From Mike Jones Digital Basin comes word of a promising web series called “Ninjai: The Little Ninja“. This series is advertised as one having the “highest production values but which is focused purely at on line as the sole delivery mechanism.” It is also a series that is offered exclusively on the web, and is not an ancillary offering from another mainstream show.
This is an animated series about a young boy who is a ninja, and is searching for meaning in his existence. (That seems unusually precocious for a young boy, and in fact, the boy sounds eerily like a little boy version of Sean Connery.) There are twelve short episodes, which seem to add up to what would be about a half hour show on the traditional television medium. Needless to say, the young boy is wise beyond his years, and easily triumphs over various villains in the first few episode. Indeed, at first I wondered where was the necessary suspense and tension that would make this dramatically interesting.
While I wouldn’t say that the production values are the very highest, they are vastly better than the values seen in the Battlestar Galactica webisodes (on SciFi’s Pulse site). Unfortunately, that’s not saying much. This is an animated series, and artistically the animation is lovely and tastefully simple. Although the economy of movement is an inventive way to avoid complex animation sequences, it also gets a little old at times. The series also drags in places, where too much time is spent dwelling on fight sequences. (That’s probably just me. I find that in Hong Kong action flicks, the fight scenes are only a slightly interesting display of extreme athleticism, but a little of that goes a very long way with me. Fight sequences in an animation movie even less so, especially in an animation series that frequently cheats on the animation. Given my extreme disinterest in long fight scenes, I’m not complaining at all about the economically animated fight scenes in this series, just noting that they seem to last a little too long.)
The characterization and voice work, on the other hand, is top notch. Even the odd, boyish Sean Connery accent of the little Ninjai works. Although our hero’s stoicism is equal to that of Eastwood’s in any of his three spaghetti westerns, the other secondary characters are much better at emoting, and for me, that makes them slightly more interesting.
The artwork and the music in these webisodes is topnotch. Each episode opens with a beautiful animated scene from nature, which is accompanied by a lush musical score. Despite some minor complaints, the series has held my attention, even in the face of my general lack of interest in “kung fu” style stories. I’d say that this series is very similar to the “Samurai Jack” animated show that aired on the Cartoon Network a few years ago. Like “Samurai Jack”, I found that the artwork and some of the characterizations were interesting enough for me to overcome my dislike of the quasi-mythical bad guys, endlessly epic battles, and simple-minded good-vs-evil story telling that is characteristics of these style of stories.
I hope that the guys producing this series continue their work, and I’ll be telling all of my friends to check their work out.