There are a lot of TV shows out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best anime, our attention this time turns to ninjas. From horrific action to friendship-driven narratives, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
Ninja Scroll is the epitome of ninja anime and gives off the satisfying sensation of a grand B-movie. The anime lacks a bit in the character department as not many characters are given the needed development. Instead, fans praise it for its fun and gory fights.
Ninja Scroll follows Jubei Kibagami, who wanders Japan looking for missions and quests to tackle. He’s a finely trained swordsman with a saddening past full of betrayal and neglect. He has no time for warring political factions and often stays far away from issues related to the topic.
Things take a dramatic turn when he saves a female ninja named Kagero from an evildoer who can transform into stone. Kagero informs him that she’s investigating a strange disease that wiped out an entire village. He hesitates and declines her offer, but is forced into the situation when a government spy poison and blackmails him into participating.
This anime features a great of realistic and fantastical action. Everyone displays a grand level of martial arts, swordsmanship, and other forms of combat. Fans of action films will get a kick out of the intense and insane manoeuvres performed by Ninja Scrolls’ cast.
Naruto Shippuden is the sequel to the beloved battle shōnen “Naruto.” Unlike its first season, this season follows Naruto in his teenage years as he attempts to find and retrieve his former friend Sasuke Uchiha.
In this series, Naruto will combat formerly established villains like Orochimaru and a new elite unit of powerful foes called the Akatsuki. The Akatsuki are stronger and more devious than any villain Naruto and his friends have fought before. It’s going to take a lot of teamwork, training, and effort for them to defeat these menacing adversaries.
Naruto and other fan-favorite characters gain phenomenal development in Shippuden. While some of their child-like characteristics remain, you’ll feel like the characters are growing alongside you. Fans of the series felt this energy as they watched Naruto make better decisions to protect those he cares about.
If you’ve watched the original Naruto series, but never got the chance to see how Naruto’s story concludes, check out Naruto Shippuden.
Basilisk is an anime that offers a touching Romeo and Juliet-esque story but leans more toward non-stop action and violence. Many of its characters love fighting, and it’s felt throughout the entirety of the work. While the series offers slight breathing room with its romantic sub-plot, its brutal atmosphere never ceases.
Basilisk is about two rivaling clans called Iga and Kouga. Both engage in a non-stop war that’s halted by the orders of a powerful warlord. Years flow by, and the two clans’ heirs named Gennosuke and Oboro fall in love. Despite wanting to end all bloodlust between their clans through marriage, another war breaks loose between their respective clans.
This is kick-started by the warlord’s two grandsons, who call for a battle royale to declare who’ll be the next heir to the shogunate. This shogunate battle royale will force each nation to choose their 10 best warriors to represent them in this fight for dominance. Therefore, the anime follows Gennosuke and Oboro’s quest to forge peace between both clans while uplifting the duties of their forefathers.
Romance and bloody fights aside, this anime offers wonderful information about Japanese history and culture. Many of the ninjas are depicted as savage beasts than morally-driven human beings. The techniques and strategies they use in combat vary from warrior to warrior, allowing the action to remain fresh and interesting.
If you’re into anime with full-on bloody fights with a hint of historical value, then check out Basilisk.
Harukanaru Toki no Naka
Harukanaru Toki no Naka is an intriguing romance and fantasy-driven anime. While it offers a reverse harem storyline, there are little to no innuendos found in the work. This allows the romance to feel more welcoming to the viewer and less sensual in nature.
This anime follows Akane Motomiya and her two friend Tenma and Shimon who are transported into another world by a demon. In this world, Akane becomes the Priestess of the Dragon God, and must stop the demons from taking over this universe. Through the help of eight super-powered men, Akane plans to rid this world of their demon threat.
This anime starts off slow but builds momentum in time. Akane and the others are explored and developed alongside its narrative. Everyone has a satisfying personality and a backstory that’s revealed gradually throughout the anime.
