You know what are irrefutably fantastic? NINJAS! Pictured here with lightsabers, because lightsabers are sweet. The thing about ninjas is that, no matter how you feel about them, they are awesome and probably behind you right now. In fact, several creative mediums have made attempts at replicating the natural majesty of the ninja (known by nerds as shinobi), having mixed degrees of success. These attempts have spanned across film, television, video games, literature, and probably cave drawings as well, but since this is a website dedicated to the former two, we’ll be sticking to those for the purposes of this list. I’d like to elaborate, hopefully quickly, on the elements of this list. Firstly, this is my list and as such is restricted to what I’m familiar with. If your top pick isn’t on this list… sorry? Secondly, as always, I’m sticking to one character per franchise. Thirdly, I did my best to order this by making three different lists, each one ordered differently according to each character’s relevance to the genre, their approximate degree of badassness, and my personal preference. I then added the sums together and re-ordered the list according to those numbers. I’m not really sure what bearing that has on anything, actually. But I figured I’d bring it up. Anyway, let’s get started! Appears In: The Wolverine (2013) Portrayed By: Rila Fukushima Weapon of Choice: Katana, because as we all know, katanas are pretty freakin’ sweet. I wanted to avoid including superheroes on this list for two reasons: One, if I did, the list would probably become flooded with them and two, they’re… y’know, superheroes. However, I’ve been known to break my own rules in the past and shall continue to do so here. Appearing in The Wolverine, Yukio was a very welcome presence. She had spunk, she had style (rather quirky style, but style nonetheless), and probably gave the best non-Jackman performance in the entire film. But while she’s protective and even affectionate, there’s no disputing that this skinny-looking girl is a complete badass, and she lets the audience know it pretty much the instant she hits the screen. Yukio’s a bit of a mystery between her past, her vague precognitive abilities, and her connection to the clan of assassins that ends up being the film’s accidental antagonist. That mystery, along with her decidedly striking design, entertaining fight scenes, and general pleasantness definitely earn her a spot on this list. Appears In: The Warrior’s Way (2010) Portrayed By: Jang Dong-gun Weapon of Choice: Katana (expect a lot of those) I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, here. Yang… …is Korean. Dun dun DUNNN! But seriously, the concept and style of the shinobi is not only Japanese, and in fact, is believed to have originated in China. Several other eastern countries have had extremely similar darkly-clad assassins, and the ones in The Warrior’s Way are… well, they’re fucking ninjas. Straight-up. No denying it. This was an entertaining and somewhat more recent film about a Korean assassin that flees his clan, ending up in the American West. While he does his best to integrate, the shadows of his past (in the form of TONS of ninjas) are hot on his heels, and Yang must fight against them while protecting the people he’s growing to care about. It has a nice eye for dry comedy (usually stemming from Yang’s stoicism in the face of the natives, who have no idea how to react to him) and entertaining action scenes that walk the razor’s edge between “over-the-top” and “just right,” which is usually my favorite kind. He plays very much straight to type, but comfortably so – sometimes it’s nice to just see a ninja being a ninja, even if that ninja happens to be Korean. Appears In: Pretty much everything pertaining to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Portrayed By: Most notably, Mako Weapon of Choice: Wooden cane I don’t think this guy needs any introduction. It seemed obvious that someone from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise would have to show up here, and to me, the choice was equally obvious – Master Splinter, the man (rat) who trained the heroes in a half-shell in the first place. Splinter has always come across as a Yoda-like figure to me, except that his advice is actually useful and the sinking suspicion – that, despite his age, he can kick your ass – is readily apparent. Consistently the only character that can take on Shredder in a one-on-one fight, this wizened, mutated, humanoid rat has clearly earned his place here. They don’t call him “Master” Splinter for nothin’, after all. Appears In: Sin City (2005) Portrayed By: Devon Aoki (and definitely not anyone else) Weapons of Choice: Katanas, hankyu, and for some unexplained reason, Swastika-shaped shuriken Deadly Little Miho. Not much is known about her, as she barely speaks. Nonetheless, the lethal pixie is the watchful, silent guardian of the girls of Old Town. Able to sever entire limbs with shuriken and swim unhindered through sucking black tar, Miho is equal parts eerie, adorable, and frighteningly badass… which actually makes me think of another entry on this list. We’ll get to her. Miho was a character that was over-the-top in a setting (Sin City) that was already meant to be over-the-top. But between all the machine-gun-wielding prostitutes, hard-boiled cops, and sleazy thugs, Miho managed to come out of left field as a silent, oddly-dressed, and peerlessly dangerous ninja in a world where those didn’t seem to belong – and that lack of belonging only increased the value of Miho’s occasional appearances even more. Appears In: Pretty much everything pertaining to the G.I. Joe franchise. Portrayed By: Most notably, Ray Park Weapons of Choice: Various swords, knives, and automatic firearms How was this guy not gonna be on this list? He’s the only guy here who’s as quiet as Miho, but he tops it by adding on a whopping helping of Not Having A Face. Now admittedly, I’ve never been a long-time fan of the G.I. Joe franchise from which Snake Eyes (and his equally-badass rival, Storm Shadow) originates, so my experience with him is fairly limited. Nonetheless, I can tell awesome when I see it. Snake Eyes is the only entry on this list who utilizes modern weaponry – the other entries, whether or not they hang out in a modern world, tend to stick with their classical weapons. This motherfucker, on the other hand, manages to make machine guns look stealthy. Top that. Well, I guess, if I have to…. Appears In: Kill Bill, v.1 (2003) Portrayed By: Chiaki Kuriyama Weapon of Choice: Flail Eeeeeeee! Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Honestly, there’s nothing that unique about Gogo Yubari besides her weapon. The concept of a young girl being unexpectedly strong isn’t a new one, and within the world of anime that clearly inspired Gogo, nor is the idea of that girl being in some way psychotic. However, the way that Gogo Yubari is portrayed in Kill Bill was pretty chilling, and for me, she was the most memorable character in the entire franchise. She masters the aforementioned combination of eerie/adorable/badass in ways that should make Miho feel ashamed of herself – Gogo is a ruthlessly psychotic combat sadist, wielding a weapon she should barely be able to lift off of the ground. Her dissonant schoolgirl’s outfit and Chiaki Kuriyama’s on-screen presence (you may recognize her from Battle Royale, in which she also stole the show) are icing on the cake to a simply-designed, incredibly effective character. Yes, this was the most SFW image I could find. Honest. Appears In: Queen’s Blade (2009) Portrayed By: Hitomi Nabatame Weapons of Choice: Katana, tantos, kunai The Queen’s Blade anime is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. I’d say you could come for the boobs and stay for the surprisingly entertaining characters and storyline, but it wouldn’t entirely be true. You have to come for the boobs and stay for the boobs, as I did, in order to be rewarded with what, to my shock, ended up being a pretty enjoyable cast of characters – one of my favorites of which was Shizuka. Shizuka was a kunoichi mercenary who, much to my dismay, was the only character in the series to be permanently killed halfway through the second season. We didn’t get much of her, but she had more than enough time to shine for her casual humor, amusing laziness, and nice design. She was also central to what ended up being by far the franchise’s darkest storyline (the one that resulted in her death). So, while she may not be a character that many people reading this will recognize, I don’t feel the least bit bad about adding her. She was the greatest character in a pretty underrated anime. Appears In: Hellboy (2004) Portrayed By: Ladislav Beran Weapon of Choice: Bladed tonfa Just because he’s a clockwork cyborg zombie Nazi fetish ninja doesn’t make him any less a ninja. Okay, maybe it does a little – but there was no way I wasn’t going to mention Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, one of the most memorable characters of Guillermo Del Toro’s already-quite-memorable Hellboy. Kroenen suffers (or suffered, I guess, he doesn’t seem to suffer from much nowadays) from a type of “surgical addiction” that is… well, basically exactly what it says on the box. In life, he had more and more pieces compulsively removed to his body until he looked like… well, this: Yikes. He had the missing stuff replaced by a combination of clockwork parts and what appears to be sand, and now gets his kicks (if he still has kicks) playing right hand to a Lovecraftian Nazi sorcerer. Talk about a résumé. Appears In: Ninja Scroll (1993) Portrayed By: Kōichi Yamadera Weapon of Choice: Katana Warning: More profanity than usual on the horizon. If you’re an infant or mormon, close your eyes. Holy fucking shit, Jubei Kibagami! Let’s not even fucking pretend that anyone can even talk about fucking ninjas without bringing this guy up. For the philistines out there who, somehow, haven’t seen Ninja Scroll, Jubei Kibagami is what we in the biz refer to as a “badass motherfucker.” Remember when I said that part of my rating matrix involved how badass each character was? Jubei was number one. That’s right – if every ninja on this list got dropped into a big cage and had to fight to the death, Jubei would be the last man standing. Motherfucker probably wouldn’t even get bloody. Then he’d go eat a fucking apple or something because that’s the kind of fucking badass shit he does. Number one looms on the horizon, but first, let’s take a look at a few honorable mentions who almost made the list. From left to right: Sho Kosugi in general. That’s right – this guy’s so badass I’m not even using a specific role, but rather the actor himself. Why didn’t he make the list? Because of exactly that – he’s an actor spanning a huge mass of characters, and for this list, I wanted to stick with more specific characters that had a bit more polish and uniqueness to them. Pray that Mr. Kosugi isn’t behind me right now. Pray for me. He is, isn’t he? Princess Silda (Scorpion King 3). To be totally honest, I actually liked all of the Scorpion King sequels, despite them being cheesy. Princess Silda – portrayed by Krystal Vee – was a definite highlight of the third, but sadly there just wasn’t quite enough of her (or to her) to warrant her own official entry on this list. Casey Bowman (Ninja / Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear). Likewise, I enjoyed the two Ninja moves, starring Scott Adkins as Casey Bowman. They were both pretty entertaining, but they… lacked character. Casey is a ninja who just never struck me as ninja enough, but didn’t really strike me as being anything-else-enough either. Not to say he wasn’t cool and everything, but overall he lacked the personality to really earn my remembrance. Now, on to the final entry. Appears In: Ninja Assassin (2009) Portrayed By: Rain Weapons of Choice: Katana, kyoketsu-shogei Raizo is the quintessential ninja. While so many other ninjas seem to express various combinations of the “classic” supernatural abilities, or spice up their movesets with new ones, Raizo can do everything a ninja should be able to do, and nothing one should not be able to do. He’s completely silent. He’s invisible in darkness – not well-hidden. Invisible. He can focus to heal his own wounds. He can teleport short distances. He can hear your heartbeat from across the room. And last but most assuredly not least, he can punch you in the motherfucking soul. Not kidding. Not even exaggerating. He can literally stuff his hand into your soul. Coincidentally, Ninja Assassin was also just a fantastic movie overall, with solid acting and a straightforward plot that did a good job building up its central character. Raizo may not be a perfect character – in fact, there are a few others on this list that I prefer to him, however slightly. What Raizo is, is a perfect ninja. Also, oh my God. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Punk Faye June 18, 2015 Nice list. Even though i don’t know most these guys. Pirates rule! Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.