Is In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki as Good as Takagi-san? – This Week in Anime

A female-only village of ninja may have met its match when its young kunoichi in training become aware of a terrifying yet titillating concept: men.

This series is streaming on Crunchyroll

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Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Alright Steve, we’ve put it off long enough, but it’s finally time. We’re gonna cover the show about a gaggle of young ninjas, with all the shuriken, kunai, jutsu, and questionable sexual politics. This Week in Anime, we’re covering all 250 episodes of Boruto!


Oh that’s the guy with the dad, right?

Nah, you’re thinking of Bleach.

Drat, I always get those mixed up. And unfortunately, I couldn’t quite squeeze all those episodes in over the weekend, so I’m afraid your Boruto dreams are Borudone. But I have a spectacular compromise! We can play a game instead! Here, I’ll make the first move.

Tsubaki you’ve uh, you’ve got something on your…yeah it’s right the- no to the right. The RIGHT. Oh fuck it, I’ll get it for you.

Well, congrats, you’ve RUINED our game. But In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki is also about ninjas and all that other stuff you wrote, so I GUESS we can talk about that instead or whatever.

From the creator of the cult-hit romcom Teasing Master Takagi-sanit’s a show about that special time in a young kunoichi’s life where she starts to question the dogmatic societal forces that assure her boys have cooties.

As a quick aside, kudos to the translator for taking an inscrutable joke about kanji radicals and turning it into a parsable English pun. The joke is nowhere near good enough to warrant that, but I salute you. Back to that matter at hand, Tsubaki’s curiosity, while normal, is complicated a tad by the fact that she lives in a gender-segregated ninja training camp and has had literally no bro contact in her entire life. And the same goes for her kunoichi classmates, who have grown up inured with all kinds of misleading slander about the opposite sex.

…okay some of it is true.

It’s certainly a strange concept to attach to what is otherwise a goofy sitcom about ninja girls for foreheads the size of their torsos! It’s also weirdly ancillary, since despite the whole premiere hammering on the idea, 90% of this show has zilch to do with the ~mystery~ of boys.

Yeah, it’s like Sōichirō Yamamoto Felt like he had to shoehorn romance in somewhere, given the success of Takagi-san, so we get this rosy framing around Tsubaki getting all flustered about the barest concept of men. And I mean, I get it, I want to see Alex Garland’s new film too. But settle down girl, it hasn’t even been out a week. You gotta let those crowds thin out a bit.

Really, you didn’t need to bother with this. You had a perfectly solid premise of goofy ninja nonsense (not to be confused with Ninja Nonsense) and Pout no Jutsu. The power of these faces alone could float a show.

And it’s not like the show is wanting for material! Tsubaki’s ninja school is divided into 12 teams based on the zodiac, and each of those teams has at least three members, so that’s at least 36 uniquely designed silly anime girls with foreheads you could land a 737 on.

There’s so many of ’em they have to make a new ED every episode just fit them all in. Though predictably my personal favorite is the angry-eyed teacher who communicates she’s over 30 by having back issues.

She just like me fr ;___;

Granted I got my back soreness from heavy lifting, while hers presumably comes from wrangling three dozen ninja gremlins. Like being a teacher isn’t hard enough, imagine if your students could breath fire.

And then you’ve got some of them walking around with a giant wooden club, just for fun. I’m upset, too, that we haven’t gotten a story about them yet, as they are clearly the rowdiest team of the bunch. All I’ve got is this still from the OP. Tragic.

I’m sure we’ll get to them eventually! Basically every episode has feature a new team for Tsubaki and the rest of Team Doggo to run into. Ranging from the pleasant medical specialists in Team Monkey to Nico Yazawa.

Predictably, with a cast that big, pretty much everyone is defined by a singular character trait which is then exaggerated during sketches for the sake of comedy. The same, of course, applies to Tsubaki’s teammates Sazanka and Asagao, who are, respectively, Gay and Hungry.

And in case anyone didn’t catch on to the naming gimmick, yes all these girls are named after flowers. Tsubaki and Sazanka are actually named after two different species of camellia, as a gag on just how much this shark-toothed gremlin adores her “Nee-sama”.

As a shark tooth aficionado myself, I give Sazanka a serrated stamp of approval.

A significant part of her charm comes from that gaping maw of daggers. It’s almost too powerful.

Man, when Morbius in the movie Morbius said “It’s Morb no Jutsu Time!”…chills.

But yeah, Tsubaki’s main role in the show is to act as the only sane woman in a village of super-powered 10-year-olds, trying to keep Asagao from eating the silverware and stop Sazanka from humping anyone’s leg when company’s over.

It’s thankless work holding one of the school’s scant few neurons, but someone has to do it. Like, it can’t be Asagao. She’s got no room up there. It’s just all rice grains rattling around in her brainpan.

The Tower of Babel rice bowl is a perennially good gag. Will never tire of it.

Asagao’s honestly a liability as a ninja if you ask me. All an enemy shinobi would need to beat her is to put a hamburger under a box propped up by a stick.

