Friday, 23 November 2012

Japan's ninjas heading for extinction

An interesting article appeared today on the BBC website about the demise of the ninja. It seems that once the last generation of actual ninjas dies there will be no more of them. I hope that there is going to be some sort of effort to set down information about what they did for the historical record.

I also imagine that, once this last generation has gone, the way ninjas are portrayed will probably get even sillier than has been the case over the years. As a subject, they've had a rough handling from film and TV - not to mention RPGs. Even basic ideas about what they look like have been disposed of, for various reasons. For example, this is what a ninja actually looks like:

And this is an example of how a modern RPG tries to do things:

The above image comes from a Gaming As Women article.
Note the difference between reality and a badly researched image. Poor ninja. And in the above case, poor female ninja. I also imagine you could hear her approaching a miles off with all that kit clunking about.

Why is this a big deal? Well, even in a fantasy setting, what enriches any given subject is how much it can tap into what's already real. I mean, what's the point of doing anything about ninjas if it's not taking a lot of cues from the real ones? Add to that the fact that, if you're going to borrow ideas from the history of any given culture, are you doing yourself any favours by trying to rewrite that for your own ends? Too many people have done a bad job of it - do you really want to add to that? If you're going to borrow, do a good job of it. Likely as not, the realities of how your chosen subject matter has developed during it's existence is going to a rich source of ideas and inspirations. Chucking all of that out of the window to make some half-assed presumptions is probably not a good idea.

If you don't believe me, see how bad things can get: MST3K goes toe-to-toe with 'Master Ninja'...

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