All About Japan

Fear the Ninjaguar!

Ninja Shoryudo Shiga Kansai

Shiga Prefecture's Koka area bills itself as the birthplace of the ninja. So it's only natural that the region would choose a ninja-themed character to promote itself to the world.

A Koga ninja who surpassed human limitations to take on beast form, Ninjaguar battles evil spirits in the night, defending the Koka-area town of Shigaraki as its citizens sleep. Though born 400 years ago, he has time-slipped to the present day to carry on his mission.

Ninjaguar was first produced as a web series in 2011. Supported by the Shigaraki Tourist Association, each 90-second mini-episode feels something like Kaman Rider (Masked Rider) meets Berserk, all mashed into a regional promotional video.

The nine-episode run intercuts scenes of the peerless Ninjaguar CG-slashing his way through nocturnal monsters with scene-setting images of local festivals and the ceramics kilns for which the region is famous. The first series was followed up with another nine episodes, called Ninjaguar: Ashuraba-hen, in 2012.

The series was rebooted—with enhanced production values—in January 2014, with Ninjaguar given a human form going by the name of Tsukikage ("Moon Shadow") played by Keisuke Tashiro. Called Koka Warrior Ninjaguar Episode-X, this iteration ran for a total of 30 episodes, even expanding to three minutes from episode 13 and ending with an extended 13-minute finale in April 2015.

Offscreen, Ninjaguar has grown to be a popular promotional figure in the area, where you can pick up a Ninjaguar key holder or Ninjaguar Japanese green tea.

In July 2014, the character was appointed "Crime Eradication Warrior" by the Shiga Prefectural Police, and in the same month the national Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications committed ¥7.5 million—an amount that was matched by Shiga Bank—toward the use of Ninjaguar for town revitalization efforts, including the production of promotional movies and purchase of event costumes.

If you'd like to know what it's all about, you can start by catching all the episodes of Ninjaguar (in Japanese) here—the first episode is at the bottom right—or you can head to the Ninjaguar homepage below. But remember: Ninjaguar knows no mercy!

- www.ninjaguar.com (Japanese)