(The Fun) In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki

Most longtime anime fans have encountered or heard of that unofficial genre of titles which consist entirely of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things (CGDCT). This anime, in a nutshell, is a mix of that with Naruto. It’s Cute Ninja Girls Doing Cute Ninja Things.

The ninja girls – or kunoichi – of Akane Class live in a remote, isolated village where there are no men. It’s just three dozen or so adolescent girls, organized into a dozen teams named after the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, studying ninjutsu under their teacher, and they’ve been there as long as any of them can remember. None of them has ever even seen a man before, and their teacher warns them constantly that men are scary. But for one of these young kunoichi, named Tsubaki, she finds her interest in men growing in ways which she has no understanding of, and no idea how to handle. It makes her, the foremost student of her class, hilariously adorable in her unease, and she can’t let on to anyone as to why she’s been getting so flustered!

The show follows a fairly simple formula, from episode to episode. It’s a slice of life comedy with some light ninja girl action involved, so it doesn’t get very tense. It’s just lots of fun watching these girls as they figure out themselves and how they relate to each other. Yet it touches on some surprisingly interesting themes, mostly in regards to the dynamics of various team relationships. No two teams are exactly alike, and so how they interact with each other is actually quite fascinating to me, especially as they display different styles of leadership from one team to the next. They talk about many female-oriented topics as well, such as, one example, how they can look cute or attractive. And, of course, they talk about men, despite every warning from their teacher not to.

The girls largely have a dismissive opinion towards men, having never encountered one before and having only what they’ve heard (from their teacher and each other) to work with. There is a girl who transfers in, about halfway through the show, who is much more familiar with men, and she is basically the fount of forbidden knowledge – despite, being an adolescent, not really knowing much herself – most especially to Tsubaki.

Indeed, Tsubaki seems to have a way of accidentally getting just enough information about men as to demand her attention, but almost never enough to satisfy her. She hears the voice of and almost actually sees a man in the first episode. She gets a new friend that she can ply with questions, but can’t be too eager about it. Same friend happens to mention what it is to be attractive – easily desired by men – so everyone begins practicing it, but Tsubaki has difficulty doing it on purpose. Then she sees two sketches of what is supposed to be a man, but they’re completely wrong, so she still has no idea what a man looks like after all. Time and time again, she gets so close to really learning about men, and it falls through.

Heck, it’s even an accident when her teacher lets slip, in front of her, that she’s been lying about how scary men are. Which completely freaks Tsubaki out, and justifiably so! Such that her teacher has to physically restrain her in order to explain the truth of their situation.

Apparently, the boy and girl ninjas of the previous generation were rapidly pairing off and leaving behind the world, traditions, and skills of the ninja. The ninja was on the brink of dying off completely because too many of them were falling in love! So, driven to extreme measures, Tsubaki’s teacher took her students to raise and teach them far away from all men! Even though doing so, it is intimated, meant she had to give up the man she, herself, was in love with. She made that sacrifice to try and save the ninja’s way of life.

It’s quite a sacrifice to make, but the storyteller in me can’t help but see a few flaws in this plan!

Pay attention, class! I shall explain!

Firstly, as the idea is to train these girls to be ninjas, one assumes they are to be let out of their village at some point. So, though they will have no prior experience with or understanding of men, it’s a certainty that they will meet them. They’ll be like lambs surrounded by lions, not only unable to operate in the real world, ignorant of things that everyone else would take to be common sense, but especially ill-equipped to deal with things like sexual attraction or being pursued by men. Everything will be brand new exactly when their bodies are good to go and up for anything, and they will have not learned a thing about self-control.

In short: the plan sets itself up for a catastrophic level of failure. It may have delayed the problem for these three dozen girls, but it definitely won’t avoid it altogether, and when it hits, it will be like a tsunami. Either the girls will couple up and have babies of their own – also a process they have not been educated on – or they’ll never couple up and never reproduce, and the ninja tradition ends anyway.

Speaking of, next issue: if the problem was that ninja boys and ninja girls were falling in love, what, exactly, was preventing them from having ninja babies? I mean, that’s how traditions are carried on the first place, passing from parent to child. Where did all the ninjas come from if they weren’t born into it, and where did these girls come from if their parents weren’t ninjas? Was the problem really that too many of them were falling in love, as humans are supposed to, or was it that they just did not want to keep being ninjas for the rest of their lives, so they quit and settled down with the deliberate intention of not raising their kids to be ninjas? And considering that the new girl is a ninja in training, coming from another village with both men and women in it, was it really even that bad in the first place?

Yeah, so, the premise of the show has some obvious holes. Best not to think about that too much, apparently! That’s not what this anime is for thinking about. It’s for laughing uproariously at the various antics of the girls, with their zany ninja skills, and appreciating the lessons about people, people, people, in their wide spectrum of personalities.

And that’s actually pretty much it, really.

It’s a bunch of loosely-related short stories, brought to vibrant, fluidly-animated and well-voiced life (at least in the original Japanese, I have no idea about any English dub), with a pleasing soundtrack. And I have to give a shoutout to the people behind the show for making a unique ending credits sequence for each episode, personalized to fit each of the teams in turn. That was a nice touch!

If you want ninja fun, lots of laughter, some character insight, plenty of little cuties, and absolutely no guys, then you might enjoy In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki.

Rating: 8 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid B.

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