Monsters, with some surprise martial arts legends

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Spent the weekend selling vintage toys and collectibles at the big Monsterpalooza convention in Burbank. Normally, details of this wouldn’t land on this site, but to my surprise there was quite the array of martial artists and Japanese film legends on hand.

For starters, what was Gerald Okamura doing wandering amongst the Frankensteins and werewolves? Great to meet this icon of exotic weapons.

It was also great to talk with journeyman martial artist/stuntman/actor Al Leong – you know, the long-haired Asian guy who gets wasted in every action movie made in the 80s. A real sweetheart, and his book The Eight Lives of Al ‘Ka-Bong’ Leong is an entertaining read.

I was a big geek for veteran character actor James Hong, who signed autographs AS LO PAN from Big Trouble in Little China. He was pure schtick, too, berating weak minded nerds, hypnotizing ladies, the whole nine yards.

The master of arcane sorcery and ping-pong is not impressed with my ninja knowledge...

And yes, I met GOD-F’N-ZILLA himself! Myself and the entire Southern California monster kid community would like to thank August Ragone for bringing Haruo Nakajima to Los Angeles.

Nakajima was the man in the suit for myriad kaiju films throughout his career, including War of the Gargantuas, wherein he threw all sorts of monster judo moves!

HA! It wasn't just a complaint from my last girlfriend, I am literally bigger than Godzilla...

Alright, you people have endured enough of my barely-semi-on-topic geekery. Be thankful I’m sparing you totally un-ninja-specific moments like shaking hands with Bert I. Gordon or meeting the cast of Creature from the Black Lagoon!

Swing back around this weekend – I’ll be back from vacation and promise something actually ninja-related will grace this site.

I’m at Monsterpalooza!

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Anyone local to Burbank, CA, I’m set-up for the weekend at an, admittedly off-topic, convention called MONSTERPALOOZA. I’m having a “monster-kid” yard sale of sorts, selling off a bunch of collectibles, toys and movie memorabilia from storage.

The highlight of this monster movie and special-efect make-up con is an incredibly rare appearance by the original Godzilla himself, Haruo Nakajima! He’s donating proceeds of autographed prints and photos to quake and tsunami relief, too.

Alas, if you can’t make it, I encourage you to revisit (or visit for the first time, for you new folk) some of our monster-related posts here, as a consolation:

jaguma1.jpg

Ninja vs. Yeti in Strike of the Jaguma!

Kaiju in Akakage (2 parts)

Select Toys “Ninja Defenders” – Monsters in Masks!


Sakuya Yokaiden – swordgirl cutie and her ninja pals vs. the monsters!

And for a metric ton of other ninja-on-monster action, check out the archived “Monsters and Masks Months” from 2009 and 2010. Every October we go monster-crazy and highlight the surprising middle ground the creature feature shares with shinobi cinema.

Monsters and Masks 2009

Monsters and Masks 2010

JAPAN EARTHQUAKE RELIEF FUND

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A consortium of Japanese Cinema bloggers and writers, including Chris McGee, Jon Jung, Jasper Sharp, Tom Mes, Kimberly Lindbergs, Jason Gray, Aaron Gerow, Patrick Macias, Todd Brown, Emi Ueyama, and others, have banded together to help raise money for Tohoku Earthquake relief, by endorsing and supporting the Japan Society of New York‘s “Japan Society Relief Fund”. Please join us in this dire time for Japan and her people — many of whom are friends, family and loved ones.

The Japan Society has created a disaster relief fund to aid victims of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Over the years, Japan Society has partnered with several Japanese and American non-profits working on the frontlines of disaster relief and recovery. 100% of your generous tax-deductible contributions will go to organization(s) that directly help victims recover from the devastating effects of the earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan on March 11, 2011.

MAKE AN ONLINE DONATION

You can also contribute to the “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” by sending your check to:

Japan Society
333 East 47th Street
New York, New York 10017
Attn: Japan Earthquake Relief Fund

Please make your checks payable to Japan Society and indicate “Japan Earthquake Relief Fund” on the check.

