Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
Miharu and the secret ninja art of not caring.
We’ve seen it before in other action anime series, haven’t we? That young boy who isn’t aware of his full potential becoming the hero or that kid who has always dreamed of being a master is tossed into the fight of his life and becomes the chosen one … these aren’t exactly original premises. Yet Part One of Nabari no Ou we meet the young protagonist that just doesn’t care about being a hero or anything at all. This is part of what makes this such a refreshingly likeable and slightly different kind of action series.
You see, Miharu Rokujo is not your average hero. In fact, as far as heroes go he’s actually downright adorable, short and soft in an almost girly sort of way. With the bat of his eye and a tone that makes him sound like he would break if you handled him wrong, he could win over any girl or boy to get his way. He’s a boy who would much rather sit and do nothing than be a part of something. In other words, he just doesn’t care about anything.
As fate would have it, though, sealed within the boy is an ancient secret ninja technique called the Shinrabansho that is so powerful that the wielder is granted an almost god-like power. It’s no wonder that ninja clans all over Japan want this power and they’ll even send enemy agents to locate the one who happens to be carrying the Shinrabansho with him. As such an attacker makes his move, Miharu realizes that fellow classmate Koichi Aizawa (who has been bothering him to join the martial arts club) and a teacher, Tobari Kumohira, are actually ninjas from the Banta Clan who have sworn to protect the Shinrabansho.
Unfortunately for Koichi and Tobari-sensei, Miharu just doesn’t care about ninjas, assassins or the power locked within him. It’s quite funny to see both student and teacher try to make it clear that Miharu’s life is in danger only to find that the boy isn’t even worried that his life is in danger. Just about the only one really annoyed by Miharu’s dismissive attitude is a cute self-proclaimed samurai girl named Shimizu Raimei who joins them.
As word that Miharu is the boy with the Shinrabansho, ninja clans begin their secret war as Shimizu’s clan – the Fuma – are attacked by the very powerful Kairoshu clan that has planned to take not only the Fuma clan’s secret technique scroll but that of every other known clan. It is during the attack on the Fuma that Miharu and the others meet Yoite, the silent and strange young ninja who practices a forbidden ninja technique that makes him a formidable killer that even Tobari-sensei can’t seem to defeat.
With the aid of the Fuma clan’s leader, a man named Kataro, they try to find a way to extract the Shinrabansho from Miharu and find that there might be a way of doing it without killing the poor boy. Unfortunately, the Kairoshu clan is also trying to find a way to do this as well and are doing so with the aid of their influential leader. On top of that, though, Yoite seeks out Miharu on his own and makes a most interesting request of the boy. While his request comes with a threat, Yoite manages to gain Miharu’s sympathy and the much young boy finally finds something to care about after all.
Aside from Miharu’s search for a way to extract the Shinrabansho as well as use the power to help make Yoite’s wish come true, there’s a brother-sister battle between Shimizu and her brother Reiko who supposedly slaughtered their family and the rest of their samurai clan. We come to learn more about Tobari-sensei and his pacifist view as well as Koichi’s actual cold-blooded nature. Part One does a good job of fleshing out each character to the point that we do come to know and like the majority of them. Even Yoite, whose past isn’t revealed, begins to change right before our eyes as a young man who was willing to put his life on the line to obtain power.
There’s also an interesting twist in the final two episodes as Miharu switches sides and finds himself meeting up with his old comrades on the school grounds of a neutral ninja clan’s territory. While the show isn’t filled with humor, what is comical is the fact that Miharu can win anyone over with a delicate glance and a soft “Be gentle, I’m fragile.” This works so easily on Tobari-sensei that he folds so easily. There’s also plenty of action in this series with fighting sequences that can get bloody at times.
Surprisingly engaging, Part One of Nabari no Ou is actually a fun show that takes a familiar plot and twists it just enough to be different and different is definitely good. The episodes do a great job of fleshing out the characters and there’s action aplenty, but whether the series is able to maintain the fun remains to be seen with Part Two. Either way, we will definitely keep our eyes on this series.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Cute and feminine, Miharu Rokujo has a powerful and ancient secret ninja technique sealed within him and ninja clans will go to war to obtain this power. The problem is that Miharu doesn’t care about any of this even when he meets the classmates willing to aid. Then he meets a cold-blooded ninja assassin who is the one who changes Miharu.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The action scenes might not knock your socks off but it still looks really good and yes there’s blood aplenty but not too gratuitous. Miharu definitely wins us over with his cute “you’re so mean” expressions.
AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The Japanese voice acting is excellent considering the amazing cast but there’s just something brilliant about Brina Palencia’s performance. The opening theme song, “Crawl” by VELTPUNCH is catchy but “Hitari” by ELISA is a sweet haunting tune and the perfect way to close an anime series.
Aside from the usual collection of trailers and the option to view the opening and closing animation without text, there’s audio commentary for Episode 2 with Eric Vale (Tobari) and Chris Burnett (Koichi) that’s actually amusing.
Part One of Nabari no Ou begins like a by-the-number action anime series but the more you watch the more you’ll like its appealing cast and fun action sequences. In fact, by the last five episodes you’ll actually come to appreciate the fun twist on modern ninja action and its main character who just doesn’t care about any of it until the very end of this set. This one is certainly worth viewing.