TV

Why Netflix’s House of Ninjas Doesn’t Like to Say “Ninja”


House of Ninjas director Dave Boyle and star Kento Kaku discuss the authenticity they brought to their new Netflix series.

Sword play in Netflix's House of Ninjas
Photo: Netflix

“Only ignorant fools say ‘ninja.’” So claims Taki, the mysterious matron of the Tawara family, as she sternly corrects her grandson in the old ways. Played by veteran actress Nobuko Miyamoto (Tampopo, A Taxing Woman), there’s much more to Grandma Taki than meets the eye. Such is the way of the world in Netflix’s new series, House of Ninjas. The proper term is “shinobi.” It’s what was used historically.

House of Ninjas is a new action dramedy that follows a modern-day shinobi family who has forsaken the lethal trade of their ancestors for a “normal” life. And like in every dramedy, the Tawaras are comically and tragically dysfunctional. The family patriarch, Soichi (Yosuke Eguchi) struggles to maintain a low-key profile whilst his wife Yoko (Tae Kimura) and daughter Nagi (Aju Makita) succumb to their old devious habits, stealing stuff just for the rush. Their thievery goes from grocery store shoplifting to museum art object theft. Then there’s the youngest son, Riku (Tenta Banka), who beyond not knowing the right word for shinobi, is completely naïve to his family’s nefarious past. And at the center is the slacker son Haru (Kento Kaku) who cheats on the strict shinobi rules of vegetarianism and chastity by sneaking out to meet a girl over beef bowls. 

Beyond his leading role, Kaku created the original story for House of Ninjas and serves as a co-executive producer. Although unknown in the West, Kaku is a well-established TV star in Japan with over 70 roles to his credit, as well as heartthrob photobooks devoted to his fandom. House of Ninjas is his dream project, and an opportunity for global exposure. He was inspired to create it from a real-life trip where he saw some ninjas…or shinobi.

“Maybe five years ago, I went to a ninja show in the countryside of Japan with my family,” Kaku says.“There are so many tourists and there are so many children, and they’re so excited about it. And when I saw there, I was like ‘ohh, that’s it!’” 

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