Rule 34 : If it exists, there is porn of it.
Seems this applies even for ninjas. While doing one of my regular eBay sweeps for new ninja DVDs, I saw a double pack of movies called Lady Ninja Kaede. I like lady ninjas and, even more than that, I like surprises so bought it without really looking up what it was (I did a quick check to see it wasn’t a retitling of something I already had but that was it). Turns out it’s part of a whole subgenre of ultra-low budget “ninja erotica” from Japan, mostly made from about 2003 to 2009. In addition to the two Lady Ninja Kaede films, there are also six Lady Ninja Kasumi films and a bunch of others like The Naked Sword, Ninja She-Devil, Twin Blades of the Ninja and ten volumes of something called Ninja Vixens. This stuff is quite far down the rabbit hole but, in the interests of covering all facets of ninjas in pop culture on this blog, I have now watched the first Lady Ninja Kaede film.
It is, as you may have already guessed, quite bad. If you’re of the right age and into the wrong movies, you’ll probably remember the work of Misty Mundae. Lady Ninja Kaede makes the Misty Mundae movies look like they were shot by Kurosawa. I’m really struggling to work out who’d make it (no information is available about director “Takayuki Kagawa”), who’d release it (I’m looking at you, Tokyo Shock) or who’d want to watch it. Imagine a ninja film made for even less budget than Godfrey Ho would spend, but with the fighting replaced with super-tame softcore sex – all shot an on actual home video camcorder – and you’re getting there. I have to admit, there were a few sparks of a surrealist imagination hard at work in the way they combined Ninjutsu technique with sex (more on this later) but, otherwise, this was an endurance test. I hope it at least counts as several points towards my degree in Ninjology.
A voiceover tells us Lady Ninja Kaede is set in the Edo period but everyone’s wearing so much black fishnet it may as well be the Emo period. Kaede is a young peasant girl who watches her older sister Koharo raped by a wandering ronin and his shady buddy (who wears a cat mask to hide his identity). Ashamed that she’s brought dishonor to her husband Kichiemon, Koharu hangs herself, leaving Kaede and Kichiemon devastated. It is a pretty grim, tragic series of events so all rather incongruous when it’s interrupted with unrelated, frivolous comedy clips of Kaede showing the audience various “ninja techniques” like “transformation into a beast” (she gets on all fours and roars at the camera like a lion while someone offscreen throws a ball at her). There are also a few super-catchy but inappropriate J-pop numbers on the soundtrack. One croons sweetly how “it’s because of the era” as its hook, when characters cry about how awfully women are treated.
Still, once you get used to the offensively scattershot tone of the film (and admit that the closing song – “Harmony of Love” – is really good), something almost like a plot develops. A lady ninja named Yumeama, who specialises in “the sexual field” of Ninjutsu (!) has been imprisoned in a convent by the Shogun but, with the help of an elderly man named Jii, she escapes. While hiding in Kichiemon’s attic, the two of them learn about Koharu’s suicide and, touched by this horrific story, become determined to find out what really happened. Meanwhile, Kichiemon and Koharu embark on a revenge mission of their own (and Kaede has a particularly long journey ahead since, as the title suggests, she is destined to become a ninja)…
I actually didn’t see some of the story twists coming and, while there was nothing mindblowing, it was better than the lousy production values and awful dialogue suggested it would be. There isn’t really a lot of sex in the film, all things considered, in that there’s only three major scenes of it but they go on forever (approximately 10 minutes each) and kill the pace every time the story starts to get going. No one takes their pants off at any time in the film (presumably due to Japanese film rules about not showing genitalia?) so it’s really not exciting, except perhaps for people who’ve never ever seen a pair of naked breasts before (and, let’s face it, if you’ve watched even a handful – no pun intended – of the films I’ve mentioned on this blog, you will have seen a pair of naked breasts before). The stuff between the sex is actually more enjoyable, especially when it goes weird in the second half (like how Koharu’s ghost rocks up and makes all kinds of proclamations of hatred and bloodshed in a sing-song voice that makes it sound like a rendition of “happy birthday”).
In its defense, there are a few utterly bonkers examples of ninja magic that – as far as I know – aren’t available in any other film. There is “Ninja Technique : Confession From The Honey Pot” in which Yumeama seduces a guy into giving her oral sex but has used ninja magic to “turn love juice into confessional medicine”, which makes him tell only the truth. There is also the “Ninja Technique : Like A Dried Fish” which involves literally sucking the life out of someone with a combination of coy simulated fellatio and bad CGI. Even the more traditional ninja techniques like trilocation have a ‘sexy’ twist here – when Kaede trilocates, one of her three incarnations loses her top in the process (although this isn’t a surprise because almost every ninja move Kaede tries causes her to lose her top at some stage).
If this is sounding like you’d watch, I can only apologise for making it appear better than it is. Despite the craziness, Lady Ninja Kaede is still a tough film to sit through. In addition to the many other flaws, it’s very badly acted to the point where even a rare good line in the script will be murdered in delivery. The guy who plays Kichiemon is sort of okay and Yumemara has one scene where she wails in an admirably hammy way but everyone else mumbles their lines and looks like they can’t wait to get home. Kaede is played by an actual XXX porn star called Mai Nadasaka and, while it’s easy to see why she was cast in the role, she never really comes into her own (uh, no pun intended) and even looks a little embarrassed at times. Like she’d rather just get back to making proper sex films than this nonsense. Apparently Kaede is recast in the sequel but I’m not sure I can bring myself to watch that just yet. I think even I have my limits as to what I’ll do for ninjas.