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It’s Time For One Last Ninja Job

Netflix just dropped the year’s coolest show.

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In pop culture, a conspiracy is usually a hidden evil unleashing misfortune on the world. They’re rarely heroes working under the radar to stop threats. Characters like Superman may be anonymous, but everyone recognizes his super suit. The thought of a secret force protecting us from evil just isn’t as exciting as a known hero investigating a malicious conspiracy.

But a recent Netflix series pulls apart this premise by depicting a family of ninjas who are used to living in the shadows, only to find themselves in the center of a dynastic battle. House of Ninjas is a Japanese series created by Dave Boyle, and the American filmmaker’s influence is obvious from the start. When we see the Tawara family move in silence during a flashback battle, the soundtrack is the very un-ninja “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

The series follows a family of ninjas living a normal life after retiring in the wake of a tragedy. Father Souichi Tawara (Yōsuke Eguchi) is trying to keep his family’s sake brewery afloat, even though it’s no longer needed to serve as their cover story. His wife, Yoko (Tae Kimura), is bored of being a housewife, and their children, Haru (Kento Kaku) and Nagi (Aju Makita), are struggling to find their purpose in life.

Each family member finds a way to cope. Souichi considers taking missions again, Yoko starts shoplifting, Haru begins talking to an intrepid reporter, and Nagi steals (and promptly returns) precious artifacts just to hone her craft. Each stumbles onto the central conflict — a return of a rival clan — in their own way. Then, over the course of eight episodes, secrets are revealed, betrayals are made, and Japan’s entire political landscape is irrevocably changed.

The Tawara family reckons with the ninja mission ahead of them.


The plot is very The-Incredibles-but-ninja, but every element is turned up to 11. Each family member is working behind the backs of the others, all the action is flowing and stealthy, and the ‘60s and ‘70s needle drops continue throughout. They could be jarring, but the sunny feeling of The Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” playing over a horrifically violent climax is effective.

House of Ninjas borrows equally from classic ‘90s Japanese drama and modern action revenge stories, balancing melodramatic plots with taut action and grounded drama. There’s not a lot of nuance in a show where characters get raised from the dead, but the strength of the performances makes it feel like you’re still watching real people. And just when you think it’s all over, a terrifying coda raises the stakes and sets up a possible Season 2.

The show is deeply entrenched in Japanese culture, but is presented and paced in a way that makes it easy to follow. So whether you know the ins and outs of Japanese history or just think ninjas are cool, House of Ninjas will meet you on your level and take you on a journey you won’t find anywhere else.

House of Ninjas is streaming on Netflix.

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