The Best Ninja Anime Shows and Movies to Check Out

Lurking in the shadows, moving faster than possible, and using a wide array of weapons are just some of the things many people instantly think of on the topic of ninjas. Their mastery of the art of stealth is one of the reasons why many shows and films, Japanese or not, repeatedly dive into their world, one way or the other.

An Overview of the Ninja

The ninja serves as a type of Japanese warrior who was incredibly skilled in sabotage, infiltration, and assassination. These warriors were also referred to as shinobi which translates to mean “he who moves stealthily” in English.

Compared to the samurai warriors who followed strict doctrines about the proper way to live the samurai life, the unorthodox techniques used by ninjas labeled them as dishonorable mercenaries. Nonetheless, each of them carried a wide array of skills including meteorology, breathing synthesis, geometry, military strategy, weapon techniques, and armed combat.

Ninjutsu, or the art of stealth, is the term used to refer to all the skills mentioned above. This art was passed down from generation to generation within ninja families. Master ninjas could also teach ninjutsu to a person outside of their circles who showed great potential.

Shrouded in secrecy and mystery, the training and life of shinobis became a hot topic for Japan’s folklore, legends, and myths. In many ancient texts and novels, ninjas are often depicted to have super powers including control of the elements and invisibility.

List of the Best Japanese Ninja Anime Series

Similar to Japan’s legends and tales, Japanese anime cartoon tv shows perceive ninjas to be legendary spies that feature more than just physical and armed combat training. With the wide array of genres offered by Japanese anime, anybody can find a ninja series that fits their taste.

Some of the best anime series (available in sub and dub formats) that revolve around the shinobi world include:

  • Senran Kagura

Senran Kagura is set in the prestigious prep school known as Hanzo Academy where countless shinobis have been trained for many centuries. The show follows the story of five trainees Asuka, Katsuragi, Hibari, Yagyuu, and Ikaruga who have widely different personalities but eventually learn to work as a team to overcome various challenges.

Genres and Themes: Comedy, Ecchi, Action, School

Aired: January 6, 2013 – March 24, 2013

Number of Episode/s: 12

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

  • Himawari!

Himawari! follows the story of Himawari Hinata, a girl who transfers to the Shinobi Gakuen in order to reach her full potential as a ninja. She gets rescued during her first day by the new transfer teacher named Hayato Madenokoji who carries the same mark as the one who saved her years before.

Genres and Themes: Adventure, Comedy

Aired: April 9, 2006 to July 2, 2006

Number of Episode/s: 13

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

  • Ninin ga Shinobuden (Ninja Nonsense)

Ninin ga Shinobuden, or Ninja Nonsense, as its name suggests, is a show that carries a light tone from start to finish. The main character is Kaede, a typical girl studying for the upcoming exams, who soon finds herself engrossed in the world of ninjas in training.

Genres and Themes: Comedy,  Parody

Aired: July 10, 2004 to September 25, 2004

Number of Episode/s: 12

Rating: 7.1 out of 10

  • Ninja Slayer from Animation

Ninja Slayer from Animation tells of how ninjas were merciless demi gods who ruled over Japan during the ancient times. Several ninjas performed a certain ritual that allowed their souls to be stored for the purpose of being resurrected in the future.

Centuries later in a dystopian setting where technology becomes God, these sinister shinobi souls come alive once again and rain terror throughout the cities.

Genres and Themes: Action

Aired: April 16, 2015 to October 8, 2015

Number of Episode/s: 26

Rating: 6.6 out of 10

  • Brave 10

Brave 10 tells the story of Isanami, a young priestess with a devastating power, and Saizo’s, a man now wandering as a masterless ninja, journey across war-laden places, searching for the bravest warriors to fight alongside them.

Genres and Themes: Action, Adventure, Supernatural, Historical, Samurai

Aired: January 8, 2012 to March 25, 2012

Number of Episode/s: 12

Rating: 7 out of 10

  • Nabari no Ou 

Nabari no Ou revolves around the life of an apathetic teenage boy named Rokujou Miharu. He bears a powerful technique known as shinrabanshou which is desired by nearly every ninja clan in existence who want to rule over Nabari.

