Today, December 5th, is the annual Day of the Ninja, according to Google (and ninjas everywhere). While I’m personally familiar with the concepts of both ninjas and pirates, I must admit that I’ve not been involved in the intriguing and hotly-contested Pirates versus Ninjas debate. I have equal respect for (and fear of) both, though.
I’m also confident that people on either side of the debate would be able to make a strong case for their favorite warrior, but let’s attempt to break things down piece by piece from an outsider’s point of view. We’ll take a look at these eight categories:
Intimidation Factor, Most Elusive, Best Work Environment, Best for Society, Public Relations Efforts, Physical Fitness, Sex Appeal, and Weapons.
Intimidation Factor: Pirates
Pirates show up in large numbers, slowly creeping up to your boat from their often-bigger boat. They’re almost always ragged, aggressive, and bloodthirsty. A ninja would be really intimidating if he dropped down behind you in a dark alley and he let you look at him for a minute, but anyone that’s been killed by a ninja probably didn’t see it coming. Death-by-pirate would likely be much more painful and slow.
Plus, just think about it from the viewpoint of a normal, upstanding citizen. You see a ninja on the street and you’d be like, “Oh, cool, a ninja. Wonder who he’s about to assassinate. I can’t believe I just saw a ninja!” Whereas if you saw a pirate on the streets (or the high seas), you’d be like, “Oh shit, how do I casually stuff my wallet in my pants without drawing attention to myself? I can’t believe this is happening!”
Most Elusive: Ninjas
Hands down, no contest. Ninjas wear slippers, pirates wear boots. Most pirates have a wooden leg, too. And it’s hard to hide a giant sailboat. Plus, if needed, a ninja could put on a tuxedo and scope out a dinner party without alerting any suspicion. Try that with a pirate; it’d be like inviting Dog the Bounty Hunter to a wedding on Cape Cod.
Best Work Environment: Tie
Sure, you can get scurvy and most of the time you’re surrounded by dudes but the ability to wear your own clothes, the on-the-job drinking, and the massive bonus potential (via stolen loot) make the pirate’s life a good one.
Overall, Ninjas have a safer work environment and mandatory daily exercise programs combined with a healthy, far-east diet made mostly of lean proteins, veggies, and rice ensure that ninjas remain in peak physical condition. Plus, little to no seafaring.
So pirates for fun, ninjas for longevity.
Best for Society: Ninjas
Ninjas generally don’t attack regular, everyday people unless provoked, although there was quite a scare during the late 80s and early 90s in and around Manhattan as one Oroku Saki, also known as “Shredder,” led an army of ill-behaved ninjas known as the “Foot Clan” in a series of thefts, vandalism, and physical attacks against innocent New Yorkers. Thanks to policies later enacted by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, ninja activity, along with adult entertainment, has been scarce in Manhattan.
Despite the aforementioned New York Ninja Scare, attacks against innocent people by ninjas don’t hold a candle to pirate activity – most of which includes direct attacks on innocent civilians, merchants, and, occasionally, other pirates.
Public Relations Efforts: Pirates
The Pirate Council has done a great job of handling PR. Clearly plenty of booty is being funneled back into the Pirate’s Union, which pirates have been able to leverage into popular films – most notably, The Pirates of the Caribbean series, starring Johnny Depp. Ask any small child if they can name a famous pirate, and you’ll likely hear “Jack Sparrow!” or “Davy Jones!” to name a few.
While the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Ninja Gaiden franchises are still able to maintain a decent following, pirates are all the rage right now. That being said, real-life Somali pirates aren’t helping the overall pirate cause much as they’ve been stealing the televisions and DVD players used to watch pirate movies. Luckily, that’s been somewhat balanced with the success of The Pirate Bay. Sure, all of our electronics are getting stolen, but at least there’s free stuff to download, right?
Still, ninjas need a comeback, preferably in the form of a good movie series – since Hollywood hasn’t made anything new in a few decades, I might suggest a remake of the American Ninja series, perhaps taking place in current-day war zones.
Physical Fitness: Ninjas
Again, the healthy diet, daily exercise, and abstinence from smoking, drugs, and alcohol keep ninjas in peak physical condition. I know there’s an argument about who would win in a fight – ninjas or pirates – but for one on one combat, it’s gotta be ninjas all the way. I’ll take a healthy, non-smoking, well-rested ninja against a hung over, wheezing, been-out-at-sea-for-months-with-no-cardio-training pirate any day.
Now, a single ninja – if we assume for the sake of argument that most ninjas work alone – against a boat full of pirates would be different. A ninja could likely perform silent kills on a fair amount of sleeping pirates but, if discovered, a group of pirates on their own boat would almost surely be able to defeat a single ninja.
Sex Appeal: Pirates
Sure there’s something about ninjas: the mysterious, strong, silent-type is appealing to some, but no ninja’s gonna get involved in any sort of relationship, serious or otherwise. Pirates, on the other hand, while also not keen on getting roped into, say, marriage, at least keep up with a few female “friends” in each port and like to throw down, get drunk, and have a sexy old time whenever they hit land.
Ninjas have throwing stars, nunchucks, katana swords, and smoke bombs, to name a very small selection of concealable and semi-concealable items. Pirates have guns, sabers, cannons, and the plank. You can’t overlook the awesome brute force of a pirate attack, but you’ve gotta hand it to ninjas for creativity and originality. There are literally 99 ways to die at the hands of a ninja, but maybe only ten ways by pirate.
Overall: Ninjas (by a shuriken)
Ninjas eke out a close victory after an impressive showing by both sides. Perhaps the image of pirates has grown somewhat soft in popular culture, while ninjas remain mysterious, silent killing machines “specially trained in a variety of unorthodox arts of war” that, thankfully, pretty much leave regular people alone unless provoked.
While the slight nod goes to ninjas, I’d like to reiterate that in no way would I relish a confrontation with either a pirate or a ninja (I would, however, have coffee with a ninja). Both are formidable fighters and should only be viewed from afar, if at all.