Monday, March 8, 2021

Ask a Ninja Implied Setting

Recently, I went back to watch some of the classic Ask a Ninja web videos. They make for easy viewing. While to some of you this will make you sound old (Or perhaps make me seem too young), I am very nostalgic towards the Ask a Ninja and similar old internet stuff. Is it fair to call it old? It's 15 years old, that's old enough for me to call it old and be nostalgic about it, ok?

However as I watched, I quite enjoyed thinking about the “Ask a Ninja” implied setting that is built out of the jokes and the “Ninja worldbuilding” that, intentionally or otherwise, the creator of that old series sprinkled throughout the video.

The Ninja World
In Ask a Ninja, Ninjas are seen as this sort of greater then human super force. Ancient, essentially untouchable, but also privy to a secondary secret world. Certain media like the Shadow Warrior games or Big Trouble in Little China kind of paw at the same idea of a mystic, often very “oriental” mystic world just beneath our more banal, normal ones. For example, there is a spirit realm with more powerful creatures or ghost beings that Ninjas also can travel to.

In Ask a Ninja, this world is described by both describing the type of life Ninjas lead as well as the threats they faced. Our Ninja describes killing normal people as kind of boring, they prefer to kill things like sixteen foot tall viking swordmasters- other ninja monsters include Chimerathon, or a chimera that is 26.2 miles long.

However there is a great degree of implication that the Ninjas lead a relatively normal modernized life underneath it; or have a rather normal community underneath the constant death. Or at the very least, they take it in stride. They attend conventions (Killacon) and have Ninja funerals where everyone is trying to kill each other. They have pets (dragons) or regular pets and teach them tricks (like how to run through walls). Ninjas kill anywhere from a dozen to tens of thousands of people a day, which seem to intermingle with their daily chores or other activities.

Despite this, there is also seemingly a bit of structure to all of this. The International Order of Ninjas seems to have some kind of bureaucratic control over Ninja activities, and Ninjas are still tasked with killing certain individuals despite how seemingly easy it would be given their numerous abilities.

Overpowered Ninjas
The Ninjas as described in Ask a Ninja are incredibly overpowered. The simple entry process for new Ninjas to become Ninjas are several impossible feats. Running through a blizzard without getting hit by a single snowflake, turn sideways to hide in the wind, and know trillions of ways to kill people. It is unknown if these traits are inherent to people who become Ninjas, or if these and more abilities are learned through Ninja training or “Ninternships”.

Our Ninja states that he sustains himself on the universal concept of health instead of eating food, and keeps his grass clipped through intimidation. (Which is hard to do, since grass has been around a long time). He also states that the only way to become a Ninja is to be born a Ninja, but you can also apply to become one and go through Ninja training. I kind of like this as it seems more egalitarian then most fantasy hidden-worlds. Even in something like Harry Potter you have to technically be born a Wizard, and WoD tends to give out its empowerments through those who are cursed or randomly. Ask a Ninja feels a bit more like something that you can just earn by being really badass. I kind of like that.

Ninja Society
Strangely, it seems that Ninjas kill each other almost as much as everyone else. Beyond the International Order of Ninjas and the Code of the Ninja, Ninjas seem to live extremely free lives only limited by their own power or ability to fight back against the other forces around them. When asked “How to kill a Ninja”, our Ninja doesn't really explain as the message is highly censored, but it seems like Ninjas kill each other all the time with ease. This seems to me like his message on how to kill a Ninja was directed at us mere mortals who could never match an assassin of death.

Now it does raise the question; how does a society of superhuman killers get along at all? Well, it could be explained in two ways. Since Ninjas are said to be able to meditate into other dimensions and the like, it is entirely possible Ninjas can come back from death. Of course, this concept kind of falls flat when you consider how central the idea of killing someone is to a Ninja. The other and more logical way is through blood feuds and mutually assured destruction. Any Ninja who kills another is risking the wrath of their entire clan, and it seems like Ninjas are prepared for that- specifically in the “How to Kill a Ninja”- the Ninjas specifically try to take out as many members of the dead Ninja's family as possible when they kill the widow, possibly to stop revenge killings?

Ask a Ninja fits perfectly in the "slightly tongue-in-cheek" but still kind of cool form of modern fantasy worldbuilding. I think it would even fit well as a kind of World of Darkness splat in a sense; super powered ninjas told to take out targets for inscrutable ends. I could easily see it being converted into a kind of simple, improv storygame kind of thing. Like "how do you kill that guy, John?" And he'll say "by hitting him with my fingertips to strike his pressure points, and then he explodes!" That kind of thing would ACTUALLY fit into the Ask a Ninja setting really well. Perhaps the game could be more based on the concept who acted the most Ninjaish instead of having a traditional threat or overarching plot-the Ninjas can't really die or lose unless since they choose too, since they're so sneaky and strong, so the context of the game is totally different. 
As for taking the concept to other places; I think as far as Worldbuilding goes, the above setting has some interesting ideas. It reminds me of Big Trouble in Little China and Mortal Kombat; it has an air of the mystic east, a form of orientalism, and a mixing of the grounded real world with a more supernatural fantastical world that makes you want to explore it more.
I really didn't know where this post came from and I don't know how to end it. Just wanted to share a piece of internet nostalgia with you.

1 comment:

  1. For extra worldbending goodness, I recall that there was a book as well.