Genres and Themes: Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Supernatural

Aired: April 7, 2008 to September 29, 2008

Number of Episode/s: 26

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

  • Basilisk

Basilisk is set during the feudal times of Japan where two ninja clans known as Iga and Kouga have been at war with each other for many centuries before Ieyasu Tokugawa, the Japanese warlord, ordered for a ceasefire.

Several years later, the heirs of both clans fall in love with each other and eventually get married. Although aiming to bring the two clans to a common ground of peace and compromise, the couple soon finds themselves in a difficult situation as the rivalry between clans is reignited.

Genres and Themes: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Samurai, Supernatural

Aired: April 13, 2005 to September 21, 2005

Number of Episode/s: 24

Rating: 7.7 out of 10

  • Naruto

    By Pierrot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Naruto follows the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a hyperactive ninja who was used as a vessel to seal the beast Kyuubi in when he was born. For this reason, he struggles with finding his place and purpose in Konohagakure, his home village.

Genres and Themes: Action, Comedy, Supernatural

Aired: October 3, 2002 to February 8, 2007

Number of Episode/s: 220

Rating: 7.85 out of 10

  • Naruto: Shippuden

Naruto: Shippuden starts off 2 ½ years later from the day Naruto Uzumaki left Konohagakure, the village he was born in, to train to be as strong as he can be. He and his friends cross paths with Akatsuki, a group of elite ninjas who have gone rogue planning to destroy the world of shinobis.

Genres and Themes: Action, Comedy, Supernatural

Aired: February 15, 2007 to March 23, 2017

Number of Episode/s: 500

Rating: 8.2 out of 10

  • Oda Nobuna no Yabou (The Ambition of Oda Nobuna)

Oda Nobuna no Yabou is a romantic, historical comedy that revolves around a highschool boy named Sagara Yoshiharu who travels back in time to the Sengoku Period. The warlords of this period are revealed to all be cute girls such as Oda Nobuna, the counterpart of Oda Nobunaga who Yoshiharu crosses paths with and eventually serves.

Genres and Themes: Comedy, Historical, Romance

Aired: July 9, 2012 to September 24, 2012

Number of Episode/s: 12

Rating: 7.7 out of 10

  • Jubei-Chan 2: The Counterattack of Siberia Yagyu

Jubei-Chan 2: The Counterattack of  Siberia Yagyu narrates how a fierce battle transpired in Siberia three centuries ago between Jubei Yagyu and Kitaretsusai. Jubei Yagyu’s daughter, Freesia, was frozen during the duel and only broke free thanks to global warming.

She moves to Japan and enrolls as a student to befriend Jiyuu Nanohana who owns the Lovely Eyepatch, a mystical artifact which Freesia believes should belong to her.

Genres and Themes: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Samurai

Aired: January 8, 2004 to April 1, 2004

Number of Episode/s: 13

Rating: 7 out of 10

  • Kage Kara Mamoru! (Guardian Ninja Mamoru)

Kage Kara Mamoru! is about a supposedly boring boy named Kagemori Mamoru who actually comes from a ninja family. His family has secretly been protecting the Konnyaku family for four centuries.

In fact, Mamoru has been responsible for the safety of Yuuna the daughter of the Konnyaku family since kindergarten. Putting on a ninja suit every time Yuuna is in a difficult situation.

Genres and Themes: Comedy, Romance

Aired: January 8, 2006 to March 26, 2006

Number of Episode/s: 12

Rating: 6.7 out of 10

  • Rekka no Honoo (Flame of Recca)

Rekka no Honoo or Flame of Recca follows the story of Rekka Hanabishi, a high school student who thinks of himself as a modern version of the ninja. His life becomes a bit more complicated upon meeting Yanagi Sakoshita, a girl with the ability to heal.

This meeting starts a series of events that reveal Rekka’s true life of being the last member of a legendary ninja clan from ancient times.

