Ninja Papa, Vol. 1

By Yasuto Yamamoto. Released in Japan by Futabasha, serialized in the magazine Manga Action. Released in the United States by Futabasha on the JManga website.

Just as we see here in the West, a lot of Japanese manga thrives on ‘fantasies’, and having the reader imagine a world in which they (or rather, the character they are meant to identify with) were really awesome. For boys this could be ‘what if I was a super ninja?’. For teenagers it could be ‘what if I was surrounded by various girls all trying to get into my pants?’. And for 35-year-old salarymen, married with kids but balding, bullied at work, and dealing with disrespectful in-laws, the question might be ‘what if I had been born a ninja?’.

This is the problem that our hero, Nobuo Matsuri, is dealing with. He was raised by his clan to be a ninja, an instrument of secret death. But then he met Aya and fell in love. Now he’s abandoned his ninja ways and is trying to make it in the world as a lowly salaryman. He’s not attractive, he tends to back down from any conflict at work, and he is generally seen as a goofy screw up. But all this is to conceal his old life from his wife and kids, and his old clan are still sending enemies out to kill him at every turn. Luckily, he still has his ninja skills.

At times, this manga almost reads like a parody. The situations can be ludicrous, though they’re always taken seriously. Nobuo not only has his gorgeous wife, who’s devoted to him and with whom he has amazing sex (which we see several times – this is a mature title), but a co-worker at work was rescued by his ninja self, and has unknowingly fallen for him. She’s cute too. The contrast between Nobuo wanting to have a simple, everyday life yet being constantly beset by insanity can be a bit head-spinning – at one point he’s trying to save his daughter from a sadistic teacher (who in turn it’s revealed was sexually abused by his own mother) who believes that all children are just dolls, and then he is at a party where rich guests decide to set a lion on him and see how much fun can be had watching him get eaten. As I said, you’re wondering if it’s meant to be this serious.

But yes, of course it is. The ninja scenes are played with the utmost seriousness, and Nobuo may be overweight and balding but that doesn’t mean he’s past it as a ninja. He tries to avoid killing his enemies, but will do so if pressed. And the ninja combat scenes do look pretty badass. As for his family, his daughter seems to have unknowingly inherited some of his ninja talents, as seen in the arc with the teacher, and his hateful mother-in-law, who belittles him every chance she gets, may have a dark secret of her own. As for his wife, well, she’s unaware he’s a ninja (so far – there’s a cliffhanger) and generally sees him as this lovable but great guy. Her character is therefore a bit flat. Her strongest scene comes when she’s rejecting the old high-school lothario who’s now trying to hit on her since he’s rich and successful and her husband is a loser. Needless to say, she stands by her man.

JManga’s translation is fine, but the lettering does pose a problem. A lot of the series takes place in the evening, and features Nobuo’s inner monologue as he thinks about true love prevailing and why must all this happen to him. Unfortunately, the text is also black, with a very fine white border. This makes it very hard to read, especially as it’s presented next to the unaltered Japanese text (just for the inner monologues, the dialogue uses standard word balloons) which has a much stronger white border and is much easier to read. I realize that there’s space issues involved here with the translation, but hopefully it’s something that can be fixed in future volumes.

Parody or no, Ninja Papa is not a manga to be taken seriously. However, if you like watching ninjas get waylaid at every corner, taken on many assassins at once, and then return to their hot wife and beautiful family, well, you are likely the audience Ninja Papa is going for. Fight on for love, Nobuo!

Did you enjoy this article? Consider supporting us.


  1. This sounds goofy and amazing. Thanks for giving the JManga titles some love and exposure. I look forward to future reviews on them.


  1. […] Day Is Like Wednesday) Connie on vol. 10 of Kimi ni Todoke (Slightly Biased Manga) Sean Gaffney on vol. 1 of Ninja Papa (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Connie on vol. 39 of Oh My Goddess (Slightly Biased Manga) Connie […]

  2. […] JManga websiteManga Bookshelf examination of Ninja Papa […]

Speak Your Mind