Best of vintage ninja COMICS for Comic-Con week…

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 0

It is yet again ComiCon week down in San Diego. Yet while the nerd-world’s attention is hyper-focused on the breaking news and goings-on of the convention, its core reason for existence — the comic book industry — is increasingly irrelevant, and generally in the shitter, despite some great material being created. A refugee of the industry myself, I feel for the creators still putting ink to paper and trying to make a go of it, both down at Con and in the increasingly fragile industry in general.

To show some solidarity with the comic book windmill-tilters of the world, here’s a collection of some of the better comics-related features we’ve run over the year.

Enjoy, and if inspired, go buy some comics — preferably indie ones…


The pointy hood of Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s KAGEMARU


FUJIMARU book-n-record


Yugoslavia’s Kamakura (Part 1 and Part 2)


From the creator of GOLGO 13… ZANPEI KUMOTORI


HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI in manga form and… its copious monsters


Airborne combat as depicted in KAMUI


SASUKE book-n-record art


Remembering the uber-80s-ness of RAVEN TENGU KABUTO



Some ARASHI manga goodness…

posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 0


I may just love the illustrated version of Henshin Ninja Arashi more than the much better known tokusatsu version…


Kamen Rider and Cybog 009 creator Shotaro Ishinomori‘s manga slightly preceded the Toei TV show, although what would have had more production lead time, a TV series or a manga publication? Bit of a chicken-and-egg deal there…

Either way, the B&W page yielded a much darker and more savage transforming hero, with creatures more akin to yukio-e demons than sponge-suited monsters-of-the-week. 


I really love his use of silhouettes with the outré hero design, too. He’s often as monstrous as the beasts he’s protecting us from.

Arashi-manga_7 Arashi-manga_3

Everything in the manga was just one or two steps more demented and spooky…



Violent as hell, too!

Arashi-manga_9 Arashi-manga_2

Such awesome stuff. And there a half-million scanlations of this classic out there too, so go find it! Well worth your time…

…as are several past features we’ve done on Henshin Ninja Arashi!


posted in: 1 - Film and TV | 0

Gotta wonder about the mentality of the ‘monster-of-the-week’ in these tokusatasu properties…

I can see the first boss baddie being all gung-ho, the second and third obsessed with revenge and whatnot, but after a year or two of the mystically-invulnerable hero going through your comrades like melted butter, wouldn’t you sort of doubt your lot in life?

Oh yeah, he’s killed the past 73 monsters we’ve sent up against him, and no-sells every offensive onslaught we can muster, but I’M THE ONE who’s finally gonna break the streak! YEAH!


ARASHI paper dolls

posted in: 4 - Collectibles | 0

I’ve featured all sorts of collectibles based on the early 70s property Henshin Ninja Arashi. These might be the cheapest of souvenirs, but they’re among the coolest in my opinion.

When punched-out and assembled, these 8″ cards produce nifty 6.5″ semi-articulated paper dolls. Looks like the transforming bird-themed super ninja has been portrayed by a third party artist working for the licensors, the art sits somewhere between the manga and television versions of the character design.

I especially love these villain cards, which are closer to the manga:

Here’s an assembled hero:

ARASHI 7″ vinyl

I love the somewhat goofy Henshin Ninja Arashi and I love this cheap 7″ semi-articulated vinyl figure too. Bandai produced this in 2005, and it sold for $10-14. I dig this size and price range of collectible – one only has so much space and funds…

I also admire the simplicity of the sculpt, and the fealty to the TV show suit – there are folds and seams, it looks like an actor in a costume. Modern toys can go overboard on the reinterpretations and EXTREME-ness of figures, almost like trying to apologize for their 70s Saturday morning roots (ala this 2009 re-imagining), but this retro piece is just perfect.

Not that I wouldn’t collect the vintage stuff, especially the monster baddies, but I’d run out of organs to sell real quick trying to put together a run like this:

But give me a cheap figure that still captures the essence of the media property, and I’m a happy Transforming Ninja nerd.




posted in: 2 - Books and Manga | 1

While the legacy of Shotaro Ishinomori‘s Henshin Ninja Arashi (aka Transforming or Metamorphosis Ninja Arashi) lives mainly in tokusatsu TV nostalgia and vinyl collectibles of one decade or another, for me the manga holds the most charm. Packed with monsters, violent as all get out, streamlined of extra characters and bulky storyline, it gets right to want you want – a weird looking armored ninja slicing up critters with a big mystical sword!

Created by the same man responsible for KAMEN RIDER, this series was built on the smiliar 'monster-of-the-week' structure, with one central transforming hero and a very small cast of supporting characters there mainly to get captured and need rescuing. Then it was out with the never-fail magic sword finisher!
LOVE that lanky, pissed off werewolf!
Giant mummy with sentient bandages = WIN!
The regularly shinobi-friendly toads fared no better against Arashi's invincible sword.

The arch-villains had these great, CREEPY skull-themes in their design. Absolutely amazing...

ARASHI stocking stuffers

Next to Kaiketsu Lion Maru (which in a modern context some find waaaay to ‘furry’ for comfort)  Henshin Ninja Arashi was easily the most outre ninja hero ever — weird silver bird-like, but scaly, with some parts that look kinda moth-y, and he was a bird guy but he rode a horse, and are those big bug eyes actually eyes or fake eyes for decoration or what? Who knew…

But that outre character design, by Kamen Rider creator Shotaro Ishinomori, also lent the property multi-media crossover success, and merch from the short-running series is still being produced today. Here are some low-priced but nifty Arashi toys I’ve picked up in the last few years:

Four-inch "capsule" figure - Bandai or Gashopon maybe? - of the original manga version of the character. I like the lankiness of this design.
This is a seven-inch vinyl figure by Bandai, from 2005, of the television incarnation.
Not totally clear on the story behind this newest 3" Bandai "capsule"piece. It's sort of an homage character to the property seen in the latest permutation of KAMEN RIDER.

Now, if you want a more modern, and EXTREME, take on the character, there’s a new set featuring an – in my opinion – over-done reinterpretation of the character by modeling studio SIC. I think they’re trying too hard to make a pretty silly design look all dark and gritty and severe. But I do like the new version of series baddie Majinsai a lot. This set runs $70-100 depending on shipping. Check in out at Hobby Link Japan.


Ehhh… for my money, I like the simplicity and innocence of the original stuff, or at least new stuff that looks like it’s old, like these on eBay:

70’s Vinyl necklace figurine.

Banpresto 3″ figure.

And while you’re at it, check out an AMAZING collection of really vintage vinyl from this and other series at Skullbrain!

Sonosheets from Japanese eBay – Part 1

It’s not that you can’t win auctions over international eBorders, but it’s a bit logistically tough – there’s the kanji barrier, shipping rates, communication delays over the dateline, etc. and so forth. All these are excuses enough to keep me from doing so, and thank god, cuz I’d be soooo beyond broke!

But TRAWLING Japanese eBay, doing a little eWindow shopping, THAT we can all do from the financial safety of our own geographical confines. This week, I found several amazing sonosheet book-n-record sets.


Manga / anime version of MASKED NINJA AKAKAGE


This one bridges the illustrated and live action TV show. LOVE THAT TOAD!!!


This amazing HENSHIN NINJA ARASHI piece also bridges the manga and TV show. That red demon he's fighting looks like a yokai version of Gossamer from LOONEY TUNES...

More coming in the next day or so.