HOUSE OF NINJAS Review: Shinobi Stealth Success

Kento Kaku, Yosuke Eguchi, Tae Kimura, Kengo Kora, Aju Makita, and Nobuko Miyamoto star in Dave Boyle's Japanese-language action series.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
HOUSE OF NINJAS Review: Shinobi Stealth Success

Writer/director Dave Boyle starts with mysterious ninja action, pivots to a captivating family, introduces fierce foes, interrupts with brash action, and teases more mystery threats. And that's only the first episode!

House of Ninjas
All eight episodes are now streaming on Netflix. I've seen all eight episodes.

Up to now, Dave Boyle has been known for his smart, warm, and funny independent films, with a distinct Japanese perspective in his narratives and characters, from his feature directorial debut Big Dreams Little Tokyo (2006), though White on Rice (2009) to the musically-inclined Surrogate Valentine (2011) and Daylight Savings (2012), and the mystery-inclined Man From Reno (2014).

None of these films fully prepared me for House of Ninjas, which is an unalloyed delight. Developed by Dave Boyle from a story by Kento Kaku, Yoshiaki Murao, and Takafumi Imai, the series kicks off with ninja action on a dark night before introducing the family that forms the foundation of the show.

Haru (Kento Kaku) spends his nights replenishing vending machines, while resisting overtures from his father Sochi (Yosuke Eguchi) to come work at the family's sake brewery. His mother Yoko (Tae Kimura) is a housewife. Nagi (Aju Nakita) is a college student. Young Riku (Tenta Banka) is a kid. Haru's grandmother Taki (Nobuko Miyamoto) is a grandmother.

They all live together in a rather large, somewhat run down house. From outward appearances, they are a 'normal' family with 'normal' pressures, yet they all still mourn Gaku (Kengo Kora), the oldest son, who perished six years before. They haven't really been the same since, but they carry on.

The first episode plants more seeds that bloom throughout the series. What is the true identity of the bureaucratic Jin (Tomorowo Taguchi) and his assistant Masamitsu (Tokio Emoto)? They take more than the usual interest in a failing sake brewery.

And who, exactly, is Karen (Riho Yoshioka), Haru's crush in a food shop? Is she merely a romantic interest? Or something more?

The plot points are dropped smoothly and steadily into a marvelous mix of stealthy ninja action, family drama, and gentle comedy. The cast is outstanding at playing the various notes called for throughout the series, and the action is bone crushing and bloody.

Dave Boyle succeeds in painting on a much broader canvas, marshaling a wealth of supporting players and visual effects to create a picture that is frightening in its portrayal of true power. And how the shinobi world -- don't call them ninjas -- collides with the modern world.

P.S. I also liked Hanzo, the black cat, and the clown in Episode 7.

House of Ninjas

  • Kento Kaku
  • Yôsuke Eguchi
  • Tae Kimura
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Aju MakitaDave BoyleKengo KoraKento KakuNetflixNobuko MiyamotoTae KimuraYosuke EguchiYôsuke EguchiActionDramaHistory

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