Fucking Looney Tunes lookin’ piece of meat.

I wanna eat the big cartoon bone meat soooo bad. I wanna gnaw at with my teeth and stretch it out like a big piece of taffy until a tiny morsel snaps off and goes down my gullet. The universe won’t let me have this, and it’s frankly fucked up. Also they do literally do that hamburger trap with her and it works. Best character.

As you can imagine, having to be their babysitter puts a lot of stress on Tsubaki. Just look at that receding hairline.

Being Tsubaki is tsuffering. But I mean most of the show is about ninja girls causing and solving problems. Mostly causing tho.

Basically only causing them. I suspect Tsubaki’s obsession with the hypothetical concept of boys is a symptom of her sheer exhaustion being the Mom Friend to this clown car of ninja knuckleheads.

Even the classmates that do solve problems tend to do it in exclusively insufferable ways. Need to teach your partners about the importance of teamwork? Let’s get the creepiest twins in existence to help with that.

It’s the little girls from the shining, except for their smug aura mocks all who perceive them.

And then you’ve got times where helping IS the problem, like when Ajisai decides she’s done being babied.

Spoilers: she is not done being babied.

Sorry kid, you’ve got the team with two Mom Friends. You’re getting coddled into the next dimension. Embrace that you are Baby.

Kunoichi Tsubaki is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but I did get a kick out of that chapter. There’s some solid comedic timing and faces in there. As well as a great moral lesson (being spoiled is good).

Yeah, with such a basic comedy it really has to get by on execution, and while there’s occasionally a good gag, I wouldn’t call it hilarious by any stretch. And the expression work definitely carries things. I actually feel bad it happened to air at the same time as Healer Girlsince otherwise it’d have the best face game of anything this season.

It’s a very well put-together anime. You can tell from the screenshots that it looks great, and it even throws in some quick yet nicely choreographed action scenes from time to time. Plus, look at this. Now that is the face of someone who wants their potatoes back. Exquisite character acting.

The ninja fights are also a significant part of what I enjoyed about watching this. Part of me is just always going to be nostalgic for this kind of ninja action, back in the days of early Naruto before they introduced aliens and robots and shit. Just good old fashioned hand signs and ineffective kunai.

Can’t forget the cloning! Don’t talk to me or my five other mes ever again.

Love having to clone yourself because Ninja Kasumin brainwashed your sidekicks into voting for her. That’s just how democracy works and this Ninja Primary isn’t going to win itself.

All my Naruto knowledge is secondhand, so I can’t say I have much nostalgia for Ninja Nonsense myself, but I did also find this stuff to be the best part of the show. Whenever it starts to broach the whole mystery men thing it just gets mired and a lot less amusing.

Yeah that’s the bit where the other half of the premise just kinda falls apart under any kind of scrutiny. The idea that separating boys and girls would be the key to stopping teenagers from choosing banging over ninja-ing is just kinda dumb.

What are you talking about, clearly it’s working perfectly. I mean, separating boys and girls, it’s foolproof at stopping romance. What else could possibly hap—

There really does need to be an episode where Hana-sensei just smacks her own forehead and thinks “Oh, right, lesbians. Fuck.” before going back to the drawing board. Make season 2 about her inventing Ninja Cornflakes to stop all the sapphic shinobi.

We’re also proposing less heteronormative weirdness out of deference to the hardworking translators out there who have no recourse but to throw their hands up sometime.

Poor Rand. Not only is her introduction fraught with heteronormativity, it also brought back memories of people arguing about what gender the sentient rocks in Land of the Lustrous were.

This arc also very nearly kills Tsubaki, so we have to keep her best interests in mind too.

tfw when you’re one with the multiverse and it’s all different words for penis.

Sorry Tsubaki, but the entire village inadvertently playing The Penis Game is the funniest gag in this whole show. You’ll just have to die inside.

It’s okay, Tsubaki, just keep your chinchin up. I mean chin up.

Speaking of chins: I’m glad they included this detail about Rindou’s mask. Otherwise I’d have assumed this world operated on Dr. McNinja’s “Ninja Tricks” rules.

Yeah, that would have been downright silly. What else is Rindou going to do, magically transport the food into her mouth?

Oh right, she probably could.

See in my day ninja could only summon yakuza frogs and dogs that liked to smoke. Kids these days don’t know how good they’ve got it.

If you ask me, if a ninja does literally anything other than use a puff of smoke to substitute their body with a stout wooden log in order to evade capture, it’s fake and wrong.

And it better make that “pomf” sound effect or so help me god.

Various ninja crimes aside, In the Heart of Kunoichi Tsubaki makes for an overall pleasant watch. Not knee-slapping, and not as iconic as Takagi-san’s innovations in girlfriend terrorism, but there’s some tasty fluff in here.

It has its charm, and in a weaker season I could see sticking with it just for some ninja novelty, but there’s too much other good stuff to make it worth the time right now. Still, it shows respects for the greats, and I have to applaud that:

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