An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.
Lately, I've been reminiscing about my childhood growing up in the city of Honolulu, the capital of America's only island state, Hawaii. And mixed in with fond memories of girls in Hula skirts, the romantic music of Don Ho, and frequent overdoses from "ice" (Hawaiian Crystal Meth) is a featured attraction: Ninjas! Being that Hawaii is heavily influenced by Asian popular culture and mythology, Ninjas are as Hawaiian as apple pie (provided that pie contains Hawaiian apples, Hawaiian crust and is prepared by a Hawaiian chef.) You could not be a rough and tumble youngster in Honolulu during the 80's and not think Ninjas were cool. (Though perhaps not as much as this guy.)
What did young Ninja (as we fancied ourselves) do in their free time? Well, we read plenty of Ninja instruction manuals, practiced throwing Ninja stars, and watched lots of Sho Kosugi movies!
"Sho Whatsugi?" you exclaim. "I think I ordered that last night at the 24-hour sushi buffet." No young asshopper, Sho Kosugi was the actor and action star who, more than any other motherfucker, was responsible for the Ninja craze of the 1980's. Thanks to Sho, millions of children went about playing with sharpened knives, five pointed Ninja stars and nunchucks while emulating the characters Sho portrayed onscreen. Why, I dare say the number of eyes removed from their sockets during Kosugi influenced horseplay must number in the thousands!
Let me pause for a second to accommodate some of my more naive readers who may be asking, "What is a Ninja?" Ninjas existed in feudal Japan and were masters of espionage and assassination. They practiced the martial art of Ninjitsu, a particularly deadly mode of fighting that focused on using eclectic weaponry designed to excite the imaginations of 13-year old boys.
Legend has it, that young Sho Kosugi spent much of his childhood learning Ninjitsu from a mysterious neighbor in his hometown of Shiba, Japan. This sounds like theatrical bullshit to me, but it is well established that Sho was a great practitioner of Shindo-Jinen Ryu Karate, Judo and Kendo and at 18 had become the all Japan Karate Champion. But this early success was not enough to satisfy young Sho, who then moved to the land of opportunity, America, to pursue a degree in economics. (Why, who would want to live the life of a ninja assassin when they could instead be an economist!?) Fortunately, Sho kept his skills up doing martial arts demos and participating in tournaments and his success eventually brought him to the attention of Hollywood big shots looking forward to carrying forth the success of the martial arts movies pioneered by Bruce Lee in the '70's. Lee, however, was a master of the Chinese martial art, Kung Fu . In the '80's, audiences wanted something new, something different. That something was Ninjas!
There were three principal films* that began and carried forth the Ninja craze of the decade. They were "Enter the Ninja" (1981), "Revenge of the Ninja" (1983) and "Ninja III: The Domination" (1984). Also pertinent was a short-lived but memorable TV show called "The Master." And because Sho acted in all of these we will be analyzing each of them below.
* The Sho Kosugi biography would probably disagree with me on this, and include later Kosugi Ninja films like "Pray for Death," but I really don't remember them having the same impact as the first three.Enter the Ninja
While "Enter the Ninja" deserves credit for kicking off the Ninja craze, anyone with a ounce of integrity would have to concede it's a piece of crap. The film's producers, presumably tepid to offering up an Asian Ninja, instead presented pretty boy Franco Nero ("Die Hard II") as a Caucasian Ninja master who must battle the evil maniac who ordered the death of his friend and wants to blah, blah, blah. To be honest, I haven't seen the film in close to 20 years but I remember enough of it to know it's not worth re-watching. Sho plays the main Ninja baddie, a character named "Hasegawa," who has an all-out fight scene with Nero's "Good Ninja" at the climax. Trust me, just skip this one and roll up to..
Revenge of the Ninja
The plot to "Revenge of the Ninja" was sublime in its simplicity. Ninjitsu master Cho Osaki (played by Sho) returns to his ancestral home to discover most of his family has been assassinated by Ninjas. Of course, the Ninjas are still hanging around and Sho promptly wipes them out with some help from his gun wielding American friend, Braden. (There's some great scenes where the Ninjas showcase the "Let's-attack-him-one-at-a-time-as-opposed-to-all-at-once" style of fighting.) Once all the Ninjas are dead (It's never explained to the viewer's satisfaction exactly why they attacked in the first place.) Braden convinced Cho to move with his mother and infant son to America.
Six years later, Cho has teamed up with Braden in a successful Japanese doll importing business. Only Braden is actually using the dolls to smuggle heroin but is getting screwed over by the mob. In a delightful plot twist, it turns out Braden is also a ninja, and he starts assassinating the minions of a local greasy wop mob leader to get his attention. Cho and his family get caught up in the feud which leads to him facing off with both hoardes of Mafia henchmen and Braden's "Black Ninja" character.
Ninja III: The Domination
"The Master" ended in 1984 and its passing symbolize the fact that the Ninja-craze that had begun with "Enter the Ninja" was beginning to fade. Sho did several more American Ninja films*, such as "Pray For Death" (1985), "Rage For Honor" (1986), and some non-Ninja martial arts movies like "Black Eagle" (1987) and a update of the classic Japanese "Zatoichi" blind swordsman movies, "Blind Fury" (1988). By then, Ninja were, like, so over, man. On a personal level, I had come to the conclusion that chicks dug rock stars more than Ninjas (or at least more than infantile young men who went around pretending to be Ninjas) and traded in my throwing stars for an electric guitar.
* To his credit, Sho never appeared in the retarded "American Ninja" series starring Michael Dudikoff.
But unlike a lot of once-trendy icons, Sho has done all right since fading from popular view. During the 90's he was involved in several "made-in-Japan" films and TV shows, many featuring his son Kane, who is now a established action star. He also pushed a series of Ninja Aerobics tapes, started the Sho Kosugi Institute, an organization dedicated to aiding young Asian actors, and contributed to the big time Playstation video game, "Techu: Stealth Assassins." (Never seen it as I haven't played a video game since "Galaga," but it's got Ninjas so it must be good.) Generally speaking Sho has managed to keep active* while gracefully moving out from in front of the camera to more behind the scenes roles.
* In 1987, falling prey to the anti-drug hysteria of the day, Sho joined NAD (Ninjas against Drugs), which is officially the 4th gayest thing I've ever heard of. I wonder if their battle cry was "GO NAD!"
And of course, given the cyclical nature of entertainment, who's to say the age of the Ninja will not again be upon us? As long as sugar-saturated little boys dream of vanquishing their enemies with lethal weaponry, it is a certainty that Ninjas will continue to capture popular imagination. And with that realization in place I've little doubt that, one day, the Ninja will rise again.
OHMIGOD! THERE'S ONE RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!
NO, SERIOUSLY - LOOK!
DUDE, I AM NOT EFFING AROUND HERE, THERE IS A FUCKING NINJA RIGHT BEHIND YOU!
Whaddaya mean, "How can I see you through the computer screen?" Forget it man, I'm just gonna let that Ninja kill you. See if I care.
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Wil Forbis is the pen named shared by such noted authors as James Ellroy, Katie Roiphe, and Jim Thompson. E-mail him, I mean, them, at email@example.com
View Wil's Acid Logic web log, a stirring endorsement of sex with pandas!
What do you think America? Leave your comments on the Guestbook!
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