Despite being her lackeys, the eight super-powered men all feel important to the overarching narrative, and you’ll find yourself empathizing with them. While Harukanaru Toki no Naka’s feels more targeted toward females with its romantic tension, there is enough action and manly moments to keep male viewers interested.
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings
Despite its title, Sengoku Basara: Samurai Kings features different occupational fighters. You can expect samurai to be clashing with ninjas in this anime as it doesn’t contain an accurate representation of the time period it is based around.
Taking place during the Sengoku period in Japan, our story follows the conflict between multiple nations. At the helm of the conflict is Nobunaga Oda, the Demon King of Owari, who established himself as the strongest ruler. He promises to crush anyone who gets in his way of establishing a tyrannical central government. The two warriors that challenge Oda are Masamune Date and Yukimura Sanada, who stem from different clans.
While they share the same desire to take Oda down, Masamune and Yukimura can’t get along despite being they’re both formidable warriors. However, when Oda’s henchmen close in on their homeland, Masamune and Yukimura must work together to fight off Oda and his army of miscreants.
Sengoku Basara offers a simple premise and chooses not to include any complex topics. While this can be jarring to some, Sengoku Basara’s aim is to have an easy-to-follow plot full of non-stop epic battles. The fight scenes are immaculate and attention grabbing. You’ll find yourself immerse as these foes clash swords and blades with each other.
The characters have weapons and skills that fit with the time period well. You can expect samurais wielding katanas and ninjas wielding kunai in this anime. Their mannerisms and behaviors also reflect their nature well and nothing feels too out of place. As for development, the anime spends time shedding light on our characters’ backgrounds and personalities.
Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl
Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl is a deceptive comedy that features a slew of jokes, slapstick, and gag humor. While its premise is simple and its jokes fairly repetitive, it manages to turn out a satisfying product by the series’s conclusion.
Our tale revolves around the life of a school girl named Jiyu Nanohana. One day she comes across a 300-year-old samurai who informs her that she’s the reincarnation of Yagyu Jubei, a legendary swordsman. He bestows Jiyu with the “Lovely Eyepatch” that allows her to attain Yagyu’s incredible fighting ability and strength. The anime features Jiyu fighting numerous clansmen and foes, who are looking to resolve an old family mishap.
While there is a good chunk of action in this anime, fans adore it for its characters. While most characters in supernatural action series jump for glee at attaining newfound strength, Jiyu isn’t ecstatic about it. You’ll see Jiyu try to reject her abilities time and again. The anime does a fine job at developing her attachment to the Lovely Eyepatch and building upon her own reason for fighting.
Jiyu’s chemistry with other characters makes this a worthwhile watch, too. You’ll enjoy seeing her bond with her father, as some of the instances they involve themselves in feel relatable and wholesome. Jubei does get into some romantic shenanigans that exhibit a similar feeling. While its jokes may not vibe well with most viewers, Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl is a great anime to watch if you like quirky characters and ninjas.
Flame of Recca
The 90s was an interesting time for anime fans. Whether one adored the magical powers of Sailor Moon or the flurry of fists and kicks of Dragon Ball Z, there were many distinct action-centric series to strike everyone’s fancy. Although Flame of Recca follows the trend, it has some essence of uniqueness to help it stand out.
This anime revolves around a delinquent named Recca Hanabishi who likes getting into fights and trouble. He loves ninjas as much as he admires fighting. While all is mundane in his life, everything changes when he meets a sweet girl named Yanagi Sakoshita. Their fateful encounter leads to an endless chain of events that will lead Recca to discover his ninja ancestry and fire-like abilities.
As with most shōnen anime, Recca’s a never-giving-up hero who values his friends. He doesn’t back down from any challenge given to him and makes sure he gives it his all in a fight. The fights he endures are brutal, but each fight adds more experience and wisdom to his fighting palette. Like Goku, Naruto, and others, Recca will grow as he fights and harness newfound strength.