For additional information, please emailjapanrelief@japansociety.org.

Ninja miscellany to close out February…

No major theme today, but I wanted to throw some notes out there before a busy weekend.

I’ll start with a rather strange score from LA’s Chinatown:

Found this statue/plaque/display thing at a shop in the Dynasty Market complex, which if you’ve never been, reeks of dying baby turtles and low-grade fried food, and so do you after an hour… and your clothes and everything you bought. LOVE IT!

I was down there to buy some wall-mounted sword racks, but couldn’t pass up this gem as well. It’s a poorly crafted resin knock-off of this high-end pewter collectible:

But with one major derivation. He’s wearing SNEAKERS!?!?!

AND they’re un-tied. Oh how I adore thee, Sneaker Ninja!

The three shuriken with the bad kanji are RAZOR sharp but so lightweight they’d have a hard time sticking into styrofoam. Such is the state of swap-meet grade martial arts weapons nowadays. Everything is cheap steel, ground super sharp, but the craftsmanship sucks compared to the blunt zinc-alloy stuff sold back in the 80s.

Speaking of 80’s weaponry, our post on the Origins of the 80s ‘Ninja-To’ at the beginning of the month drew some excellent feedback, and has inspired Tim and I to follow it up in a much wider scale.

It may end up as a week’s worth of features, ranging from the actual (or lack thereof?) history of the weapon, if and when it was ever portrayed in Japanese media before the 80’s, the wide-ranging internet debate/feud about Hatsumi and Hayes’ supposed roles in introducing the sword to the West, the official Sho Kosugi version sold via mail order, and even some nostalgia from our own craze-era collecting days. This will all be up in early-to-mid March.

And finally, Funimation has released Sushi Typhoon’s fun-as-hell, tongue-in-cheek, shinobi-gore-sploitation film Alien vs. Ninja on DVD and Blu-Ray. I previewed this three months back while it was on the festival circuit, and while I’m no big fan of this cheap, digital bloodbath cinema coming out of Japan right now (Machine Girl, RoboGeisha, etc.), the presence of nice video game-inspired costuming, some excellent over-the-top fight scenes and, especially, the adorable Mika Hijii, catapulted this ninja-fied entry into the genre to VN-approved status.

The DVD is gorgeous, with image quality vastly superior to the caps we originally featured and making-of extras. Twitch did a nice review of the Blu-ray, too.

OK peeps, I’m entering a very busy March outside of my ninja hobby confines, but we’ve got some good stuff coming regardless, so stick with us. And as always, I want to thank everyone who links, Tweets and plugs us on Facebook. Really helps!

 

 

300!?!? Wow…

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Holy cats… this is POST #300 on Vintage Ninja!

I seem to celebrate every milestone with a return to one of the photos that got me so jazzed on old ninja movies, I just had to start some sort of publishing project on them:

ak1.jpg

Akai Kageboshi remains one of my favorite ninja films, and this shot of a plucky noblewoman turning to mush in the arms of a swashbuckling ninja hero is the best image EVER.

Since this first posting on June 7th of 2009, VN has subjected the world to 299 additional doses of our hyper-geeky, often over-zealous, sometimes under-researched, shinobi pop-media fandom. The writing chores are mine, and I try my best not to come across as the all-too-familiar internet know-it-all. More often than not, I’ve found something that with my lack of Japanese language skills and depth of historical research fills me with a sense of wonder and curiosity, and posting it is a call for help to others in the know.

And helped we’ve been! By a host of genre media fans, martial artists and Japanese historians over the months, along with some other great bloggers and web publishers of equally obsessive traits. Complaints have come in here and there, some snarky ‘constructive criticisms’ have been taken in stride, but as of yet no outright death threats or surprise nocturnal visitors, so we must be doing something right.

