Is “Ninja Assassin” an Example of a Post-Ethnic Asian Film?

Over the weekend, I saw Ninja Assassin, the new movie starring the Korean pop star Rain. It was what you imagine it to be. Pretty cool action scenes surrounded by a bad story and horrendous acting. (Surprisingly, Rain’s acting wasn’t that bad. Maybe one of the better performances of the film.)

None of this is why I am writing about Ninja Assassin today. What interested me most is whether this is an example of a post-ethnic Asian film. Let me explain what I mean. The opening scene takes place in a Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) bar with Japanese writing all over the place. The head of the Yakuza is a Korean American actor, Sung Kang. Ninjas are Japanese. But the ninja training school is somewhere in the mountains of China. And of course, the star ninja (Rain) is Korean.

Some would argue that this is just another example of Hollywood confusing and combining all Asian groups together. Japanese. Chinese. Korean. There is no difference. They are all the same. And maybe that’s exactly what they did. But I’m hoping that this is a sign of things to come. A time when Asians (and Asian Americans) can stop defining themselves by their country of origin but by the bigger and broader term, Asian. I’m probably giving too much credit to the makers of Ninja Assassin. But I believe that only by coming together can Asian (and Asian Americans) truly be a cultural and intellectual force on the world stage.

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Author: Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.