(DVD Version “Sasuke”)
“Sasuke” is a male name in Samurai Era/Edo Period. In those days, the Japanese usually didn’t have family/last names. So, it’s nice and clear that the main character of this Manga is a boy in the picture above, who is a Koga School (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dga-ry%C5%AB) Ninja.
Americans tend to think of (Japanese) Ninjas as “cool.” But that’s not it. It is NOT easy to live as a Ninja. Ninjas were professional spies and assassins. Once you are born to some Ninja family or community, you are destined to be a Ninja. You have no choice. Whether you can survive or not solely depends on how lucky you are and how skillfully trained as a Ninja you are. Death is what is waiting for misfit Ninjas. No mercy. Everyday is “life or death.” In a word, Ninjas are shadows. They don’t have their own lives. Indescribably tough life – that’s Ninjas.
The Manga Version started in 1961 and ended in 1966 (55 episodes) in a magazine for boys, which I never read because I was born in 1961. I saw “Sasuke” in a TV program, which started in 1968 and ended in 1969 (29 episodes). It was aired during children’s hour. Yes, it was supposed to be for CHILDREN. That’s what kids saw on TV. “Sasuke,” however, was quite different from other TV shows for children. Because of the difference, lots of kids and their parents, of course “dads” most likely, fell in love with the show.
What made “Sasuke” so special? “Seriousness” is the answer. You may know that “Manga” literally means “Funny Stories with Pictures.” Yes, “Manga” is supposed to be “ha, ha, ha!” type of stories, letting people temporarily forget about reality. “Sasuke” didn’t let you relax, which was very unusual, but made you nervous by showing you the incessant descriptions of successful and unsuccessful Ninjutsu (=Ninja skills/techniques), which involved so many deaths. Even though your trick worked for a second, you might be blown up into pieces in the following second. Take a look at its opening music (no song!?) and ending (no song!!??):
Later on, in 70’s and 80’s, there appeared several Manga/Comics or TV shows, featuring Ninjas, but they stayed within the definition of “Manga/Comics” forever – the main characters sometimes showed up in amusement parks in Japan and played games with children. Fun! “Sasuke” was NOT.
Speaking of 1968, I was still 7 years old. But “Sasuke” told me how hard it was for you to live as a Ninja and how cruel the reality could be!! Sasuke learned Ninjutsu from his father. His Ninjutsu lessons were NOT easy. Ninja fathers were merciless – they could not even complain if their sons get killed because of the unsuccessful usage of Ninjutsu!? “Survival of the Fittest” – Only successful Ninjutsu users made it. Otherwise, you would be dead while training. Sasuke was my age!!
Only the fun part was that the narrator started to explain how well a particular Ninjutsu worked or not after it was applied. He kept going for at least a couple of minutes just to explain. That was interesting! And audience realized then that even very minor mistakes could take away their lives. We also learned that how critical it was to think of every day as their last day. So so … POWERFUL.
(After the death of his father, Sasuke traveled around with his younger brother.)
“Sasuke” was a very conspicuous show that taught even pre-teens how to adapt themselves to their individual circumstances. Thanks to “Sasuke,” the Japanese boys and girls in 60’s and early 70’s learned how harsh a life could be!
At Every Moment, You Have a Choice.
If you choose to study Japanese for your particular goal,
Go for it!
Today might be THE ONLY DAY YOU HAVE!!
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