Think back to the early 80s. Remember how all of a sudden every mail order company had magazine ads for TONS of ninja merch? How were all these vendors able to pounce so quick on a trend and stock so much product in between releases of Kosugi films and Hayes books?
Well, quite a bit of it was recycled inventory (or new casts from mechanical tooling and designs of previously existing items), altered with a fresh coat of matte-black paint and hastily stenciled NINJA logos. Sais, nunchaku, Chinese-style throwing stars stamped with Bruce Lee’s face — all hold-overs from the kung-fu boom of the 70s — now given new life as “ninja gear.” It didn’t stop at kung-fu stuff either, as modern police batons, farming sickles sold in pairs, “Rambo knives” and even wooden boomerangs were hastily shinobi-fied for the new fad’s fervent market.
The same sort of spike in exploitive face-lifting of old weaponry has been happening again this past 18 months or so, although somewhat less apparent to the martial arts world, as the stuff is largely marketed to a more mainstream audience — zombie fans.
Take the same machetes, cheap copies of special forces daggers, fantasy and pirate blades inspired by hit movie series of the past decade, and anything else littering Chinatown smoke shops and cruddy swap meets, then just cover the steel with gloss black paint, spatter some red for simulated blood, make the handle or wrapping the most garish neon green you can find, and blammo — instant anti-zombie arsenal! At least half-a-dozen companies have ‘zombie fighter’ offshoot inventories of their usual offerings, and thus a thousand knock-off lines.
Skulls, bio-hazard symbols and grunge fonts have replaced the silhouetted ninja and kanji, but the execution is remarkably similar. Anything can and has been zombified — logic-be-damned — from shuriken, tantos and Naruto-knock-off kunai to survival hatchets, pistol crossbows and BB-guns. Can lime green Thor hammers and Captain America shields with skulls all over them be far behind?
(If any of you find a green Cap shield anywhere, I’m soooo a buyer!)
Plenty of samurai and ninja gear has been re-released in green lately, too. Katana were the first big items out there, a proven commodity courtesy of The Walking Dead. The bio-hazard tsuba are rather inspired, too. Then it gets rather silly, seeing as a lot of ninja weapons are close quarters fare, or small projectile weapons designed to carry poisons. Hardly threats to mindlessly chomping cannibals that can only be stopped by a crushed cranium.
Come to think of it, a lot of ninja skills are rendered moot in a word where Romero-model zombies plague the earth. Quiet movement, evasion, survival skills sure, but disguise, illusion, fear and taking advantage of superstitions, mind-games and whatnot… all pretty useless against the shambling hordes. And best trade that blowgun for a suppressed carbine, too.
But again, this stuff isn’t being produced based on logic or originality. They’re using and re-using what they’ve got on hand from previous crazes, regardless of how sound Max Brooks would find it.
Oh… and zombies aren’t real. There’s that… But it doesn’t mean people aren’t willing to stock up on fun toys!
We’re living in future-camp-in-the-making, people, mark my words. Just like the now nostalgic 80s, in 20 or 30 years we’ll look back at all this anti-zombie gear as so dated, so of this period, it’ll be just as kitschy as a ‘ninja’ fingerless glove or Japanese-fusion Nagel print.
I wonder, will someone start a “Vintage Zombie” site at that point?