A Review of “Ganbare Goemon (Legend of the Mystical Ninja)” – Nintendo Ninjas in Nihon

“Hey everybody get ready (GET READY!) for the action packed story of a game world guardian! GET READY for the defender of good and the despiser of evil! ME! GOEMON!!”
– Goemon

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you all had a great day today with your friends, family loved ones, what have you. I know it’s been a while since I did a review, but I’m back and ready to give it my all. Okay, to start off our “Risembool Ranger” month, I thought I would go into one of the earlier roles Vic Mignogna has taken in his anime V/A career. “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” is one of those kind of shows that, if it aired on TV here in the US, would stay with you long after childhood has left. For adult fans, it’s a nostalgia trip; a chance to re-live a simpler time when repetive storylines held our attention like glue holds to a toupee. What is it about “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” that makes it so addictive for both young and old fans alike? Is it the classic “Enemy of the Week” style story lines? The rag-tag group of characters who somehow saves the day? Is it the old-school animation and music stylings? Or is it the all-star cast of voice actors? Let’s dig right in and find out.

Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content – Absolutely nothing here. This show was made for TV audiences, so it’s quite clean. Ironically enough, it’s slightly cleaner than the original Japanese, which often has our ten-year old protagonist saying “What the hell is going on?!” at random moments. However, it should be noted that one of the earlier enemies, Seppukumaru, often tries to commit suicide for failing to do a given task. This is 100% for comedic effect, as the character never succeeds.

Series Availability – This series was originally available from then-ADV Films as a five-volume set which included interviews with the English dub cast and commentary tracks for select episodes. Later, the series was released as a five-volume thin-pack box set with no extras. As of this printing, the only way it looks as though you can get this series is through online sources like Amazon or eBay. As for watching the series online, it seems as though some kind soul uploaded the entire series onto YouTube. How long it will stay there is uncertain, so watch while the watching is good!

Story Premise – “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” (Originally titled “Ganbare Goemon” or “Go For it Goemon”) is a 23 episode series based off a long running popular Japanese video game franchise. The story follows the adventures of a video game  character named Goemon and his friends as they fight to rid the world of evil video-game villains that have found their way into the real world to cause havoc; whether it’s selling Valentines day chocolates that spout hatred to the recipient instead of love or causing rifts in space/time. When things get really troublesome, with a bit of ohagai and a blow of his conch shell, Goemon can summon Goemon Impact, a gigantic clockwork mechanical robot with personality and roller-skate split-toed sandals.  Each episode brings a new force to be reckoned with, which Goemon and friends dispatch with the quickness. For better or worse, “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” has the kind of story and episodes that make it PERFECT for TV broadcasting.  Each episode seems to be pretty predictable; one of the baddies causes trouble in Japan which causes the “rage gauge” [a device that is charged by the frustrations and anger of humans] to increase in power, Goemon and friends spend about 10 minutes wondering whats going on then realize that it must be yet another evil scheme from the aforementioned baddie, the “rage gauge” hits peek power causing the baddie to grow into a large size, requiring the use of Goemon Impact, the baddie is destroyed, and “Justice triumphs again” with another “Happy ending”. Seriously, it’s that predictable. It’s episodic, yes, [Save for the last two episodes] but because of the demographic this show looks to appeal to, it can be tolerated to a point and, in fact, there are several instances when the status quo changes ever so slightly, keeping things from getting overtly repetitive. Another issue that I take with this series is the fact that some of the shows are “message” shows in which Tsukasa or one of the other characters learn “life lessons” like the importance of teamwork or the value of a good nights rest. While this is good for the target demographic, for older viewers who could care less whether or not they get a good nights rest, it could get wearing. The ending isn’t as clear-cut as I would’ve liked, but it works for this series, in a weird sort of way. [20/25]