So at 300, we just want to thank everyone who has contributed, and most of all everyone who checks us out on a regular basis, especially those who expose us to others via their own sites or Facebook, Twitter, etc. The notion of sharing things in our collections and that have come under our observations with folks we’d hope would be of a like mind is the driving force here, and knowing it has paid off is fulfilling beyond words.

We forge this site in the tradition of our ancestors.

You are a fan base of extraordinary magnitude.

You have our… gratitude!

Happy Birthday Sonny!

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A bit late here, but Sunday was the 72nd birthday of Sonny Chiba, a man who doesn’t get nearly enough credit for maintaining the 80’s ninja craze.

I really want to know what insidious anti-ninjite super villain blocked Kage no Gundan from getting international distribution back in the day. I would have traded a kidney in the mid-80s for the DVD library of his weekly ninja exploits I have now…

So happy birthday, and many more, to the man we’ve loved as Terry Tsurugi, Mas Oyama, a few space and sea-faring heroes here and there, and many more. Never mind giving us the definitive Hattori Hanzo’s and Jubei Yagyu’s of a genre packed with versions of these characters. Well done sir!

What I’m thankful for today…

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There are some VN specific things I’m thankful for, and one involves you all, so I thought I’d share.

I, Keith J. Rainville, proprietor of this here Vintage Ninja website, am thankful for…

…our expanding audience. We’ve had a ton of new traffic in the past two months, and according to the stats, plenty of you are spending time digging through the category archives, too. I love you all!

…that we live in an electronics enhanced world were niche geeks can really connect. Seriously, how many people out of the 7 Billion or so on this earth are ninja movie fans enough to search out info and imagery on the web? Now of those, how many are fans of the VINTAGE variety? We gotta have probably the best trafficked ninja pop culture site anywhere that isn’t about Naruto, burgers or comedic advice.

…that I have 300-500 people a month looking at Vintage Ninja… IN JAPAN! Japan!!! Wow. Aren’t there better ninja film sites over there? Isn’t this stuff old hat? I love that I rate some traffic from the birthplace of it all.

…that  I am the age that I am. Increasingly sore knees and grey hairs in my goatee aside, I was a kid during the Bruce Lee boom and a teenager during the ninja craze. I’ve gone from combing the TV Guide in the days before VCRs for broadcasts of Kung-Fu reruns to paying small fortunes for soft and inky VHS bootlegs, then on to DVDs and fan-subbed DVDr, and here we go into download and streamsville. Having been a hunter during times when import media was truly rare and exotic makes being a fan in this new age of myriad globally prolific multi-media pretty f’n amazing. Don’t take it all for granted you kids!

…that during a purge of possessions before cross-country move in the early 90’s, against the need at the time to really shed as much stuff as I could, I decided to hold on to my big stack of Ninja and Black Belts, a tube of worn-out posters, and my chest of weapons from the 80’s craze. Years later, I busted that stuff out of storage and man alive if it didn’t bring back a wave of nostalgia that was the birth of this effort.

…and finally, for being able to pick up a phone and still have a two hour conversation about martial arts and ninja flicks with one of my best and oldest friends. Hapy Thanksgiving Tim, have some good bird on the east coast!

Alright peeps, back to your bloated guts and football games. I’ll try to throw something new up this weekend.

KR

Ninja Attack San Francisco!

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Alright San Franciscans, get your asses on down to Viz Cinema Saturday for a little shinobi seminar.

From the release:

Now you see them, now you don’t!

The ninja – Japan’s famed shadow warriors of legend – are the subject of the next TokyoScope Talk film event.

Produced in association with Matt Alt, co-author of the new book Ninja Attack! True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws (Kodansha International), this presentation will explore the historical and pop culture legacy of the original men (and women!) in black.

Gasp in amazement as rare clips from assorted movies, anime, and TV programs such as “Shinobi no Mono”, “Red Mask”, “Shogun Assassin”, “Dagger of Kamui”, and “Alien vs Ninja” reveal the over-the-top skills, weapons, and deadly techniques of these fearsome martial artists!

The theater is screening Kamui Gaiden before the festivities, so make it date night!