Making the Grade: Ninja Accessories

makingthegrade-ninjas
Nunchucks
This is almost always the first item most folks my age think of when they hear the words “ninja weaponry,” and with good reason. Nunchucks were on the list of items that teachers from my mid-80s youth would confiscate if they were ever found at school, a list that also included “butterfly knives” and “risqué leg warmers.” No such proscription was required for other ninja-related weapons because while our local hardware store carried ample supplies of chains, dowels and electrical tape, it tended not to stock swords and smoke bombs. As for actual nunchucks — they’re okay, but it’s hard to take them seriously as a lethal weapon after you’ve watched the more socially inept kids in your class whomp themselves in the head with their homemade jobs. B

Throwing stars
Another item that usually scores high when people think of cool ninja stuff, mostly because these tend to be thrown around a lot in your more ninja-infested action flicks. There’s a reason for that. First shot: ninja flings stars. Second shot: stars whiz through the air with accompanying “thwip thwip” sound effects. Third shot: victim is shown with stars stuck in various body parts and/or their clothes pinned to the wall resulting in a hilarious Looney Tunes-esque pose. I don’t think I’m betraying any special-effects secrets here by revealing those weren’t the same stars in all three shots. Definitely an essential part of a complete ninja breakfast, but I wager you’d really want to master the art of throwing them before you go out looking for trouble, because otherwise you’re just a dork who’s littering. And no one wants that. A-

Caltrops
These are like 3-D throwing stars, the ninja equivalent of what James Bond’s car spits out to puncture his pursuers’ tires. According to a website that has far more information on the purchasing of ninja weaponry than what one might find comforting, caltrops could be very effective in slowing down pursuers “as samurai wore thin-soled footwear.” You know, I bet samurai warriors hate it when that’s the first thing people always bring up about them: “Samurai… samurai… wait, aren’t you those the guys who are always wearing thin-soled footwear?” Damn those Hollywood writers and their samurai clichés. Anyway. I submit that what worked for Bond doesn’t necessarily work for ninjas, unless samurais back in the old days were obliging and/or oblivious enough to chase their ninja opponents in a straight line and not do something crazy like, I don’t know, jump over any caltrops they may see on the ground, or veer slightly to the side to avoid them. You know, high-level tactical stuff like that. C

Ninja swords
I’m not that impressed by ninjas with swords. Oh, I’m sure are a hundred different types of swords and they probably each come with their own specific function, history, cleaning instructions and Buzzfeed quiz (“What kind of katana are you?”). But you know what? Swords are dull — well, figuratively speaking. Dress them up with as many fancy hilts and curves all you want; they’re all sharp pointy things that anyone, even the corpse from Weekend at Bernie’s, could wield effectively, given sufficient duct tape and ramming speed. Plus, a couple of throwing stars can be tucked (carefully) down one’s trousers if a quick escape into a crowd is called for; hoisting a sword and scabbard on your back kind of works against the whole “strike and blend into the shadows” thing, especially if your idea of blending involves taking the crosstown express. C-

Sais
Admit it, if it weren’t for Elektra and Raphael hefting these babies you wouldn’t know the first thing about sais. Sais (or as I like to call them, “Satan’s salad forks”) originally started out as farming tools, which makes sense: actual ninjas often passed themselves off as farmers or members of the lower social classes in order to pass unnoticed by their snootier adversaries, and carrying around diamond-encrusted swords and such would have gone against the whole “humble sons of the soil” motif. Light bulb! “Ninja American Style,” an AMC original series about a good-hearted farmboy out to avenge his family by using pitchforks, rototillers, and John Deere caps to bitch-slap crooked politicians, greedy bankers and other unsavory sorts. And if Channing Tatum isn’t available, we can get the buff dude from that True Blood show. You know, the one who’s always taking his shirt off. No, the other one. B

Smoke bombs
The single most important weapon in a ninja’s repertoire, and for good reason; it’s hard to maintain that air of deadly mystery when your main retreat tactic is to yell “Look! Over there!” while ducking behind the nearest piece of shrubbery or masonry. I honestly don’t know why smoke bombs aren’t made available to consumers as every local corner store. Gosh, who wouldn’t benefit from something that provides the perfect cover for a covert escape? Awkward moment at the dinner table? Your honey walks in on you in bed with her sister? IRS auditor asking questions you’d rather not answer? Schoolyard bully about to purple your nurples? FWOOSH! Smoke bomb! In your face! Exit, stage left! Come on, amoral American entrepreneurs. Get on that shit. A+

Masks and footy pajamas
Yes, the popular image of a ninja is a guy in a mouth-obscuring mask and a pair of monochromatic pajamas, just as the good people at Lego Inc. intended. And your first response to that image is probably something like, “Of course! Because shoes would make too much noise and an all-black ensemble is perfect for blending into the shadows! It’s just common sense!” Sure, but think about it for a second. The whole point of being a ninja is to get close to the target, kill the target and then blend into the background. This becomes slightly more difficult if you opt to wear clothes that would be hard to explain in any context unless you have a part-time job changing scenes down at the local community theatre. Sad to say, real-life ninjas didn’t wear all-black numbers, nor did they scream while jumping out at their victims or twirl their swords rhythmically while performing intricate ballet sequences for their audiences’ amusement. Also, the dogs in all those Disney Buddies direct-to-DVD movies didn’t actually speak their own lines. Making the Grade: Ruining All Your Childhood Film Memories Since 2009. D

 

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