Genres and Themes: Action, Adventure, Supernatural

Aired: July 19, 1997 to July 10, 1998

Number of Episode/s: 42

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

List of Ninja Original Video Animations (OVAs) and Anime Movies

For people who prefer watching an hour-long film or movie over a season consisting of several episodes, there are also original video animations (OVAs) and anime movies about ninjas available. Under the recommendation of several forums and anime news sites, the top movies worth checking out include:

  • Juubee Ninpuuchou (Ninja Scroll)

    By Madhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Juubee Ninpuuchou or Ninja Scroll is set in feudal Japan. The show tells the story of Jubei Kibagami, a masterless swordsman who no longer has any patience left for political intrigues. He is saved from a man with supernatural powers by Kagero, a female ninja searching for answers about a plague that wiped a whole village.

Genres and Themes: Adventure, Fantasy,  Historical, Horror, Romance, Supernatural

Aired: June 5, 1993

Number of Episode/s: 1

Rating: 7.7 out of 10

  • Makai Tenshou (Ninja Resurrection)

Makai Tenshou or Ninja Resurrection is an original video animation that comes in two parts. Both films are set during the Tokugawa Period when Christians were mercilessly persecuted. Amakusa Shiro, the leader of a rebellion aimed to put a stop to the slaughter of Christians, is assassinated but eventually returns as a vengeful spirit.

Genres and Themes: Action, Historical, Samurai, Supernatural

Aired: February 27, 1998 to March 27, 1998

Number of Episode/s: 2

Rating: 5.4 out of 10

  • Stranger: Mukou Hadan (Sword of the Stranger)

Stranger: Mukou Hadan or Sword of the Stranger, follows the story of a young orphan boy named Kotaro who is mysteriously being hunted by Ming Dynasty China’s swordsmen.

Always on the run, Kotaro and Tobimaru and his dog, eventually cross paths with a ronin called Nanashi. Offering Nanashi a gem for his services, the three set off to a dangerous, prophetic journey.

Genres and Themes: Action, Adventure, Historical, Samurai

Aired: September 29, 2007

Number of Episode/s: 1

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

  • Youma (Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma)

Youma or Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma, tells of how demons called Yoma terrorize the world of humans, feeding off from the blood of fallen warriors.

Hikage a skilled ninja, makes it his life goal to put an end on the Yoma but soon discovers that his former best friend Maoru has been resurrected by the demons to protect and serve them.

Genres and Themes: Action, Demons, Fantasy, Horror, Supernatural

Aired: May 1, 1989 to June 1, 1989

Number of Episode/s: 2

Rating: 6.3 out of 10

  • Kamui no Ken (The Dagger of Kamui)

Kamui no Ken or The Dagger of Kamui is set during the feudal period of Japan and revolves around the story of Jiro, a young boy who was falsely accused of murdering his sister and mother. After fleeing from his home town, he comes across Tenkai, a priest who makes him kill Tarouza, a rogue ninja. Having successfully killed the ninja, Jiro trains to become the best assassin he can be.

Several years later, Jiro discovers the truth about his life and that Tarouza was actually his father who faithfully served Tenkai before he fell in love with an Ainu woman. Jiro then sets out on a journey to Russia and America with a female ninja and a slave named Oyuki and Sam, respectively, to search for artifacts that may help him take revenge on Tenkai.

Genres and Themes: Adventure, Fantasy, Historical, Drama

Aired: September 3, 1985

Number of Episode/s: 1

Rating: 6.7 out of 10

  • Sengoku Kitan Youtouden (Wrath of the Ninja)

Sengoku Kitan Youtouden, or Wrath of the Ninja, is set during the year 1580 when Oda Nobunaga’s merciless armies continue to spread their claim over Japan’s lands. Ayame, the last member of the Kasumi Clan, carries one of the three mystical weapons discussed in an ancient prophecy that tells of how evil can be vanquished through the unity of these blades.

She soon meets Ryoma and Sakon, two renegade ninjas who possess the two other weapons – a sword and a spear. Together, they aim to stop the growing darkness that grows over Japan.

Genres and Themes: Action

Aired: May 27, 1989

Number of Episode/s: 1

Rating: 6.1 out of 10