What is Nintama Rantarou?
Damn funny! One of the most amusing anime I've ever seen. And funny. Did I mention funny? I don't know if I've ever laughed so hard or so long while watching any other anime as I have while watching Nintama Rantarou. Just thinking about certain scenes gives me the giggles. Oh, other anime have made me laugh - Dragon Ball for example (and DB is also one of my favorite shows). However, not only is Nintama Rantarou funny as hell, it's funny without being perverse. Even the bathroom and snot jokes are done in a good-natured sort of way. And it's got just enough excitement and adventure to keep it interesting, and really make the show work. Sometimes I find myself alternating between being grossed out by a snot joke, crying "Oh, that's so cute!" at a sweet moment, catching my breath "Wow! That's so cool!" when one of the teachers actually gets a chance to show off, and laughing until I have tears in my eyes when the jokes really get to me.
So, now that I have your attention, just what is Nintama Rantarou? It's an anime series produced by NHK (Japanese equivalent of PBS in the USA) for their children's entertainment/educational programming block. It's based on the manga "Rakudai Ninja Rantarou" by AMAKO Soubee. It came on the air in 1993 and is still being shown. At first it was shown in a half-hour format, with two approximately 12 minute stories - one before the commercial, and one after the commercial - just like many other young children's programs. However, after some time they switched to a new format, putting Rantarou in a half-hour show with two other programs (currently Ojarumaru and Hotch x Potch Station), and giving each show just ten minutes per segment, including credits (so only about 7 minutes of story). However, it is still shown on a daily basis, 5 times a week. New episodes are still being produced - as of April, 2002 they were showing new episodes based on manga volume 29, and created a new set of opening and ending credits.
The basic plot of Nintama Rantarou is very simple. Rantarou, a young boy with glasses and reddish hair, begins to attend Ninjutsu Gakuen (Ninja School). He is determined to become an elite ninja, unlike his father who is a very poor, common ninja. At the school, he makes two good friends, Kirimaru and Shinbei. Kirimaru is obsessed with money, and always has some kind of part-time job. Because he doesn't have a family, he usually stays with Doi-sensei (and gets him to "help" with his part-time jobs) when school is out. Shinbei, a pudgy boy with a constantly running nose and hair that becomes a lethal weapon, is the son of a very rich family. However, Shinbei is not very bright, and usually misses the point of any conversation. All three are in Ichinen-hagumi (first year "ha" class (note: "ha" is the third of the old "i ro ha" order of kana, and the classes in the school are Igumi, Rogumi, and Hagumi)). Unfortunately for the teachers, Hagumi seems to have the least competent first-year students. At Ninjutsu Gakuen, the students are called "Nintama", a contraction of the first kanji in Ninjutsu/Ninja (Nin), and tamago, meaning egg. Thus, they are "Ninja eggs", or Nintama.
The two main teachers are Yamada-sensei and Doi-sensei. Incidentally, they are two of my favorite characters in the series. Yamada-sensei is a rather...unattractive man. Of course, that means that whenever they have to wear a disguise, he's always the one who dresses up like a woman - a very ugly woman. He is in charge of the students' field education. Doi-sensei is a very young teacher, around 25. He is in charge of the students' classroom education. I feel for him. Hagumi has a tendency to spend more time making bad jokes than studying, and Doi-sensei has a justifiable tendency to lose his temper.
The episode plots usually either revolve around class exercises and problems at the school, or else around Rantarou and his friends trying to solve a problem for someone that they meet along the way. Occasionally there will be multi-episode story arcs. Some of the most exciting stories involve a group of red-suited ninjas from Dokutake Castle. The Dokutake Ninja are led by a short man with a big head, Hieta Happousai. Many characters become recurring figures, even ones that come from what seem like throw-away story lines. Because of that, the list of characters in this show is VERY long.
Though set in feudal Japan, anachronisms abound. And not only do the characters occasionally break the laws of physics, but they also break the third wall. They know that they are characters in a story and use it to their advantage, sometimes to reach across time and space to get information from a teacher. This is especially true in the manga, where the characters regularly turn back the pages themselves, or refer to the other volumes or specific page numbers.
That concludes this introductory lesson. Please return to the list of classes and begin your next lesson.