Favorite Scene: My favorite episode has to be the Valentines day episode. Goemon’s method of trying to cheer up heartbroken Tsukasa leaves me screaming. He pretty much says “Yeah, your grades suck, you wear glasses, you have freckles, and you may be nearsighted, but you’re still a nice guy and that’s all that matters!” Good one there, Goemon…

Characters – Our main character, Tsukasa is your typical 10-year-old boy; addicted to video games and crushing on the local cutie-pie named Asuka. His life is turned upside down however, when, after a night of gaming, who should come from his TV but the defender of all that is good, Goemon. His mission is clear; he and his friends, the pudgy Ebisumaru, the cute yet deadly Yae, the mechanical shutterbug Sasuke, inventor and resident pervert Monoshiri, and Goemon’s devoted girlfriend Omitsu team up to battle the forces of evil that have crossed over from the real world to the gaming world. I have to admit, I really enjoyed each of the characters in this series, both good and bad. They really bring a smile to your face with their energy and enthusiasm. Goemon is your textbook superhero; strong, courageous, yet flawed and human enough so you can relate to him. He also makes a good companion to Tsukasa, reminding me of the Joe/Gomamon relationship from “Digimon Adventure”; where Tsukasa lacks confidence and sometimes hesitates, Goemon pushes him forward.  It’s an excellent dynamic, and it makes the show that much more intriguing to watch. Goemon Impact is one of the coolest giant  robots around since Johnny 5 in “Short Circuit”. Your enemies are the classic “I want to rule the world!” types whose plans never seem to work out, angering the big bad baddie controlling everything behind the scenes. [25/25]

Animation – “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” was made around the mid-1990’s, back when computer animation was only a pipe dream and everything was done by hand using cells. This gives the show a quaint look and feel to it that one either enjoys or despises from older series such as this. While it is a bit grainy here and there, overall the animation is nice and stands the test of time. [12/12.5]

Music – This show offers up two opening theme songs. The first one, used in episodes 1-12 is “Shounen no Hane” by Saru Ganseki. Honestly, it was okay, but it wasn’t very memorable, and for some reason, it didn’t seem to fit with the animation on-screen. The second theme, “You’re Mine” by NONKEYS, is a great improvement. It’s catchy, memorable, and it goes much better with the opening animation. Methinks this was the reason it was changed, although the opening animation remained the same. The ending song “O.K.! O.K.” by Mie Kuribayashi is infectious, fun and upbeat. Seriously, even if you don’t know ONE WORD of Japanese, you will find a way to sing along; even if it’s just the bits of the chorus with “O.K! O.K!” in it. The ending sequence is funny and cute. Incidental and battle music is your classic faire; not being too distracting, but still hyping up the emotion of the scene. [11.5/12.5]

Performances and Production – “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” was directed in Japan by Masayoshi Yatabe, a director known for…well…just this, actually. He has no other credits to his name, which is a shame when you consider that this is actually a well-directed project. At the helm in the US is Scott McClennen who has handled his share of old school ADV projects like “Air TV”, “Magikano” and…[::deep shudder::] “Sister Princess”. In any case, seeing as how this is Risembool Ranger month, let’s get right into our main character. Vic Mignogna as Goemon is quite honestly one of the best roles I’ve heard him in. He brings an energy and a spirit to Goemon that matches and, dare I say, rivals the original voice actor Yasunori Matsumoto. Tiffany Grant as Tsukasa is…well…interesting. I mean, it’s good, don’t get me wrong, she is very convincing . But there are times [especially in the earlier episodes] when her voice kind of breaks and she sounds more female than male. In any case, for the most part, she does a great job. Chris Patton as Ebisumaru is adorable and sweet and fits the character perfectly, as does Jessica Boone as Yae, Greg Ayres as the paparazzi ninja robot Sasuke [Incidently, my favorite character out the show] and Kira Vincent-Davis as Omitsu. George Manley as the roller-skating robot Goemon Impact is delightfully epic in all the right ways and he plays the “Gentle Giant” role to a tee.  It should also be noted that this is one of the very few roles that I can actually listen to Kevin Korn in without shuddering deeply. I’ll go into greater details of this in a later review, but suffice it to say he does a good job as Naboru, Tsukasa’s rival. I do have to take points, however because of some mispronunciation here and there. I’m sorry, but if you have the original japanese dialogue available to you, there should be NO excuse to mispronounce the word “Edo”. [22/25]

