Ninjas at this point are as ubiquitous and well-known as the Beatles or…well I do not know any other thing that is as big a household name. If you were to ask anyone on the street what a ninja is, it is more than likely they could tell you. That is no small feat of information distribution! So how is it that these shadowy, mysterious warriors have become so well-known? It’s no doubt in part, to countless films, television shows, comics, toys, and a plethora of other paraphernalia and media. Something about ninjas holds a certain level of fascination amongst global audiences that seems to never dwindle.
Whilst ninjas themselves came into major prominence starting around 300 AD, their influence and cultural impact is still being felt some 2,700 years later. Their code of secrecy, stealth, and mastery of their craft is in many ways unique to their creed, rivaled only by their samurai counterparts, and by seldom few other warrior tribes. And although samurais and ninjas are indeed different, it is almost impossible to talk about one without mentioning the other; two types of skilled, master warriors often at odds with each other due to societal and tactical reasons.
With samurai occupying the upper echelons of ancient Japanese culture as the noble warrior class, ninjas were left at a significantly lower tier as something akin to hired assassins, though with more integrity amongst their families and clans than cheap street muscle. Where samurais were generally tasked with protecting their lord and engaged in open battle during the day, ninjas were often deployed on stealthy night missions to engage in sabotage, espionage, or assassination, and were thus a major foil of the samurai.
New Kid on the Block: Ninjai – The Little Ninja
A fresh new entry that explores this theme of ninjas vs samurai has snuck into the entertainment world i.e.: Ninjai – The Little Ninja series. Created and produced by a small, talented and what you might call guerrilla group of artists and friends that have given themselves the moniker “The Ninjai Gang,” this is no B-grade indie production. Boasting stunning visuals, martial-arts choreography, a swelling musical score, and top-notch animation, it looks just as good as, or even better than what you would expect to come from big name studios and production companies – an impressive feat for this unlikely band of rebel artists!
A teaser trailer for the film was put out online and from it, we have gleaned what we think the film will be about. Focusing on the character of Ninjai – after whom the movie is named – the story follows this young boy who is also an expert ninja in his quest for answers. Seeking to find out his true identity and facing many foes and adversaries along the way, Ninjai is a small but resourceful, clever protagonist who is accompanied by his friend and traveling companion Little Bird. From what little interactions we can see in the trailer, this two-pal team-up looks like it will be one for the ages and is adorable and endearing to see. In the history of children and their animal companion characters, Ninjai and Little Bird definitely make up one of the cutest.
Delving into the rivalry between ninjas and samurai, the film highlights Ninjai as he uses his abilities of stealth, agility, and a variety of weaponry to face off against a shogun warlord who is pursuing him relentlessly. The shogun has a host of samurai-type warriors whom he sends after Ninjai, and the contrast in fighting styles and tactics is clear. However, there are also foes of Ninjai who are ninjas themselves, including one clip that shows them hiding underwater to ambush Ninjai on a boat. Although samurai are often portrayed as the good guys in films and television, this is one instance where we will be rooting for the little ninja and his friends.
So, when does this promising film release you ask? Unfortunately, there is no release date yet, although the film’s IMDb page suggests a 2022 release date. There are also many rumors circulating across various online profiles and pages like the un-official Ninjai site and Ninjai social media channels, and a number of fan-run pages like this: Ninjai unofficial YouTube account. Few of them also theorize a 2022 release. Ninjai seems to already have a fan-following across the world wide web which is great news for the small but mighty indie production.
Ninjas & Samurai in Popular Culture
Most of us are familiar with ninja characters from massively popular franchises like Mortal Kombat or G.I. Joe, and with famous samurai films like those of Akira Kurosawa, or Western offerings like Tom Cruise’s ‘The Last Samurai’, and there are many ninja movies that have achieved mainstream success over the years starring a number of leading men.
In more recent years, there have been a number of films utilizing the two kinds of warriors, with samurai-focused titles like Keanu Reeves’ 47 Ronin, a remake of a classic, or ninjas in Netflix/Marvel’s Daredevil show – surprisingly enough. They also feature in the related series Iron Fist.
Whatever medium they appear in, it is clear that both ninjas and samurai will not be going anywhere anytime soon when it comes to modern storytelling and entertainment.
Ninja vs Samurai Combat Styles
One of the easiest ways to distinguish ninjas from samurai is by their dress, but also by their combat style. Even if either type of warrior were out of their traditional battle garb, you would be able to pick one from the other quite easily.
Ninjas employ an acrobatic, agile martial art known as Ninjitsu which relies heavily on avoiding direct one-on-one conflict, favoring instead stealthy, lightning quick attacks that emphasize accuracy and lethality.
Samurai however are trained swordsmen who would prefer to stand and duke it out one-on-one, trusting that their skill and swordsmanship will win them the fight more than flashy tactics or distractions.
A Note on Ninjitsu
Whilst samurai swordsmanship methods are alive and well to this day, sadly the same cannot be said for Ninjitsu, the secretive collection of martial arts used by ninjas. Due to the secretive, mercenary lifestyle of many of the ninja groups, the martial art has been steadily falling into obscurity over the last couple of centuries. Now in the modern day especially, there remain few genuine practitioners of Ninjitsu, and it is entirely possible that the art will die out and be lost to the annals of history within the next century.
Being a mixture of many different techniques and disciplines, it can be said that Ninjitsu was truly the first mixed martial art, the ancient precursor to modern-day MMA. Employing a wide variety of weapons like throwing stars, nun-chuks, claws, and of course swords, as well as various kinds of acrobatics, free-running, and stances, Ninjitsu was a complex and nuanced martial art that took years to master.
Ninja vs Samurai – The Legacy
Providing two quite different types of combat, lifestyle, and code, both ninja and samurai have certainly left a lasting mark on the world of storytelling, and broader culture. Today, the bushido code is discussed and respected, its principles enduring across cultural and geographical barriers.
Ninjai: The Little Ninja is giving us a renewed glimpse at these fascinating and multi-faceted warriors, and we are excited to get the word out so that the film can hopefully become a hit.
For more information on the as-yet-to-be-released animated feature, check out sites like Markets Herald, Madison Graph and online posts in Film Daily, and for more updates check back here frequently – we’ll be keeping an eye out for you!
Stay tuned for more updates as we closely follow this animated movie in the hopeful months leading up to its release this year!