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Western Animation / Checkered Ninja

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Eternally he wanders in a lonesome pace
Taiko Nakamura — guardian of justice
— Taiko Nakamura's theme

Checkered Ninja (Ternet Ninja) is an animated movie produced by A. Film and written by Anders Matthesen based on his novel of the same name. It premiered in Denmark on Christmas Day of 2018 and has broken quite a few Danish box office records, including most successful Danish animated movie of all time and most successful Danish movie of the 21st century, and has won the Robert Awards for best child/youth movie, best song and best adapted screenplay. Level K holds the international distribution rights and showed it on the European Film Market in February 2019.

The movie follows Aske, a 7th grader with a strained relationship to his step-family members and who pines after Jessica, a girl in the grade above. He receives a checkered ninja doll from Uncle Stewart on his birthday and quickly grows wise of the fact that the doll lives and can help Aske with whatever troubles him, but on the condition that he helps the doll take revenge on an evil man...


Checkered Ninja provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Anti-Hero: The Checkered Ninja is crass and has no issue using violence or blackmail to achieve his goals, but he really just wants to punish a man who murdered a child for a petty reason to make up for his own failure to protect ten children when he was alive, and ultimately, he does genuinely care about Aske's well being.
  • An Aesop: If you want things to change, you have to be the one to take action, because no one else will do it for you.
  • Arc Words: "If I don't do it, somebody/nobody else will."
  • Art Shift/Medium Blending: The movie changes to a 2D Samurai Jack-esque style when explaining Taiko's backstory.
  • Apathetic Citizens: One of the major themes of the film is that a lot of the awful things that happen in the world only happen because people don't care enough to make sure they won't, and several characters justify their awful behavior with the phrase "If I don't do it, somebody else will." Subverted by Aske by the end.
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  • Blackmail: Sune blackmails Aske about the latter's crush on Jessica and the love poem he wrote about her in order to have him do Sune's book report on all three volumes The Lord of the Rings.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Not a single drop of blood is visible during the rap sequence explaining Taiko's backstory, where ninjas are seen sliced apart and stabbed and a criminal is seen being mauled by a dog.
  • The Cameo: Plenty of characters from Terkel In Trouble make cameo appearances.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than Terkel In Trouble, its spiritual predecessor. While both movies are full of gore, dark humor and crass language, Terkel In Trouble is almost entirely meant to be taken as pure shits and giggles, while Checkered Ninja is a serious story about a vengeful spirit punishing child abusers that pointedly does NOT treat violence against children as a joke.
  • Dirty Old Man: Downplayed. When the subject of Jessica comes up in Aske's household, the middle-aged Jørn makes a lustful comment about her in passing.
  • Downer Beginning: The movie opens on a glum factory with miserable child workers, and once Philip enters the picture, things go from bad to worse.
  • Friend to All Children: Flip-flopped with the Checkered Ninja. His goal is to avenge the murder of a child, but he has no qualms about humiliating and hurting Aske to get to that goal.
  • Hippie Parents: Aske's mother is this.
  • Ironic Echo: Many characters justify their terrible behavior and immoral actions with the phrase "If I don't do it, somebody else will." When Aske and Taiko's actions are broadcast on TV in the end, and Aske's mother ponders what a person who would do that is thinking, he responds "I think he might be thinking 'If I don't do it, nobody else will' right as he decides to become a vigilante on his own.
  • I Made Copies: When Sune's attempt at blackmailing Aske backfires, Aske thinks he is home free as Sune no longer has the blackmail material, the notebook with his love poem about Jessica, only for Sune to spitefully and gleefully reveal he has made and kept a copy for this eventuality.
