I’ve been a huge fan of Legos ever since I was a child, and fortunately my son has grown quite found of these great building blocks as well.
But it was some surprise when I saw him watching a Lego “Ninjago” cartoon in Japanese. One of the reasons is like “Ninjago” isn’t exactly accurate with respect to Japanese culture; it rehashes things through a lens of a generic concept of what a “Ninja” is, with mistakes like saying “Spinjitsu” instead of “Spinjutsu“.
The biggest surprise, however, is the quality of the Japanese voice acting. Though I can’t claim to be unbiased and would have to be completely bilingual to give an accurate judgement, my overall feel is the the Japanese voice acting is the same, if not better quality than the English voice acting. If you are used to watching alot of Japanese then you might notice some interesting similarities, like how some characters seem to sound strangely like Yakuza bosses. But that’s part of the fun.
To be honest, I haven’t watched too much Ninjago in either English or Japanese, so I can’t comment on the story, but the visuals at least look nice enough to make this an enjoyable way to practice Japanese listening. As with much anime dialogue, the character’s enunciate much clearer than real life, so it’s pretty easy to figure out what is being said. Of course, the dark side of this is that you’ll end up hearing alot of expressions that are not necessarily used in daily life, but that is the tradeoff when watching fantasy in any language.
If nothing else, just check out one of the Japanese-dubbed Ninjago videos on Youtube, as there seem to be a great many of them. They are easy to find by searching for “ニンジャゴー” on Youtube. Here’s one example:
While I have seen a little bit of negative feedback related to one of these videos, in general these videos seem to have a large number of views, which I guess isn’t such a surprise since Lego has been popular in Japan for some time now. And just because something isn’t authentic doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.
Long live a combination of two great things: Legos and Japanese!