Humanity is in overabundance. Look at our population, it’s a statistical fact: a single human life is less special now than it’s ever been before. In addition, the information age puts us in perpetual touch with each other. It’s never been so easy to know of one another’s achievements on a global scale.
In the face of these immutable truths, feeling inadequate is a sign of sanity. A bit of shame and self-loathing may even be modern virtues.
Enter the salaryman, a Japanese stereotype of the salaried employee who works long hours at a big corporation for little money wearing uncomfortable suits and using alcohol to make it to the next day without going postal. The salaryman is an expression of ‘respectable’ human disposability, the modern equivalent of one of those woolly mammoth vacuum cleaners in The Flintstones mugging at the viewer as it utters “it’s a living!”
But here’s the thing: everyone reads manga in Japan. Even salarymen. And they need a hero they can relate to every once in a while, too! Ninja Papa is a manga to satisfy that need. It also satisfies my appetite for the kind of manly, action-packed manga for adults that doesn’t stand a chance in hell of getting published in North America.
Ninja Papa is about Nobuo Matsuri, an ugly, out of shape, balding salaryman. He’s a schlub, a tranquil family man with a beautiful wife and children. His self-effacing demeanor hides a powerful secret: Nobuo was once a deadly ninja who abandoned his clan to reclaim an ordinary life. No one, not even his wife, knows. But every once in a while Nobuo must don his keikogi and tabi boots in order to dispatch a very violent form of social justice upon the world.
This isn’t an unrelenting badass manga. It’s fun! There’s a lot of humor to be found in what transpires, however there’s also a straight-faced sincerity about the redeeming power of love. Nobuo Matsuri is a peaceful man protecting those he cares about, and he struggles to maintain the joy he’s able to wring out of a largely mediocre existence. I can relate more than I’d care to admit.
So there you have it: Ninja Papa, a hero for the modern world! He’s pretty spectacular.
Volume 1 is available electronically at JManga.com. They’re currently running an October sale, so it will cost you only five bucks for the next few days. If you like it, please let JManga know so they’ll release more! Ninja Papa is seven volumes long, and I can’t begin to imagine where else the story will go.