Today marks the 12th anniversary of VN‘s first ever post, and coincidentally I was 12 when the 1980s ninja craze more or less ‘officially’ kicked off with the release of Enter the Ninja in 1981.
I bring up Enter because this coming weekend we’ve got a BIG feature that hones in not only on that film but the behind the scenes insanity of the period and a certain someone who catalyzed it all.
Every VN birthday I think back to my decision in 2009 to cancel plans and re-channel the funds for a print ‘zine called “Ninja80” and to formalize its complementary blog into the more mission-oriented and professionally cultivated website you’re reading today.
VintageNinja was created at the height of the blog era, when new posts at a relentless pace was everything, and for years I cranked out whatever I could find as quickly as possible to expand our readership. It was easy then, as we were in the middle of what I now call the “Nin-stalgia Boom” — fueled by Japanese businesses turning to old-school generic ninja iconography for a flood of new merchandise and tourism initiatives, and new movies like Isaac Florentine’s Ninja and Sho Kosugi’s return to the screen in Ninja Assassin helped relclaim a bit of the 80s-style ninja from the mutations brought on by the turtles, Mortal Kombat and Naruto.
But the single biggest driver for me at least was the explosion DVD-R trading and international file-sharing of never-before-available Japanese film and TV. Suddenly, subtitled, quality copies of the likes of Castle of Owls, Warrior of the Wind, the various incarnations of the Yagyu secret scroll epics, Kage no Gundan TV episodes and myriad more were a reality. And yes, while all the yo-ho-ho-ing around did put a dent in some official label releases — Animiego’s Shinobi no Mono 1-4 set in particular suffered from the entire 8-film series having legs in the grey market years before — we still got a food of stuff like Criterion’s Samurai Spy, Sonny Chiba box-sets that included Ninja Wars and Shogun’s Ninja finally widescreen and in the original language, and some retro-recognition of the too-oft-maligned ninja-slaughterful Shogun Assassin, which never looked or more importantly for us synth-score aficionados, sounded better. It was a golden period for building a big ass shelf of old and obscure ninja movies, and man do I miss it…
In years more recent, the web behavior trend away from individual websites in favor of social media platforms has turned the once white-water rapids of hungry readers into a babbling brook of dedicated but loving enthusiasts. It’s a societal/technological trend I just can’t buck, but I’m also never going to give in to it. I’ve seen too many empires built on the quicksand that is social media, only to have years of work and content disappear at the change of a corporate policy or media conglomerate buyout or the filing of a consumer complaint about some nonsense and boom, GONE! So VintageNinja‘s content will ALWAYS live here, where I own it and pay people to make sure it stays up and control it in every aspect. And if you’re one of the dedicated readers still here, probably reading old-school on a desktop if I’m to believe the stats, then thank you so much! I love each and every one of you.
This is not to say the content here hasn’t slowed. The year and half of the pandemic absolutely annihilated much of my creative juices and motivations, in favor of just mental survival and coping. I’ve never pushed through a funk like it, and I’m still not totally out of the fog. Also, not to get overly into any personal matters, but in the last six months or so I’ve face some significant health issues (non-Covid) that have just not allowed for a lot of time in the old office chair or digging away in the ninja mines. I’m still facing some surgeries in the next few months that’ll derail things further, but before then I’ve got some great stuff in the pipeline!
The success of the stand-alone Timeline document has me wanting more legacy projects like that, so regardless of web behavior or audience trends, there will be concise achievements, book-like monuments to stand the test of time better than a stream of consciousness blog. Things that can fuel research, inspire new nostalgia and discovery, and serve as more formal figureheads for this site’s 12 years of blog-iness. To that end, expect a film guide of sorts in the near future, a document close to the very heart of this site’s primary mission and one that can service audiences old and new.
So yeah, I’ll just wrap this up by saying thanks again, ensuring you all there’s more great stuff coming, and hoping for health and safety for you all world-wide!
Keith J. Rainville — 6/7/2021