Monday, March 31, 2008

Tranformation3 of 4: The Ninja

My latest body of work consists of four Identity Aspects. Here's number 3.

This is a post about Ninjas. Not real "Historical" ninjas, but the fake ones. The ones in all black that we know.

Pretty much anyone who thinks ninjas are cool knows that "real" ninjas didn't look like the pop culture ninja we know today. What you may not know is how or why the ninja became so different. Or that it wasn't the Americans who were responsible for the change, it was the Japanese. So there. Not our fault this time.

Back in the feudal days, there was some indication that stealthy mercenaries were being hired for assassinations. But the actual involvement of "ninja" is hazy. There is no indication that any important figure was actually successfully killed by a ninja, and if fact, there is little period documentation referring to the ninja at all. Ninja became popular much later and were inserted into history in post. Ninja, even as a term, was an Edo-era invention. Legendary figures with any period unaccounted for turned into "Oh, they must have been a ninja." But that still doesn't explain their current image.
The truth seems to be that an all black getup is completely conspicuous, and there are better ways to camoflage at night. So there is zero practicality is dressing in all black. The deal? Kabuki theater. As ninja tales became more popular, they because showing up in Kabuki. But the puzzle was in how to incorporate a character that was supposed to be invisible. Simple: the already available prop handlers. Stage hands, even in the west, wear all black on stage to signify that they are invisible to the audience. So what a surprise for them when one of those "invisible" stage hands breaks out and assassinates a participating character? Genius stuff! Apparently, the all-black image stuck, and Real Ultimate Power did the rest.

What does it have to do with me? This is a "cool" character again, that's the first allure. Stealthy, wild, rogue, skilled. Theres an aspect of the ninja thats been ingrained in animé, that the ninja are some kind of noble, live-by-your-own-standards-and-strength kinda people. But my claim is not to the stereotype, it's to the existence of the stereotype. The process of morphing the "real" ninja into its current form. That's the artist aspect of my identity.

Better information about Ninja reality:

Image: Kori Michele, Ninja or Kabuki Stagehand, process photo.

No comments: