While technically an interactive comic, I decided to categorize it as a webcomic since I viewed it at that format. It was made by Japanese artist Daromeon, so it can also be called a manga. While the categorization can be quite confusing, and the true elitist would insist that manga are different from comics despite the fact that a manga is a type of comic. Though to be sure, I categorized this one in Comics and Manga. So, yeah. Ketchup Ninja everybody!
Ketchup Ninja has a manga format, which is read left to right. However, it doesn’t follow your everyday manga in that it’s really not a true manga (since it’s an interactive comic). Plus, it’s full colored and rather than pages, it’s more of panels. I only read a fan-translation of Ketchup Ninja, so it’s in a clean webcomic-type format. Anyway, let’s discuss what Ketchup Ninja is all about!
It’s basically the story of ninja-in-training Shinoko who has to move to America after the Ninja Abolition Act was passed in Japan. The plot mostly focus on her adapting to the American language and culture along with her vigilantism as a mysterious ninja who saves the day. Ketchup Ninja itself is shot, 26 chapters long. She basically meets a few friends and rivals along the way, while also encountering a few ninjas here and there.
The plot is mostly linear and easy to follow and is abound with some humor here and there. We mostly see Shinoko (or Shin or Silicone) as she struggle with understanding English, gets overweight from eating too much fast food, goes in to ninja training mode, and gets abducted back to Japan along with her friends. You really wouldn’t get too hung up on filler arcs or very tedious training arcs and most of the scenes are action-packed. But it also doesn’t mean that Ketchup Ninja is shallow, in fact, it has its own depth. From adapting to a new environment, to crossing culture boundaries, and to defying one’s preconceptions and misconceptions.
The author also clearly makes fun of Japanese and American stereotypes, while not truly reflective of both cultures and exaggerated to booth, there is also a hint of truth in most of it. It’s also funny to see some of the funny trivia about American phrases at the end of the chapter. The plot really get developed much and there are a few plot threads kept hanging or abruptly ended. One may even say the ending is quite anti-climatic. It also seemed rushed and some few plot points where not further visited. Still, it was a fun read and there are implications that it might still be continued or probably rebooted with a better script.
Still, if you’re looking for a comic that is quite short, funny, insightful, and packed with ninja action, this one is for you.
Like I said a while back, Ketchup Ninja isn’t really a comic that is on a major publication. Aside from that, it’s also full color so expect a dip in quality here and there. But overall, characters are beautifully designed and the colors and art style seem to fit the overall tone of the story. If ever the author decided to redraw some of the scenes, I think the comic itself would be amazing. For now, it’s still has an inconsistency in terms of the character design and proportion, but like I said, it’s quite understandable considering the effort already put by the author (full-colored comics isn’t as easy as it looks, really). Besides, I’m assuming that the author isn’t a pro, but just by looking at most of the better character design, he/she certainly has potential to be published if ever.
Here are some of the panels in the comic:
I liked how ethnically diverse the whole cast of characters in Ketchup Ninja. Most of the manga I see when describing America, it seems like there are only white people and black people there. However, Shinoko is surrounded by a cast of various ethnicity from Asians, Caucasians, and Latinos. More than that, each characters portrays their own American upbringing along with some of the unique traits from their own culture. For example, Tinting (or Chin-chin as Shinoko calls here) dresses, speaks, and acts more liberally than the stereotypical Asian, but also shows a studious, calm, and elegant that is mostly common from the stereotypical East-Asian stock (she’s Taiwanese btw).
Mary, meanwhile, exemplifies the stereotypical wild and sexually-liberated blonde American girl, but she shows more depth thanwhat her actions give her. She also has one of the biggest character development from the series! First being portrayed as this bitchy girl with no regards for anyone, to a strong-willed and independent rival of Shinoko, and finally being friends with her along with being more open-minded to cultural distinctions. There are also her other friends such as Chris, a geeky otaku who is the object of Mary’s affections, Ian who is obsessed with food and games, and Debbie an overweight girl with an adventurous taste for food. She also interacts with Yoshida, another ninja who, while being extremely nationalistic and hating everything American, has the hots for Mary.
There are a few villains here and there, though they really didn’t get developed that much since the story ended abruptly. So yeah, some of the character motives where left in the dark and the only solution is for the story to get continued. Season 2! Season 2!
Read it! It’s a quick and funny read and the art style is not too shabby either. Lot’s of amazing characters and ninja stuff going on. You could check out Ketchup Ninja right here: http://www.batoto.net/comic/_/comics/ketchup-ninja-r9743
Or if you could read Japanese and has an account in Nico Nico: http://seiga.nicovideo.jp/comic/14
Also, Tinting best girl! The only time she ever gets an F!