TV

Ninja Kamui Review: John Wick Meets Slice of Life Anime


Adult Swim remixes ninja traditions and delivers a beautiful, blood-soaked ode to vengeance and vindication with Ninja Kamui.

Ninja Kaumi Android Ninjas
Photo: Adult Swim

“You just couldn’t die, could you?”

There are certain anime evergreen customs that are omnipresent in the medium, with ninja and samurai right at the top of the list. Audiences have their share of options when it comes to such content, whether it’s established classics like Rurouni Kenshin, Jubei-chan: The Ninja Girl, and Ninja Scroll, or newer modern hits like Hell’s Paradise: Jigokuraku, Yasuke, and Blue Eye Samurai. It’s harder to stand out in a genre that’s done it all before, but this only makes Ninja Kamui’s success even more significant. Adult Swim is not one to chase trends, but they’ve tapped into an electric energy here and produced a powerful series that confidently slices its way through the competition.

The danger of a show like Ninja Kamui that prides itself in vicious violence is that characters can feel more like caricatures and there’s little reason to actually care about these people. Fortunately, Ninja Kamui’s blade goes beyond a skin-deep incision and the pathos is as pronounced as the pain. The anime reflects a deeply sweet and simple rural Americana lifestyle that’s shared between Joe and his family in the United States. 

It’s a nice way in which this Adult Swim production toes the line between its country of origin and its Eastern animation style and influences. This dichotomy is further reflected through Ninja Kamui’s opening theme song, “Vengeance” by coldrain, a catchy number that’s performed in English and ricochets between a gentle ballad and a raging death rock melody. It’s the musical equivalent of the two warring sides of Joe Higan. Joe wears an oni mask as his killer ninja alter ego, but the true demon lies beneath the costume.

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