kidnikiMysterious. Deadly. Invisible. Badass. Japanese. These are the qualities the geek imagines himself to have, and therefore these are the qualities of the most tiresome mainstay of geek culture, the Ninja.

Ninjas were invented by Japan in the early 80s in an effort to capture some of the lucrative geek market. They were an unparalleled success, and soon ninjas were everywhere. Videogames were filled with ninjas who were either faceless, disposable cannon fodder if they were enemies or unstoppable killing machines if they were the player.

Never ones to avoid a barreling popularity train if they could hop on, the comic book companies eagerly introduced ninjas into their universes, with Marvel, in its usual method of running anything it does into the ground, going absolutely ninja insane. In no time at all perennial badass Wolverine became a ninja and had to deal with rival ninjas. Daredevil got a heavy infusion of ninjas as well. It’s difficult to determine if the absolute nadir of this trend was when non-ninja Kitty Pryde became a ninja in a single day, or when plucky British lass Betsy Braddock is not only turned into a ninja but transformed into an Asian as well.

For geeks, this is important, because it shows that not only can anyone — including them — become a ninja, they cal also possibly become Japanese at some point. The thought of waking up as a Japanese person has stained the sheet of many a geek bed. However, even if they don’t do a complete racial makeover, becoming a ninja would at least make them an honorary Japanese person, as ninjas are about as Japanese as you can get.

This type of Aryan ninja also shows up in the example of Snake Eyes, a third-string G.I. Joe character who was just an ordinary commando when orders came down declaring that this didn’t make him tough enough anymore. He was accordingly given “mystic martial arts” training and became not only a ninja, but one of the most popular characters in the franchise.

“Mystic” is a key word there. To continually escalate the prowess and abilities of ninjas, they had to eventually take on superhuman abilities and equipment. Thus, in any videogame or role-playing game in which one can play a ninja (also known as a monk because otherwise they’d be out of place in a fantasy game) the character will have some sort of “danger sense”, possibly limited flight or water-walking abilities, and access to things like fax machines and tasers, no matter what the chronological setting of the game, because ninjas totally invented all those things. (If you want ninjas in space, just call them “Jedi”.)

As with everything else, geeks have taken the concept of the ninja and put it through the wringer, to the point where it’s impossible to say whether the dark and serious ninjas are more tiresome than the funny and silly ninjas. The latter are parodies of the former, but neither one of them is overly fresh or original. It’s gotten to the point where even some geeks roll their eyes at the mention of ninjas, but the vast majority will still eagerly devour anything about them.

Ninjas represent the perfect ideal for geeks to strive for, assuming they don’t already think they’ve reached it, and that’s why geeks LOVE ninjas!


4 Responses

  1. Lee van Cleef is hurt that you didn’t mention his stint as a ninja in “The Master” even once.

    No, wait. Not “hurt”. That other word. “Grateful”. That’s it.

  2. I still think that the Tick’s take on ninjas is the best parody ever.

  3. van cleef was proud of his ninja portrayals. don’t hate.

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