While it’s an old shōnen anime, Flame of Recca’s animation and art style hold up well. From its heroes to its villains, everyone has depth and uniqueness. Fans should add Flames of Recca to their watchlist if they’re looking for a 90’s-era anime with stellar animation and characters.
Nabari no Ou
Nabari no Ou is a unique and experimental ninja anime. Instead of taking place in a historical setting, everything occurs in modern times. While its ninja elements aren’t expanded upon as much as the drama between its characters, it serves a slightly satisfying and distinct dish.
Our story revolves around a 14-year-old boy named Rokujou Miharu who bears a powerful ninja technique called Shinrabanshou, which many ninjas are after. His classmate Kouichi and his English teacher Kumohira are both secret Banten clan ninjas who are devoted to protecting Miharu from any incoming ninjas who are after his powers.
Although one of them proposes that Miharu join their ninja club, he refuses. However, he changes his mind when numerous ninjas start attacking him from out of nowhere. The anime follows Miharu’s bond with the other members of the ninja club as he desperately tries to survive the onslaught of multiple ninja attacks.
As mentioned earlier, this anime leans more into its characters’ relationships than showcasing our protagonist’s participation in any ninja-like activities. While this may be a bummer to some ninja enthusiasts, its soap opera elements do a fine job at pulling you into the narrative. You can expect grand facial expressions and reactions during these moments.
Puppet Princess is a 40-minute OVA that would’ve benefitted from having a full-length anime series. This is highly regarded for its brutal action and nightmarish imagery. While its visuals helped set it apart from most, many fans enjoyed Puppet Princess for its humor, characters, and historical setting.
Puppet Princess is set in feudal Japan and follows Princess Rangiku’s quest for revenge. The reason behind her bloodlust stems from an action displayed by a warlord named Lord Karimata. Karimata had invaded her home seeking her father’s incredible supernatural puppets. Due to his failure, he murdered Rangiku’s entire family.
To live up to her family name, Rangiku, along with her father’s best puppet warriors, embarks on a mission to bring Karimata to justice. While she can utilize the puppet’s abilities wonderfully, she understands that manipulating these puppets leaves her open to attacks. This forces Rangiku to request the aid of a ninja warrior named Manajiri, who vows to protect and fight alongside her.
Rangiku is a fantastic female protagonist with a kind-hearted but powerful fighting spirit. She’s no klutz or damsel in distress, as her puppet techniques will impress and amaze you. While Rangiku is a formidable warrior in this anime, Rangiku is just as phenomenal. You’ll find yourself cheering them on as they lay waste to many of Karimata’s henchmen.
Like Nabari no Ou, Katangatari is a visually appealing and dialogue-centric ninja anime. While there is some action inserted in this anime, it chooses to entertain audiences with its mesmerizing imagery, unique art style, and clever script. Fans expecting lectures about honor, justice, and loyalty won’t find it here.
Instead, Katanagatari features a slew of emotionally-driven character interactions and verbal nods to popular culture. These decisions allowed Katanagatari to feel different from other ninja-themed works, but it does run into trouble with its storytelling and over-utilization of this feat.
Unfortunately, Katanagatari’s storytelling suffers from mild predictability and repetition. Some fights feel like they’re 90% talking and 10% combat most of the time, too. However, if fans can overlook those problematic instances, you’re sure to be in a worthwhile treat with Katanagatari.
Our tale takes place in Edo-era Japan and follows Shichika Yasuri, whose practicing one of his world’s greatest sword-fighting styles called Kyotouryuu. This technique allows the user’s body to be wielded as a blade. Shichika is the Kyotouryuu school’s seventh head and lives a peaceful life with his sister Nanami. That all changes when a strategist named Togame barges into their lives.
Togame requests Shichika to help her collect twelve unique objects called Deviant Blades for the shogunate. Although she barged into his establishment unannounced, Shichika accepts her offer. Therefore the anime follows Shichika and Togame’s quest of uncertainty, hardship, and pain as they travel the world searching for the mysteriously powerful Deviant Blades.
So, there we have it, our picks for the best anime through the years about ninjas!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!