  • Jerkass: Sune is rude, crude, takes full advantage of his father's coddling and favoritism, and takes great delight in tormenting Aske for practically no reason. It takes nearly getting smothered by Taiko for him to mellow out, and even then it's only out of fear.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A lot of the songs of the movie base their comedy on mixing stereotypical genre melodies with ridiculous lyrics. For instance, a song played at a Junior High Schooler party sounds like a stereotypical club track, while the lyrics are all about a guy insisting that everybody at the party needs to try his homemade pesto.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Jessica comes across as this due to a lack of screentime. She seems sweet enough in theory, but on top of being one of the most popular girls in school, she hangs out with two Valley Girl-style friends, only invites Aske to her birthday party when he starts acting "cool" and has no issue getting petty revenge when she thinks he's ridiculing her by making out with his best friend.
  • My Greatest Failure: Taiko's failure to save ten children while he was alive is this to him, to the point that atoning for this by avenging murdered and abused children is his main motivation.
  • Omniglot: The Checkered Ninja speaks fluent, casual Danish full of modern teenage slang despite being the spirit of a feudal Japanese ninja trapped inside of a doll that was manufactured in Thailand. Possibly justified since magic is involved.
  • Parental Favoritism: Aske's stepfather, Jørn, takes this to ridiculous extremes while claiming he's doing the opposite. He always believes Sunes word over Aske by default, buys Sune snacks that Aske's mother won't let him have and never disciplines his own child. It's particularly bad at Aske's birthday party, where he buys Aske a cheap novelty souvenir... and gives Sune a triple-A newly released video game, all in the name of "treating the boys equally".
  • Purpose-Driven Immortality: Taiko Nakamura, having failed to prevent the death of ten children in life, continually comes back to possess living or dead things to get revenge on child abusers/murderers.
  • Red Herring: invoked Jessica's father is named Philip Eberfrø, but it's not the Philip Eberfrø.
  • Seppuku: How Taiko Nakamura goes out the first time around. He later repeats it as the Checkered Ninja in order to become smuggling fodder to frame Philip for smuggling (though being a doll, he doesn't die until he's ripped apart by a sniffer dog).
  • Shared Universe: With Terkel In Trouble due to the numerous cameo appearances by characters from that movie. Stewart Stardust, in particular, stands out as Aske is apparently another nephew of his just like Terkel. And he plays a more important part in the plot this time.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Done with the very event that sets the film's plot into motion, that being one of the children at the Thai sweatshop being beaten to death.
  • Smuggling with Dolls: After failing to take down Philip a few times, Aske's and the Checkered Ninja's final gambit involves framing Philip for smuggling narcotics into Thailand using the Checkered Ninja as smuggling fodder.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Terkel In Trouble.
  • Super Hero Origin: Turns out the whole movie is this for Aske. By the end, he uses a checkered scarf to disguise himself and perform vigilante work, inspired by Taiko.
  • Talking to Himself: While Aske's voice is provided by Alfred Bjerre Larsen and Emma Sehested Høeg voices Jessica, every voice in the movie besides those two are provided by Anders Matthesen.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Aske at one point tries to make a sheath for the Checkered Ninja's sword, and naturally asks his wood shop teacher for help. Since the Danish word for "sheath" (Skede) is also a word for a vagina, he gets sent to detention.
    Aske: I want to make a sheath/(Vagina) (...) It has to be hollow so you can breathe through it underwater, and it needs a strap so you can carry it on your back.
  • Theme Initials: Ternet Ninja. Taiko Nakamura.
  • Trickster Mentor: The Checkered Ninja teaches Aske to stand up for himself... by constantly putting him in socially embarrassing and potentially outright dangerous situations without asking him first.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Taiko Nakamura, the spirit of a Ninja who failed to save ten children and now possesses whatever necessary to punish child abusers.
  • Vigilante Man: The Checkered Ninja. By the end of the movie, Aske also qualifies.
  • Voice Changeling: Inexplicably, the Checkered Ninja can mimic voices perfectly, and uses this to both humiliate and aid Aske depending on his current goals.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In a horrifying turn of events, Taiko, whose mission is to punish child abusers, threatens to murder Sune to get Aske to go along with his vengeful scheme against Phillip. Thankfully, it is subverted at the last second.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: The Checkered Ninja tries to teach this to Aske, reasoning that the he's only thought of as the wimpy kid in school is because he believes it when others tell him that.


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