• Titles: Nabari no Oh, King of Nabari
  • Genre: Drama, action, ninjas!
  • Episodes: 26
  • Studio: J.C. Staff

Miharu Rokujo’s high school has a ninja club! And he doesn’t want to join!!! What the heck. I would have totally joined my high school’s ninja club if it had one. That’s such a waste! Granted, Rokujo is really apathetic and doesn’t care about anything or anyone. He just sort of wants to float along. I probably would have sympathized in high school. And on second look, the ninja club does seem to require a lot of physical effort and also potentially get you killed. So maybe that was a good call on Miharu’s part. Unfortunately for him, an ancient technique is locked away within his blood, the Shinrabanshou. A technique so powerful, it could bring the ninjaé world to its knees. And so, participation in the ninja club just became mandatory! If he can survive all those warring clans that are trying to take it from him.

I usually, don’t know how I learn about random anime but this time, I remember! It was suggested to me by AniList (therefore by their users) because I liked The Case Study of Vanitas. Apparently, they also put Nabari no Ou as similar to Pandora Hearts and Black Butler. I have to say, what anime were you guys watching????

I think large cats always make anime better!

Production

Nabari no Ou looks like a shoujo. I don’t have a better way to describe it. It’s a little weathered and the colours are really washed out but what struck me was the character designs. Ph and the backgrounds.

Actually, let’s start with the backgrounds first. They look like they’re drawn in coloured pencils. They’re not but you’ll understand if you see it. There’s a bit of graininess to the linework and the texture of the backgrounds is different from that of the characters. I really liked the effect. It made the forests and jungles the characters frequently find themselves trecking through, look that much more attractive.

see what I mean? It’s like a sketch

As for the character designs. They look like shoujo!

Ok, I’ll be more precise. Nabari no Ou is full of very pretty, tall and very thin boys. Also, some girls who are equally as pretty and thin. There’s something in how sharp the jawlines are and just how long and winged out everyone’s eyes seem to be, that just recall classic shoujo manga design. In all its elegance and eccentricity. I liked it. I would say the designs are one of the strongest parts of the series.

There is a lot of action throughout Nabari no Ou and at times it did seem like they were straining the budget. Certain fights were jagged or just awkward to look at. But generally speaking, it’s a well-produced anime. I have no complaints on the technical side.

pretty is relative

Story & Characters

One of the things you may have noticed is that AniList was comparing Nabari no Ou to a bunch of comedies with supernatural elements. And well… why? Maybe I missed something but I’m pretty sure the show I just watched was a straight-up action drama with a very better sweet ending and ninjas. Ninjas with some pretty supernatural powers, I’ll give you that. But then again, I don’t know what Ninjas can do. Maybe it was a documentary.

The story itself is kind of complex and there is a lot of elements unique to the Nabari no Ou universe to establish for it to make any sense. The general idea is that ninjas exist in the world but also have their own world called Nabari. Different clans of Ninjas have been at war with each other for generations for control of both Nabari and our world. Meanwhile, the Shinrabanshou is an ancient technique that compiles all the knowledge of Nabari but can only be held within a living soul or something like that. And Miharu is the current holder so everyone wants a piece of him. Adventures and heartache incur.

There is a lot of promise within that premise. And occasionally, Nabari no Ou becomes very interesting. The Fuma are a band of Ninja who are just as ruthless as the rest but also friendly and allies through circumstance. Exploring their village was fun. At one point the main characters go careening through what seems to be an old-style British academy for ninja ladies… Awesome! And really, if you just spell out the individual moments, they all sound pretty good. But personally, I think it just ever came together as a whole.

obvious ninjas!

One of my big complaints is the Shinrabanshou itself. For all the build-up it gets, in the end, it really amounts to little more than a McGuffin. We hear about it all the time, in the early episodes, it seems that Miharu is tapping into it and then nothing. for the great majority of the series, it’s pretty much a non-issue. And in the end, it really could have been anything. If Miharu had a lamp that was considered sacred by the ninja clans, the story could have happened in the exact same way.

I’m not saying that a McGuffin is a bad thing in and of itself. But it was a letdown to me that we never properly got a feel for what the Shinrabanshou is. It made the entire thing feel a little too shallow.

Second, and once again this might be a me problem, I disliked the insistence on drama. A lot of the show is kind of a bummer. Actually, wait, let me amend that. Yes, I don’t tend to like drama for drama’s sake but it’s more than just that.

I watched Nabari no Ou in English. There might have been something, a lot, lost in translation. Please keep that in mind. And even though I didn’t see the Japanese version, I’m going to go right ahead and recommend it over the English one. The writing throughout Nabari no Ou is just too immature for the story it’s telling. And by immature, I don’t mean they do toilet jokes, I mean it’s naive.

it’s not the end of the world

Dialogue is stilted, exposition dumps are obvious and clumsy and wild intuitive leaps are forced in order to make the narrative progress. It just gave me the impression of being written by someone who hasn’t had that much experience writing anime yet. And when you combine this weakness, with the insistence on very heavy and emotional subject matter, it just comes up short.

And that’s a real shame as I think that the bare bones of the story are actually quite good. It’s possible that the Japanese version solves a lot of the hiccups with the dialogue. But there are still some more foundational weaknesses in the writing. The way that events progress and such. It’s also possible that all of it is better in the manga. It has a much higher rating. I really don’t know.

What I do know is that the Eglish version of Nabari no Ou is ok. It’s not great and I think the best reason to watch would be to enjoy the art, but it does have its moments. I personally enjoyed it well enough, I just can’t recommend you drop everything to go watch it right now.

You might like this anime if:

You are really into ninja stories and are annoyed at all the comedy in Naruto.

My favourite character:

Gau. Everyone gets a bit too intense for me but at least Gau is a puppy.

Suggested drink:

Blue Ninja #2

  • Every time Rokujo has little demon wings – take a sip
  • Every time we get introduced to a new ninja clan – take a sip
  • Every time Kotaru is being a troll – gasp!
  • Every time Thobari would rather walk – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a dutch angle – take a sip
  • Every time Rokujo gets covered in letters – run
  • Every time anyone has a wish – take a sip
  • Every time Rokujo does his angel face – take a sip
  • Every time someone mentions the nabari world – look around
  • Every time anyone calls Kouichi “4 eyes” – take a sip
  • Every time we see spider lillies – worry
  • Every time anyone has okonomiyaki – get a snack
  • Every time Yoite gets all emo – take a sip
  • Every time Thobari is wracked with guilt – take a sip
  • Every time Yoite doesn’t want to die – switch to water

I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.

6 thoughts

  1. You are very very right about the manga being better, that’s an unanimous agreement within the fandom. They change the plot by episode 10 of the anime because the manga wasn’t finished yet, so that’s why there’s minimal payoff at the end. The manga is also much more expressive, and the drama feels less forced since it’s easier to gain a genuine connection to the characters. Plus you actually get cute little scenes of characters being silly in the background that they ignored. And if you liked Gau in the anime, you’ll adore him in the manga. 🙂

  2. I remember trying, twice, to watch the show, and both times thinking: Not now, later. I do like the art (especially the backgrounds but also the colours), so I’m probably going to try again with a similar result.

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