Several years have passed since Byakuro Castle was invaded by enemy ninja and occupied. Fortunately, the infant Byakuro princess was saved, and years later, six young ninja cadets (therefore the name!) are being trained to retrieve a scroll hidden in the castle. (Yes! Unlike Ninja Scroll, there's actually a scroll involved in here!) Yume, Matsuri, Sakura, Hayashi, Pochi, and Kaoru must learn to work together and use their powers to accomplish their mission and defeat enemy ninja, monsters, and anachronistic mecha. And one of them just happens to be the grown-up Byakuro princess, too. (Probably not Hayashi, Pochi, or Kaoru, though.) Of course, chaos ensues, and they might fight their hardest to win back the honor of their shattered clan.
This could've been a really good show. As it is, Ninja Cadets is lightweight, fast-paced fun, but there are a few things wrong with it. First, and foremost, it's way too short. A single hour is simply not enough to introduce six characters, a setting, various adventures, and villains without losing something in the bargain. In this case, it's the clipped plot and the lame enemies that the youngsters must face. It doesn't help that the characters themselves aren't really that developed to begin with, though the designs are on the nice side, especially the character of Hayashi (who specializes in ninja explosives). The villain of the series may be skilled, but despite her interesting character design, turns out to be pretty cliched. And it's really obvious, once you get to watching this show, who the princess is.
The plot itself reminds me of the first two chapters of a standard RPG. Walk twenty paces, kill monster. Walk another twenty paces, kill monster. Boss fight! Next OAV: More of the same, but this time, we split the party and explore a dungeon, err, Byakuro Castle. Ooh! And I won't even discuss the giant robot fight at the end of the second OAV - it's just too ludicrous to take seriously at all! Of course, it would've been quite entertaining if the monsters had actually been minimally competent, but the Ninja Cadets basically get to show off their trademark weapons (kudos to the creators for even a modicum of authenticity here) and then walk on to the next fight.
The weird thing about this show was its rather bipolar pacing. The opening sequence has Byakuro Castle's inhabitants (who should've seen it coming, really) getting slaughtered rather graphically, and there are some scenes that almost rivaled Ninja Scroll and Yotoden in sheer ninja-ness. Then there are the obligatory character-interaction scenes where the Cadets act like total goofballs and indulge in gobs of slapstick. Ninja Scroll and Dragon Half do not a good mix make, but this seems to be exactly what AIC intended.
And that's the whole problem with this series. Ninja simply shouldn't exude an aura of cuteness and vulnerability. They are trained to spy, pass without trace, and, at times, kill. But these Cadets seem about as ninja as Sasuke from Ranma 1/2. You can't take them seriously at all, despite the meant-to-be-awesome-but-not action sequences. Maybe there would have been room for improvement had there been more than two episodes, but seeing as this is all that was ever made, apparently the creators gave up on it too. That's a shame.
Despite a few well-animated scenes, the show definitely lives up to its name. — Carlos Ross
Recommended Audience: Though the character designs are really cute, be warned, as there are some scenes of surprisingly graphic violence, especially at the beginning. Simply going by the cover art won't cut it here - parents of younger children will be in for a shock when they see limbs fly. Most of the show isn't nearly as gory, but I wouldn't recommend this to those below junior-high-school age. No sex, though there is one hot spring scene with a bit of non-explicit nudity.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, English dub
Review Status: Full (2/2)
Ninja Cadets © 1996 Youmex / Toshiba EMI
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