Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mirai Ninja

   Holy crap! How have I never heard of this movie until last night? This is an amazing little movie. It's a video game come to life in all the best ways imaginable. (Which isn't coincidental since the movie was produced in part by Namco, who later actually made an arcade game about it.) The hero is a cyborg ninja who fights robot ninjas, and eventually teams up with human resistance fighters to rescue a princess from the evil robot overlords. Sure, it's a story we've seen a million times, but it's also the concept behind just about every other beat-em-up arcade sidescroller ever. For a 90's kid like me, Mirai Ninja was pure bliss.

   Let's address the aesthetics first. The eponymous hero, the literal cyber ninja, looks like a cross between RoboCop from the remake, and Ryu Hayabusa from the Ninja Gaiden games. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong:

Better yet, tell me that doesn't look frickin' awesome!
   The comparison is accurate beyond appearances too, remember- this is essentially a cyborg ninja, so just replace the pesky pedestrian cop part of RoboCop and replace it with a frickin' Ninja, and you automatically have the coolest thing only ever. Well... maybe I'm overselling it. But maybe I'm not goddammit! This is the stuff my childhood excursions to Blockbuster Video were all about. Ninjas, robots, robot ninjas, lasers, giant plasma cannon thingies, bad guys who inexplicably shoot energy beams out of their hands, more robots, anime-like running, and bullet-swords, and and lots of explosions! Are you not entertained?

    If the answer is no, I'm afraid your inner-child is being neglected. Mirai Ninja isn't high class cinema, but it's relentlessly creative and jam packed full of special effects that recall only the absolute best moments of Power Rangers, Kamen Rider and VR Troopers. It's all the same wheelhouse, but the biggest and most unfortunate difference between Mirai Ninja and your favorite Japanese superhero team, is quantity. I'm devastated to report that there is only one Mirai Ninja movie which was only ever followed up by the Japanese arcade game, which never got ported stateside. No TV show, no manga, no anime, no American remake, no Japanese remake, sequel or reboot. As far as I can tell, this barely 80 minute movie is all we got- but there's enough Super Sentai suff to get sick off of if you'd like.

   It's a crying shame, but it also adds to the charm of Mirai Ninja. It's so self contained, you don't need to brush up on 300 volumes of a manga to know what's going on. Robots are bad, humans are good, robots kidnap princess, conflicted robot-man must help save princess to regain his soul. Basic friggin stuff. It's Star Wars and RoboCop, filtered through the lens of Saturday morning Japanese programming. The characters are all paper-thin, and the plot is just a big pulsing cliche, but the movie movies so damn fast, you'll swear it's doing that thing from DragonBall Z where they're fighting so fast you can't see them. Oh man!!!

   Incidentally, the robot ninjas and the cyber ninja himself both do that speed dash thing that ninjas in anime do. It's really cool, and somehow doesn't look completely dumb onscreen. The rest of the movie is relentless sword fighting, kicking, punching, blasting and running, but the coolest stuff is the design aesthetic of this world. It's retro futuristic, right down to the guns with their cybernetic components right next to feudalistic wood finishes. The movie is full of cool touches like that, including some I'll never understand, and something which I can only assume is a power scouter of some kind. But oh my god is it fun to watch.

   Bottom line though, anyone who's ever enjoyed a Shinobi game will find themselves perfectly at home with this breezy and stylish action flick. It is set up completely like an arcade game, with waves of enemies, boss battles, stealth levels, traps, and all kinds of random sci-fi nonsense. This is the kind of movie I absolutely love discovering, and I love it so much I wish it was part of my regular childhood viewing right alongside Masters of the Universe and Power Rangers. Someone needs to pick up Mirai Ninja and do something new with it, it is the one thing right now I would love to see franchised. Fully recommended for you and your inner-child. This is the stuff Friday night VHS rentals were made of!

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