Another birthday for VN. Seven years ago today we published our first post, featuring press stills from Akai Kageboshi (The Red Shadow). It’s been a great ride so far, here’s to you all our readers and fans, and may we all have many more together.
Here’s a whole pile of old ninja goodness as our present to you…
I don’t normally shill on this site, but both myself and VN’s shadow-spiritual advisor Tim March have announced side projects in the past week that could use the bandwidth, so deal with it!
First off, I’m ringing the bell to garner support for Tim’s new dojo space:
Want to support a project that teaches kids the most positive aspects of martial arts, combines performance arts with martial arts and will serve as an event space for creative types, musicians, performers and general weirdos in the the Greenville, SC area? Then click here for the GoFundMe campaign for The Ninjaplex. I love any martial arts training center that hybrids with something decidedly non-martial arts oriented — be it martial arts and dance, martial arts and stunt work, martial arts and calligraphy, whatever… It vastly expands the spiritual experience of the trainee, exposes the faithful of both pursuits to the possibilities of the others’ passion, and can genuinely provide hybrid training that opens doors on unexpected career opportunities.
The GoFundMe campaign is based solely on the rental and renovation of an industrial space, rescuing it from its decidedly un-colorful state and giving it a colorful new life. The world needs more efforts like this, so let’s all throw a few bucks their way… every little bit helps.
Speaking of other charitable causes — COUGH! — in my spare time I’m an indie book publisher. OK, stop, put the canned goods and first aid relief packages away, it’s not that bad…
Over at my other hooded passion in life — the Mexican masked wrestler-based imprint From Parts Unknown — I’ve announced a new fiction novella coming from the superb writer Matt Wallace (you may remember him from his great write-up on the American Ninja sequels from a few years back). Rencor: Life in Grudge City is a four-fisted tag-team adventure that reads a lot like an old Starsky and Hutch episode or the movie 48 Hours, but the reluctant partners in question are luchadores, and they HATE each other! And then the mummies attack…
Sonny Chiba made his American convention debut the last weekend in March at a show called Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA. This once intimate, now massive, gathering of visual effects artists and Monster Kids is known for making history with guests from Japan — original Godzilla stuntman Haruo Nakajima’s US debut being a standout.
I was pretty jazzed to meet Chiba, as publisher of this site, and outright fanboy. He has generational fan bases — to many he’ll always be Terry Tsurugi from the 70’s Streetfighter films, newer fans only know him from those Kill Bill! flicks, but for me… well, I can’t even remember how many times I watched Iga Ninpocho (aka Ninja Wars) during the mid-80s when it ran on cable (and subsequently worn out on VHS).
Chiba sold 8x10s and signed autographs like all celebs do, and gave a talk to dozens of fans, discussing movies old and new. He spoke some sardonic smack about Quentin Tarantino — chiding him a bit for being a weird stalker when first given a tour of his home video collection, even commenting on him being a copycat director weaving together remakes of his favorite scenes from other directors’ films rather than creating his own vision. It was all done through an interpreter so who knows what exactly was said and with what tone, but still, absolutely priceless!
Enthused as the crowds were, it seemed Chiba himself had the real ‘fan’ moment when long-time VN supporter Dustin de Leon showed up in full Hattori Hanzo costume from the latter seasons of Kage no Gundan — aka Shadow Warriors. Dustin was known for his Sub Zero outfits at cons around SoCal, but a few years ago he fell in love with older Japanese ninja movies and TV and he an a small group of like-minded shadow-souls now stand out in convention crowds of robots, zombies, superheroes, gaudy anime girls and 8-bit icons by sporting down-to-earth retro-shinobi gear!
(Keepin’ it real in a world of Narutos… members of SoCal’s Shadow Warriors cosplay group including
Dustin, Matt Todd, Xanthe Huynh, Christine Bae and Mark Todd.)
Chiba was absolutely blown away that anyone in the US (outside of Tarantino the Stalker) even knew of his 80s show. (And I’ve asked this forever on this site but WHY WHY WHY wasn’t such fare released over here during the height of our craze?!?!?!?) He called Dustin up on stage with him for photos, and even invited him to dinner where the kid got to meet Chiba’s sword-slinger daughter Juri Manase.
It was great to see this ninja-fandom dream-come-true for Dustin, well done man!
I, meanwhile, was turned down for an interview by his U.S. handlers, but that bitterness doesn’t belong in these celebratory pages, so ignore my sad self right now and check out these props Chiba-san had on display at the show!
Don’t know how vintage any of this was, or if it even came in from Japan (kinda hard to get throwing spikes past TSA nowadays), but it was a cool spread nonetheless.
AND… in the end, I did an end-around, circumventing Chiba’s US peeps and getting my info right to his Japanese management, so that interview may just happen in the future…
You have a chance to meet Hattori Hanzo, Jubei Yagyu, Golgo 13 and Terry Tsurugi this weekend at Monsterpalooza in Burbank, CA!
An ultra-rare appearance by Sonny Chiba, and at the country’s best horror convention to boot… AND… I myself will be there as a vendor selling vintage toys, lucha libre stuff and even some select pieces from the VN swag collection! [Table 175, outside hall]
Some lingering structural issues made it un-safe for me to post anything new on the site for way longer than anticipated, but all of our behind-the-scenes problems are seemingly fixed!
There’s a nice new navigation feature now fully functioning, too. Go to any of the CATEGORY ARCHIVES to the right (these were previously the sliding doors on the old site), and when you’ve scrolled down to the bottom of the page, the ‘previous page’ link buttons can now take you all the way back to our first posts more than five years ago, with a single click. Not that scrolling through years and years of old ninja goodness was ever unpleasant, but some folks like to discover a site from the beginning, so there you go.
This new-look VN is also a TON faster than the old site was, and is supposedly more mobile friendly depending on your device.
After five years and a recent back-end security breach scare, we had to make some wholesale changes to VN, many of which will be ongoing in the shadows for the next month or so.
BUT, you’ll have full access to the archives all that time, so dig in and enjoy. A major plus of this new facelift is the site is now 1 million times more mobile device friendly, so the days of stalled iPad browsers and wonky smartphone displays are gone for good.
We’re actually seeking a freelance WordPress-savvy troubleshooter for a couple of paying gigs, so if you are such an individual or can recommend one to us, please please please refer-away!