Tokyo Shinobi Squad Review


Time to check out the next cancelled title. Tokyo Shinobi Squad did make it over 19 chapters so I suppose that it deserves some kudos for that. Still, it is easy to see why this one did not continue. It’s a shame because there was a lot of potential here but I guess it just didn’t get good enough, quick enough. If you like ninjas and/or sci-fi then you will have a good time here. Since it didn’t get many chapters before ending, it makes for a quick read.

The story starts off by introducing us to the current world. In the future, ninjas are back in business since the entire world has devolved into a chaotic region. The world is unified, however it is unified by the darkness thanks to Globalization. Basically the Japanese Prime Minister thought that uniting the world would be a good thing but instead terrorists and other villains used this as their chance to make a move. As a result, there are no real governments or police officers anymore. What remains are really just there for show. No, every big company and group hires ninja to actually do the dirty work. This has created an entire movement of ninja within a master association and a lot of freelancers as well.

There is no safe spot in all of Tokyo or the rest of the world now. That takes us to the intro where a kid named Ed is being chased by a bunch of thugs. He’s saved by a ninja named Jin. Jin’s ninja squad is different from most as he is very selective about his targets and only accepts missions that he perceives as just. Ed can’t pay him for being rescued but Jin decides to look after the kid anyway. Ed has a legendary scroll of memory manipulation and now he is being chased by villains all over the place. Can Jin protect him?

The other part of the world building is that scrolls are effectively guides on how to learn special techniques like elemental blasts. If you study one for a long time you can eventually use the power. Some takes years and some take months depending on both the rarity of the scroll and the talent of the user. Fortunately the main character Jin is a prodigy so he’s master lightning spells like crazy. Although there are some power level issues here but we’ll get into that here.

The intro is really just about beating up some gangsters. The first real arc has the heroes go on a mission to grab some data. Taiga is one of the members on Jin’s crew and he doesn’t approve of En joining up. He thinks that the kid will hold them back (Valid point) and that this is too dangerous. (Fair) Jin uses this as a way to show Taiga how En can contribute. See, the villains are attacking so there’s no way to download the files. Fortunately En has a complete photographic memory so he is able to memorize 1TB of data within a few minutes. That is impressive and it’s also impressive that the computer could show that much info at once. That’s the most impressive part tbh.

Jin deserves some praise for putting En in a position to succeed here. It was a fun enough story but the first chinks in the power level armor are discovered here as Jin gets nervous about having to deal with fodder. After all lets think about this for a second. En had to memorize this quickly because the heroes had to run. This implies that Jin and the crew were possibly going to lose to random minions?? Now that’s wild.

In the next arc, the heroes have to guard a model since a lot of models have been attacked lately. This time the main characters are Jin, En, and Papillon who is the strategic member of the group. We get some decent action scenes here as Papillon fights her opponent while Jin and En dash out of there. Why did they have to dash? Because the villains are too strong! Notice a pattern here? It all ends well and Jin gets a good fight in the intro as well but you just feel like he should be doing better considering how impressive his reputation is supposed to be.

We then enter the climax of the series as a training arc begins. I’m starting to think it’s true that doing a training arc nowadays is ill advised as series seem to keep getting cancelled after doing that. So each squad has to go back to the association once a year to validate their ranking and potentially move up. This is apparently Jin’s squad’s first full year so this is a big moment for them. They end up partnering with another group of fighters who know Jin from way back in the day. Their leader is like Rock Lee, he has physical powers but no ninja abilities.

The test has several steps including beating up minions and heading to a gladiator arena to fight off a bunch of opponents. Honestly the tests were fairly entertaining. Perhaps a little generic but I had a good time with them. The battles were solid and Jin was finally winning his fights without being in a lot of trouble so that was good. In a way this ended up being the final arc even though we had some stories after that so at least we ended with some action.

After that we got two one shot stories and then the final event. The first oneshot story doesn’t have much of a plot except as a very convoluted excuse to have Papillon and Jin share a kiss accidentally. It involves a cleaning lady bumping them together which is as contrived as it sounds. The next story was Taiga’s origin on how he joined the group. He was certainly more of a delinquent back in the day. It’s nice to know his origin but with the series winding down it felt like this was something that could have been skipped.

The final two stories have the head of the ninja association show up to demand that Jin hands over the legendary scroll that he’s holding onto. Apparently it’s actually one of the 5 McGuffins and they feel Jin’s squad isn’t ready for this responsibility. He might be right to be honest and Jin does get wrecked here so they have the right idea. We then get a big time skip and a huge cliffhanger to end things off with so it’s time for that sequel to be announced someday. I think it is better to end things off on a cliffhanger instead of abruptly ending things because it at least does open the door to a sequel someday. Perhaps your next series will be a huge hit and then you can use your clout to continue this one. At least I like to think that’s what the author was thinking.

So the story was good here and the artwork is also pretty solid. It’s certainly better than a lot of the other titles that I had been reading through and it’s very easy to follow the action scenes along. The fanservice is mainly kept to a minimum, Papillon is the only character who has to go through this. I do think the way her powers are set up (She fights by using her clothing which disintegrates the more she fights) was really only created for fanservice which is disappointing but she only gets 1 real fight in the series so it doesn’t end up becoming a big issue.

