A Comic Book For True Anime Fans! [Ninja Express Volume 1 Review]
No one wants to be a side character in their own life, so when you feel like one, what do you do? For young Otaki Oshiro, it’s trying to join an elite group of ninjas to become the main character! When Otaki Oshiro tries to join the ‘Ninja Beast Assassination Squadron’ and fails, he’s ready give up on achieving his dreams and go back to his sad life.
All of a sudden, his world is changed when he’s given the chance to join another ninja group, ‘Ninja Express’! Joining the small club, Otaki gets one step closer to becoming the ultimate ninja, and taking control of his own destiny! Ninja Express, created and written by D. M. Charles, tells the story of Otaki and his new ninja comrades.
There’s Sayaka Katsuragi, the leader and founder of the group, Emomaru Kumori, the mysterious “master of shadows”, and Yuki Katsuragi, Sayuka’s younger sister, and the most energetic of the group. Together, Otaki and the other members of the ‘Ninja Express’ club aim to prove their ninja worth, and defeat the ‘Ninja Beast Assassination Squadron’.
Ninja Express is very much influenced by traditional Japanese manga, as well as video games. This is evident in everything, from the art style, to the names of the characters, to even the personalities and traits of the characters! Each character seems to possess a trait or two that is often found in certain character types in anime/manga.
For example, Emomaru (whose name is a play and personality is a play on the word “Emo) is the mysterious and angsty kind of character. He wears a mask, has a cool and calm personality, and often talks about getting strong enough to defeat “that guy”. He reminds me very much of Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto, there’s even a moment in the first volume of Ninja Express that compares him to Sasuke!
The other members of Ninja Express display certain anime/manga character traits as well. Sayaka is the clan leader, and the kind of character who will do anything to uphold the name of her club, while Yuki is a rambunctious, hot-headed young girl with skills that she certainly knows how to use—but gets a bit reckless when using them.
Otaki, our main character (or…our side character trying to become our main character) is a lot like us, the reader. He’s an Otaku, a huge anime/manga/video game fan, and idolizes the main characters in the stories he hears. His whole goal as a ninja is to become like his favorite main characters, and no longer be pushed to the background of his own life.
But just because Ninja Express borrows a lot of traits and tropes from other anime/manga, doesn’t mean that it isn’t original. On the contrary, the world of Ninja Express is very fresh and interesting. A world where becoming a ninja is a yearly tryout event, and only the best get in. There are still regular schools and regular people, but being a ninja is seen as huge honor.
Joining a ninja group, such as the ‘Ninja Beast Assassination Squadron’, is a bit like getting into the best private school in the world. It’s a very interesting world to look at. Not to mention, the comic has a healthy and entertaining blend of action, seriousness, and laugh-out-loud humor.
The comic’s art style really helps contribute to the tone of the comic itself. The visuals mixed with the dialogue make an action scene epic, a serious scene even more serious, and a funny scene hilarious!
The characters contribute a lot to this as well. Like I said, every character does seem to possess a certain typical trait, but they aren’t just cardboard cutouts of standard anime characters. D.M. Charles does a great job of making these characters interesting, and providing them with enough abilities and backstory to keep them that way.
For instance, Yuki, the youngest of the group, has a shuriken stuck in her head. Yep, you read that right. After a terrible accident during practice, Yuki was hit by a shuriken, which is now embedded in her head and fused with her chakra. Because the shuriken is fused with her energy, she has the power to temporarily take it out and control its trajectory with her mind, as well as create illusions of it.
All of the characters have interesting stories and traits, and it just makes reading it that much more fun. Ninja Express features anime/manga references left and right, humor, incredible action, and a story that any anime fan would appreciate—I absolutely recommend it!