Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Mail Order Ninja – Volume 1

Mail Order Ninja – Volume 2

Manga paperback digest
ISSUE: Volumes 1-2
AUTHOR: Joshua Elder
GENRE: Action-Adventure

  • Martial Arts
  • Bullying
  • Pop Culture

  • Timmy McAllister – The protagonist
  • Ninja Jiro – Timmy’s ninja
  • Herman W. Poindexter – Timmy’s friend
  • Felicity Huntington – Timmy’s nemesis
  • Ninja Nobunaga – Felicity’s ninja and Jiro’s arch enemy

Young Timmy McAlister is a typical kid in a plain-Jane school. He has a bothersome younger sister, Poindexter as a friend, and his very own bully. When Timmy finds an ad for a mail order ninja in a graphic novel things take a different turn. The jocks, the preps and the bullies all find that Timmy is off limits and his life is good. All that is left is running for student body president, which is pretty easy when you are cool enough to have your own ninja. Taking power away from those who’ve always had it is not such an easy thing to do. The uber-popular and ever-hateful Felicity doesn’t like being one-upped or left out. She certainly cannot tolerate being beaten out of being student body president by the likes of Timmy. Felicity sends off for her own ninja and the battle for total coolness ensues.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 8-12
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 8 and older
News-A-Rama: Ages 7 and older

Unlike Marvel, Tokyopop does a good job labeling the recommended ages for their books. The comic frames, very mild violence, and the higher vocabulary make this a great fit for kids beginning at age 8. The violence is very mild. Pokemon and Power Rangers have significantly more violent content than Mail Order Ninja.

It is easy to tell that Josh Elder has a great time creating this story. It is an absolute crack up. Elder’s attention to details and his nod to pop culture creates an enjoyable and hysterical read for any kid or adult. He gives us bios on the characters, creative background details, pop culture references, and a great premise. More than anything, readers will have a hoot with this series – suspending their disbelief in order to experience this great theme park ride.

The story is not serious: The dialogue is witty, the premise clever and the narrator’s interaction with the reader is hysterical. Elder even takes jabs at himself as an American manga creator. Behind the fun, there are some series issues; they are simply covered with humor, making that pill easy and fun to swallow. If only I had my own ninja.

This book is pure manga, and it is good manga. Kids will really dig it. The art is compact yet cleanly drawn. It is very clear what is going on, even though there are several panels per page and lots of details to take in. The details are not in the rendering of the characters, but hidden in titles, names, bios, and other background material. Like many manga books, this is black and white. Though this title uses little shading and very thin inking.

Felicity punishes Timmy with her
Praada stilletos after he stole the
student body president election from her.

Notice the newspaper, poster
propaganda, the "yal Subject"
T-shirt and how the protagonist
is portrayed as a young child in
this panel. The cereal is fantastic.
These are the details that Elder uses.

The students rebell against
Felicity's total domination.
Notice the name of the school?
You have to love that. In case you
don't know, L. Frank Baum wrote
"The Wizard of Oz".

Even the adults are overtaken by
the High Queen Felicity.
Eventually, reality sets in.

Bullying in schools is a problem: a big problem, which starts small in elementary school and continues to escalate throughout the secondary years. There are serious comics and graphic novels addressing the problem of bullying, and then there is Mail Order Ninja. The bullies in this story are real and they act like bullies, making plots against the weaker. When the bullied stand up, some of the bullies fight back – a lesson well learned in today’s society. The whole story is wrapped in humor.

Humor is a great teaching tool and can make for a fun classroom discussion. The class clown and other jokers in the classroom, who usually get into trouble because of their clever banter, can find a place to shine with this graphic novel. This is the perfect opportunity for a teacher to allow them to explore their humorous side in an appropriate manner. It’s also an opportunity for the teacher to find a way to praise the class clown, and forge a relationship.

Children will enjoy writing ridiculous and outrageous stories, using real topics or issues as the backbone. Be prepared for bathroom humor and gross details, but remember that those things have a place in childhood and should not be dismissed outright, even though our adult tendencies are to completely school that out of kids. Considering statewide assessments, teachers can become too serious, and take the fun out of school. We may find that this type of creative writing assignment may be one of the most popular assignments given. After all, someone has to grow up to write the scripts for National Lampoon’s Vacation, Airplane, Army of Darkness, and Better Off Dead.

Volumes 1-2 are a single story, so you will need to purchase both. Volume 3 is coming.

Highly Recommended
This is a fun adventure that children will really enjoy. It’s as funny a graphic novel as I have seen and it is little known. There is plenty for the child and adult reader and it will spark the creative juices of many students.

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