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Adult Swim’s Ninja Kamui is a brutal, fast-paced revenge thriller

The new anime from Jujutsu Kaisen’s Sunghoo Park is electrifying

A man wearing a black hoodie and a red mask covering the lower half of his face walking away from a roaring fire. Image: E&H production/Adult Swim
Toussaint Egan is a curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

Ninja Kamui doesn’t waste any time getting from zero to 100. Within five minutes of its first episode, a bespectacled salaryman is ambushed by a flurry of projectile needles and attacks thrown by a dozen or so armored assailants, bobbing and weaving with uncanny precision as he counters each of their strikes before being viciously beheaded by a sneering brute with dreadlocks. It’s a strong first impression for the first original series from director Sunghoo Park following his work on Jujutsu Kaisen, one that boldly spells out Ninja Kamui’s declaration of intent with bloody and balletic finesse. In an anime season packed with strong premieres, Ninja Kamui positions itself as an action anime worth keeping an eye on.

A black-haired anime man with bandages around his neck holds a lit match in front of his face in Ninja Kamui. Image: E&H production/Adult Swim

[Ed. note: Minor spoilers for Ninja Kamui episodes 1 through 2.]

Produced in collaboration with Sola Entertainment, the first original anime production from Park’s studio E&H Production follows the story of Higan, a former ninja who flees with his wife and infant child to build a new life in America after escaping from his clan on threat of death. Assuming new identities and making their living as farmers, Joe and his family live an idyllic and quiet life — that is, until Higan’s clan finally catches up to him, massacring his wife and child and leaving him a hair’s breadth from death himself. Surviving the attack on his home, Higan embarks on a single-minded quest for revenge as he attempts to hunt down his former masters and avenge his family’s murder.

There isn’t a whole lot in the way of subtlety in these initial episodes, though there are some cool minor details that convey the scrupulous lengths Higan was willing to go to protect his family, such as covertly wiping their fingerprints after leaving a supermarket or setting up an elaborate multi-camera surveillance system to spot potential threats. While the primary focus of the series is on Higan bashing and slashing anonymous baddies, there are still notable supporting characters, such as FBI agent Mike Morris and his partner Emma Samanda, an eccentric cat-loving doctor who previously worked with Higan before defecting from his clan, and the as-of-yet unnamed CEO of Auza, a ubiquitous mega corporation heavily implied to be in league with Higan’s former employers.

A close-up shot of a brown haired anime man and red haired anime woman standing in a white hallway. Image: E&H production/Adult Swim

Not much time is spent focusing on these characters though in these first two episodes, but that’s fine, because those details are all in service of the real draw of Ninja Kamui: the action. Park earned significant acclaim for his work on the first season of Jujutsu Kaisen and its 2021 feature-length prequel Jujutsu Kaisen 0, both of which featured fast-paced and creative fight sequences with memorable choreography and editing. Fans of Jujutsu Kaisen won’t be disappointed here, as the action in Ninja Kamui is easily on par with JJK’s, albeit far more gratuitous in the amount of blood and viscera. Character designs by Takashi Okazaki, the creator of Afro Samurai, also add to the appeal of the Ninja Kamui, as fans of 2007 anime and its 2009 sequel film Afro Samurai: Resurrection will also feel right at home with the level of violence and action choreography on display here.

There’s no especially grandiose or bold ambitions on display when it comes to Ninja Kamui’s opening episodes. The series knows what it is: A hyper violent revenge thriller with expertly calibrated action sequences and uniformly dark and somber tone. With that in mind, Ninja Kamui thoroughly succeeds as an engaging and entertaining action anime. With a confirmed total of 12 episodes, only time will tell how this initial premise will evolve and change over the course of the season. But what I know for certain is that Ninja Kamui is a stunning addition to Adult Swim’s catalog of anime programming, and no matter where this story goes, this much is clear: There will be blood.

Ninja Kamui airs Saturdays on Adult Swim and is available to stream on Max.

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