How ninjas went mainstream

How ninjas went mainstream
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    Why are ninjas such a big deal?
    I'm gonna be honest here.
    Ninjas — they just aren't cool.
    Maybe if they could jump over a waterfall, but I don't—
    Whoa.
    Ok.
    I love Ninjas.
    But why do we know about them?
    Why is this a "Ninja" Warrior?
    Why do 60,000 people on LinkedIn have something "Ninja" in their profile?
    How did Westerners - and especially Americans- obsessed with this Japanese group of super
    secret spy soldier cool people?
    Ninjas have a huge space in our culture — one that other groups just don't.
    A medieval order in Persia literally gave us the word for ASSASSIN.
    But we don't constantly hear about them.
    Those teenage mutant turtles?
    They're ninjas.
    Ninjas have a surprising history that spans centuries - and it's one that shows the
    unpredictable ways a culture can spread throughout the entire world.
    Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi is not an accurate portrayal of Japanese history.
    Real ninjas practiced ninjitsu, the modern term for the mix of espionage and assassination
    that occurred from the 1400s to the 1800s.
    Speaking pretty roughly here.
    But ninjas did actually sneak into castles, conduct assassinations, and even have
    sweet ninja gear like this water spider.
    They put each foot in the middle of one of these and used them to paddle across the water.
    But these ninjas didn't have to wear the black jumpsuit as part of the job.
    As spies from the lower class, they were more likely to have hid in a crowd.
    The jumpsuit imagery we associate with ninjas may have even come from the theatre.
    This was a kabuki performance, the traditional Japanese style of theatre and dance.
    And look down here.
    Do you see him?
    This was a kabuki stagehand, dressed in black so he wouldn't be visible.
    In kabuki, an actor playing a ninja would often dress the same way, so the audience
    would be surprised by a stagehand becoming part of the action.
    This contributed to the Japanese mythology of the ninja, as in this legendary manga from
    1814.
    This Japanese mythmaking continued in early 20th century Japanese novels that portrayed
    Japanese culture, and ninjas, as mercenary, magical, and everything in between.
    Ninjas became a pretty fluid myth.
    Often they had special powers, and occasionally they were incognito, sometimes in jumpsuits.
    Then all started to change when Japan started making movies.
    Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is a famous export of Japanese cinema - artistic yet gripping.
    It's come to symbolize the flourishing Japanese cinematic golden age of the 50s and 60s.
    It famously inspired the Western movie remake, The Magnificent Seven.
    But high art movies weren't wasn't the only kind of influential Japanese cinema.
    1962's Shinobi No Mono didn't get love from American critics — but it did start
    a series that set boundaries for the ninja myth.
    This popular 8-film series featured non-magical, covert ninjas that were similar to what we
    imagine today.
    The series reportedly inspired Hollywood too.
    Screenwriter Roald Dahl — Yes, Willy Wonka's Roald Dahl —
    decided to include ninjas in a James Bond movie after seeing one of the movies.
    "This is my ninja training school."
    But unlike the ninjas in Japanese movies at the time, James Bond's ninjas were illogically
    dressed cannon fodder.
    And they were a preview of the Ninja-sploitation to come.
    Yeah.
    Enter the Ninja is generally credited with kicking off the 80s ninja wave in theatres.
    Starring perennial ninja star Sho Kosugi, it typifies the genre by being
    extremely violent - except when the kicks completely miss.
    And by including irrationally kitted out ninjas…and this:
    "Morning."
    "Morning."
    Now neither of us can unsee that clip.
    In general this trend was kicked off by books like The Ninja - it sold millions of copies
    and spent more than 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
    Semi-prestige miniseries like Shogun joined the craze,
    And there was 1985's American Ninja, in which a ninja was this guy.
    But calling out a few examples actually sells short the sheer volume of crap that had "Ninja"
    slapped on the cover in the 80s and 90s.
    By the time Ninja Turtles and Three Ninjas —the ninja series with kids — rolled around,
    American culture was happy to start remixing ninjas.
    The final step?
    A word so bland that you can get a job as a writing ninja.
    It is true that American ninjas don't have a lot to do with the fighting ninjas of feudal
    Japan.
    But the on-screen Japanese ninjas never had much to do with it either.
    The strength of Japanese culture, through books, and cartoons, and movies, made them
    ubiquitous.
    It takes a lot of work to hide so well that the whole world finds you.
    There are a lot of great resources when it comes to ninjas.
    One that I recommend is "Vintage Ninja," which will let you see all the gloriously
    tacky, kitschy, crappy, scary, freaky ninjas that have appeared on screen over the years.
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