In a culturally sensitive time, the Netflix series “House of Ninjas,” directed by American filmmaker Dave Boyle, has sparked discussions about cultural appropriation. However, the show has been successful, ranking as Netflix’s top non-English show in 16 countries and reaching the top ten list in 92 countries. Boyle, known for films like “The Man From Reno” and “Big Dreams, Little Tokyo,” discussed how surprising career turns led him to work on the series and keep it authentically Japanese.

The project began with Kento Kaku, the star of the show, and his colleagues Murao Yoshiaki and Imai Takafumi, who wanted to create a ninja revival show. After Netflix showed interest, Boyle was brought in to develop the core concept and create something unique in the ninja genre. Starting with a 15-20 page project proposal, Boyle eventually became the director and showrunner, working alongside the original trio to bring the idea of a ninja family in modern times to life.

Boyle explained his interest in exploring the ninja genre, which has seen various interpretations over the years but often focuses on the traditional values and rules that ninjas must follow. He found it compelling to create a family that still adheres to these ancient rules in modern society, drawing parallels to his Mormon background and the idea of being part of a dying tradition. Boyle aimed to capture the essence of ninja culture in a family drama that viewers could connect with.

When addressing concerns about cultural appropriation, Boyle emphasized that he saw his involvement in the project as a collaboration rather than appropriation. As the only westerner on set, Boyle worked closely with a Japanese team to create the show entirely in Japanese. While acknowledging the seriousness of the issue, Boyle felt good about the collaborative nature of the production and the authentic representation of Japanese culture.

Boyle’s interest in Japanese culture stemmed from his early experiences doing Mormon missionary work in Australia, where he learned Japanese and developed a passion for the language and culture. This eventually led him to work with Japanese artists and filmmakers, shaping his career and influencing his storytelling. Transitioning from films to a series like “House of Ninjas” was a new experience for Boyle, who found the six-month shoot and working in the Japanese TV drama environment to be challenging yet rewarding.

In terms of the look and feel of the series, Boyle aimed to create a realistic family story with characters that audiences could connect with, set against the backdrop of the ninja world. He wanted to highlight aspects of ninja culture that are often overlooked, bringing a fresh perspective to the genre. As the show’s three-year production comes to an end, Boyle is already working on new projects in Tokyo and developing feature films while reflecting on the success of “House of Ninjas.”

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