Final Scores:

Story and Premise: 20/25
Characters: 25/25

Animation: 12/12.5
Music: 11/12.5

Performances: 22/25

Final Grade: 90.5/100 = 90.5% – (A-)

Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)

  • In episode 1, when Tsukasa is playing his video game, it looks suspiciously like a Nintendo 64 game console. The original video game was released on numerous consoles including the Nintendo 64.
  • The running gag with the enemy Seppukumaru is the fact that, whenever the mood strikes him or he commits some grave and/or dishonorable blunder, he triese to commit suicide. The word for suicide in Japanese is “Seppuku” and the method often used back in the old days was to slice the belly open with a cerimonial knife or blade. This explains the scar on Seppukumaru’s stomach; a suicide attempt gone wrong. [Geeze, someone needs medication…]
  • The title “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” is actually the title of the US Release version of the Goemon adventure game for the SNES. In Japan and amongst fans, the series is referred to by its original name “Ganbare Goemon”.
  • According to the commentary track for episode 14 “They Stole Our Time, Everyone is in Chaos!”, Tiffany Grant, the voice actress for Tsukasa, did not know about the firery helicopter crash in the episode, and was told by the director as a prank [and to get a better performance out of Tiffany] that all the characters in it died and that was the end of the series. Tsukasa’s subsequent sobbing, it seems, was authentic.
  • It’s very ironic that Tsukasa’s love interest is a red-haired girl named “Asuka”; as we all know, Tiffany Grant voiced another popular red-head Asuka in the “Neon Genesis Evangelion” franchise.
  • Speaking of Tiffany Grant, at the time of the commentary track recording for episode 14 [around 2004], she had not quite made her 10-year anniversary with ADV Films.
  • While on the subject of ADV Films, during the last few minutes of the commentary, one of the actors mentioned making toys models based on the animation in the end credits. Interestingly enough, then-ADV Films actually had a toy division called ADV Toys. It is not known whether or not ADV actually acted on this…though I doubt it seriously.
  • This is one of the first voice acting roles taken on by Vic Mignogna. Prior to this, he had no idea as to what anime was. In addition, almost prophetically, this character is short in stature, much like his most identifiable and famous character Edward Elric in “Fullmetal Alchemist”. [Yes, I went there. And you know what…I got a few more too…Edward is so short, he needs a step stool to be “fed up”. Edward is so short, he bathes in a thimble. Edward is so short, I gave him a crawfish and he said “Hey, thanks for the lobster!” Ed is so short, he uses DNA strands to floss. Edward is so short he has to take off his shoe and hop around barefoot to use a touchscreen phone.]

So where does that leave us? Well, “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” is a fun blast from the past, that anybody, child or adult, would love to watch. While, granted, the story is repetitive and a big clichéd, it’s still a very interesting and funny tale with warm and courageous characters, classic animation and music, and an even more classic and impressive group of actors and actresses. If you’re looking for something for the kid in your life or the kid in your heart, then I highly recommend “Legend of the Mystical Ninja”. It’s sure to leave you with a “Happy Ending!”

That’s it for the first anime review featuring good ol’ Charlie Brown Obi FrosttipsVic Mignogna. Next up for review is a show that has recently been added, in it’s completion, to my collection. Grab your wings, and some Kleenex too, because we’re going into the mystical world of…

Air TV

Oh, before I forget; we have 3 submissions in for my “Six Steps” contest! Don’t forget to get yours in by Midnight on April 14th! Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about? Click here to find out and get your entry in!


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