Anders “Anden” (“The Duck”) Matthesen is a Danish stand-up comedian, actor and rapper who worked with Thorbjørn Christoffersen to turn his 2016 book into an animated movie. Yes, a ninja movie from Denmark!
The film begins in Thailand, where Danish businessman Philip Eberfrø is inspecting his new factory. One of the young boys laboring there accidentally uses his checkered scarf to make a ninja doll. A boss on the floor beats the boy until Phillip stops him and then grabs a weapon and beats the boy to death. As this happens, lightning strikes the building, guiding the spirit of Taiko Nakamura — based on a real-life bandit during the 16th century Azuchi–Momoyama period in Japan — to avenge that child’s death. That’s what Nakamura has been doing ever since he was betrayed and unable to save ten children. Giving up his own life, he can possess animals and objects to set the balance of justice.
Now in the form of a stuffed ninja doll, Takamura hides on a Danish cargo ship and is found by a sailor named Stewart Stardust who gives him as a birthday present to his nephew Alex Stenstrøm. The ninja surprises Alex by coming to life and defending him from a bully, but he’s still there to take the life of Phillip.
This is an interesting coming-of-age tale, as the ninja and the teen must learn a lesson. The ninja is devoted to what he knows, fighting and death, while Alex sees another way out of issues. Of course, Alex can barely deal with his brother and being beaten up at school, so he has some things to learn as well.
I really liked this film, as it has a fun animation style and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m also surprised by how kids’ movies in other countries aren’t afraid to have violence, swearing and some PG-13 content. It didn’t ever go too far, but if you know those parents that overly worry about that kind of thing, well…maybe let their kids watch it at your house.
How big was this movie in Denmark? It sold a million tickets, making it the highest-grossing Danish film since Op pa fars hat in 1986 and three Robert awards for best children’s film, best adapted screenplay and best original song (“Skubber det sne”). It was even nominated for a Bodil Award for Best Danish Film.
Here’s hoping the sequel makes it way here too!
You can get the DVD of Checkered Ninja from MVD.