Rakudai Ninja Rantarō (落第忍者乱太郎 Failure Ninja Rantarou?) is a comic ninja manga series created by Sōbē Amako in 1986. It is being serialized in the Asahi Shogakusei Shinbun newspaper April through June and October through December. Generally abbreviated as Rakuran. In 1993, the anime adaptation, Nintama Rantarō, began broadcasting on NHK.
Volumes 1 through 14 were published monthly beginning in 1993. Volumes 15 and onward have been published twice a year. As of October 2009, there are 46 volumes.
- The series is set near the end of the Muromachi period. Despite its detail in historical accuracies, there are also a considerable amount of anachronisms, such as speech using katakana or the appearance of a vending machine or a wristwatch. There are also many instances of breaking the fourth wall, in which a character will turn back or tear though a page to interrupt a scene or refer to specific volumes or pages. Characters may sometimes interact with the author herself, such as by way of her office.
- Many of the characters' names have been taken from names of places in the Kansai region, especially Amagasaki of the Hyogo prefecture, where the author lives, as well as the names of real people.
It is during the Sengoku period that the story takes place. By his father's recommendation, Rantarō enters the Ninjutsu Gakuen in order to study and become an elite ninja. However, since joining and befriending Kirimaru and Shinbee, everything for him usually results in failure.
- An educational institution established in the mountains of the Kansai region. Because it is a ninja school, the exact location is kept a secret (which is really because the author had not thought of one). Students attend in grades 1 through 6, which are divided up into three classes: I-gumi, Ro-gumi, and Ha-gumi, based on the old order of kana. Male and female students attend separate classes.
- Rantarō Inadera (猪名寺 乱太郎 Inadera Rantarō?)
- Age: 10 Lives in: Settsu province, Health Committee
- An obedient and energetic boy with reddish hair and glasses. Despite being born into a line of poor, second-class ninjas, he is determined and constantly strives to be top of his class, though the opposite always tends to be the case. Although he has an awful astigmatism and must wear glasses, he is an exceptionally swift runner, having been able to run 100 meters in 10 seconds. Being a member of the health committee, he is often called "Fuun Kozou" (lit. bad luck boy) since this committee in partucular is deemed unlucky and any student in it, as a rule, is said to suffer constant mishaps.
- Kirimaru Settsuno (摂津 の きり丸 Settsu no Kirimaru?)
- Age: 10 Lives in: Settsu province, Books Committee
- One of Rantarou's friends. A boy obsessed with money, he will try to gain any amount, no matter how small. This often results in his amassing as many part-time jobs as he possibly can, which are sometimes more than he can handle and has to have Doi-sensei help him, with less than favorable results. He's also very thrifty because of this. Dislikes words such as "give" and "pay". One of the reasons for this is that he is an orphan, having lost his parents after his village burned down, leaving him with no other living relatives. He managed to pay his entrance fees with money earned selling bento boxes. He lives with Doi-sensei during breaks.
- Shinbē Fukutomi (福富 しんべヱ Fukutomi Shinbē?)
- Age: 10 Lives in: Sakai, Tools Committee
- Another one of Rantarou's friends. He is a short, pudgy boy with a constantly runny nose who loves to eat. In fact, his weight seems to increase after every break. In the beginning, he started out as a crybaby, but gradually grew accustomed to the lifestyle. He is not good at schoolwork. The reason he was made to attend Ninjutsu Gakuen was to help with his success as an heir, being the son of a rich merchant. However, he does have advantageous qualities. In addition to being unusually strong, his sense of smell is greater than that of any dog. Under certain circumstances, his hair stands up straight and is stiff and sharp enough to be used as a lethal weapon.
For the first 13 volumes, the art on the spine of each volume contained one character from the series and a single hiragana, which came to spell out "Rakudai Ninja Rantarou" in consecutive order. Afterwards, until volume 21, the hiragana would continue to spell "Shinbē" and "Kirimaru." From then on, the hiragana disappeared, but the character art remained.