Now, like I said, the power levels are a bit iffy here. It really all revolves around Jin. So when the series starts we are introduced to Jin as a super prodigy. They haven’t seen his level of talent in a long time and he’s going to shake up the entire ninja world. If this is the case then why does Jin get nervous when random chumps show up? Either the average fighter is so weak that even as a prodigy Jin should be having trouble here or the author just didn’t execute well.

I have to assume the latter here. They really should have just cut all mentions to Jin being a prodigy and treat him like a normal main character who gets the job done. I think that would have gone a long way towards helping his character make more sense. After all, I do like his personality and he does well as the lead. He has a lot of confidence and is always trying to help everyone. I can certainly appreciate that and while it may all sound generic, it really works. The guy is clearly a good leader and would only get better. It just feels like he doesn’t live up to his tough talk nearly as much as he should and it seems like this is because the bar was raised way too high right from the jump.

En was okay but not great. As with many kids in action titles like this, he just can’t fight much so I feel like he holds the characters back a bit. In that sense I thought Taiga had a point, the kid’s just too young. After the timeskip En seems like he’s really ready for this and would make for a good addition to the team. Before then he can be a support member but shouldn’t be out on the field. Naturally he gets captured at least once during the series and it makes things tough on the heroes.

Then we have Papillon who is a solid heroine here. Her whole romance towards Jin feels completely out of nowhere though especially considering how the two were making it clear that this wasn’t the case early on. She does well in the fights and helps Jin accept the right missions when even he has doubts. Without her the group may not have lasted too long since he needs someone to reign them in. Then we have Taiga who is the power hitter of the group. Potentially he may be even stronger than Jin based on the opponents he takes out. Again, this should make absolutely no sense so I like to think Jin would still win with his speed but you’d think that this shouldn’t even be debatable. I like how loyal he is to Jin and he beats up anyone who badmouths him.

There’s Kenryu who is the guy who knew Jin from back in the day. It’s always good to have a human in a world filled with magic just to show that they can keep up. Ultimately the power creep would ensure that this guy is doomed but at least early on it’s a good idea. I like the guy well enough and he has a solid honor code which is always important. The guy has a good rivalry with Jin although long term I think Jin’s going to need a rival that poses more of a serious threat.

Finally for the heroes we have Shimon who was Jin’s mentor and he’s one of the highest ranking members of the ninja alliance. The guy is strong and proved it by absolutely wrecking Jin. He seems like a nice guy who is ultimately shackled by the rules but does his best to give Jin a chance. It’s a shame that he only got to appear in the last 2 episodes of the series but he still makes his presence felt the whole time. That’s how you know that he’s for real.

Then there are a few big villains. We’ve got Kanan who knows how to go in disguise to mess with the heroes. Unfortunately I wouldn’t say that he was all that memorable. In fact, that’s an issue with most of the villains. There weren’t any who really made me think “Wow this guy’s amazing!” I think part of the issue is that they all feel like similar characters. They’re evil Shinobi who are evil because…they’re evil. There isn’t a whole lot of character outside of that even if their powers are different. The guy with ice abilities gave Jin a good run for his money for example but beyond his abilities what could I really tell you about the guy? He talks tough and all….but that’s about it.

So the villain cast was on the weak side even though I enjoyed the heroes. Now, I think it’s safe to say that this was cancelled in part because of the training arc and in part because the series did not do everything it could with the lore. There was a ton of lore and world building at the beginning but ultimately it just didn’t amount to much. So what could the series have done to avoid being cancelled? There are 2 changes I would suggest. The first is to remove any reference to Jin being a prodigy or he needs to win his fights a lot easier and not be scared of random minions. You have to do one or the other and that would fix the main character’s inconsistencies. I get the feeling that the series was trying to make him like Gintama who is a top tier fighter in his verse but constantly sandbags. The issue here is that we have no indication that Jin is messing around, he’s always talking really tough after all while Gintama has more gags.

The other thing is we need some kind of mystery or intrigue. This may seem random but here’s why. Globalization destroyed the world here but how? Perhaps there is some conspiracy in here so what I would do is make that the real reason for why everyone wants En’s memory scroll. This could also give En a reason to wonder if Jin is really helping him or just wants the scroll. As the series goes on and En starts to learn his abilities, he would find out more about the events and that could last for the first few arcs. It gives you something to think about in addition to the immediate issue. That’s my 2 cents on what could have helped this series at least.

Overall, I did enjoy this series. I thought that the action and heroes were good. It definitely worked as more of a unique title for me and I do think it had a lot of potential. It already had a very different feel from Naruto so I don’t think it would have felt like a clone even though it is ninja based. Jin’s Lightning Blade technique does feel like it’s straight out of Naruto but that’s where the similarities really end. I would recommend giving this one a read. Even though it’s cancelled it still makes for a good story and it’s never a bad idea to meet more characters right?

Overall 7/10

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