to the Demon Lord and as a symbol of hope to his oppressed Imperial subjects.

The Cast: The Good, The Bad, And The Ninja

The protagonist, the titular Space Ninja, is a mute character, whose sole distinction from the other ninjas is a crack over his left eye, symbolic of how he has broken away from his loyal service to the Demon Lord.  Equally voiceless is his companion, a young girl whose uncle died trying to protect the ninja and now relies on him for protection.  She serves as a reminder for why the ninja is now fighting the empire he once served.

There are a variety of other characters, such as the ferryman who takes the ninja and the girl on board his ship in the first few episodes or the various warriors sent after the pair of fugitives.  Some characters are even given names like Flickering Eel and Lady Weeping Crane, although they usually go without them.  And of course, there is the Demon Lord himself, a sinister man with a robotic voice who will brook no dissent from his subjects and is indifferent to their suffering.

The Style: Poetry In Motion

Copyright © 2011 by Dark Maze Studios.

This series has some very interesting designs.  At its core, it’s a chambara piece, featuring costumes, settings, and dialogue lifted right out of the Edo period.  The same applies to most of the sword-fighting and acrobatics, too.  However, there’s also a nice blend of futuristic space technology, too, giving the ninjas red-tinted goggles and hand-mounted lasers, putting the ferryman on a spaceship instead of a raft or boat, and setting the various kingdoms in space stations instead of on actual land.  It’s a tribute to the show’s creators that they mostly stick to the Japanese style and only use sci-fi elements when needed, like for travel, fight scenes, or long-range communication.  A good sign of minimalism, which seems lost in so many other shows I’ve seen.

Final Verdict: Worthy Viewing For Any Sci-Fi or Samurai Fan

Space Ninja is short but freaking sweet.  The episodes are rarely longer than five minutes, but there’s a lot of story and clever dialogue and fighting that gets shown in that small amount of time.  While the animation is not as fluid as other shows might be, the story doesn’t suffer for it and it’s always a treat to see what the ninja is going to pull off next.

Space Ninja is available for viewing on Blip.tv and on the Dark Maze Studios website.

Bibliography: Space Ninja.  Directed and produced by Ed Glaser.  Written and animated by Alex Mitchell.  Scored by Chuck Cirino.  Dark Maze Studios, 2011 – present.

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