Honestly, you can make this sound like some kind of crusade for justice all you want (I'm going to hope that some of how you worded it is just meant as hyperbole to make a point, though?), but it just comes across to me as being anti-fun and anti-imagination. Methinks you're taking it way too seriously, no offense.
I fail to see why cultural influences can only be used in serious fiction. If LEGO wants to make light-hearted part-comedy, part action-adventure fun, etc. stories like the genre that Ninjago is, which let's face it, IS fun (at least to many), they're going to have to put SOMETHING in the world, and you can probably find some people who maybe take things a little too seriously to get offended at whatever the influence comes from. Why not get offended at LEGO pirates because you're appropriating pirate culture but not being accurate to actual pirate culture?
Basically, nothing you said sounds like a problem except for the emotionally loaded way you worded the sentences, and asserting it is. For example:
Amidst all the praise, however, one pretty major flaw is always glossed over.
Ninjago would be nothing without the Western appropriation of Japanese culture.
You seem to take it as an automatic given that this is a "flaw", but why? You word it negatively, but we could just as easily say, "fusion of Western culture with Japanese." And you seem to think that the only way this could be intended is negatively -- what if the idea is actually meant positively? Maybe kids who have lighthearted fun with Ninjago will build an interest in Japanese culture and when they grow up be more likely to actually study its serious and accurate side?
Ninja have gone from spies to warriors who spin in circles and bash into each other.
That spinning in circles is clearly not meant to be part of real-world Japanese culture! It's meant to be an original, fun fantasy idea identified with the Ninjago world. It's fiction.
who want to make a quick buck off of it
Why is it that the accusation of the ulterior motive of profit almost always seems to accompany complaint topics like this? I'm getting to the point where it hardly seems worth it to bother analyzing it in much detail. If someone wants to look at all use of imagination that doesn't fit into their predefined molds with this conspiracy theory attitude, then more power to you. I will be instead eagerly anticipating the next Ninjago episode release and likely enjoying the watching of it.
Yes, LEGO wants to make money on its toylines, and storylines. Yes, that can be abused. But the fact that it's successful does not prove it is such abuse or intended negatively. Nor is making money necessarily evil. I get the desire for authentic cultures to be preserved, but this is not the intention of a toyline-based story, nor should it necessarily be.
For example, there is much that is very violent about many authentic historical cultures; you wouldn't argue that Ninjago should replace the cartoon violence with actual swords stabbing, spilling guts, etc. would you? Well, in a less obvious and lesser way, the other differences operate on the same principle. They are clearly not meant to portray a real-world culture, but a fictional one with some inspiration from a variety of real-world ones, with a focus on 'eastern' ones.
First of all, the ninja seen in Ninjago are clearly based on the cultural misconception of ninja as warriors. Their main purpose is to fight. They rarely sheath their weapons and the only purpose to the face mask is to evoke the Ninja image. A warrior doesn't need a face mask. Do you know who does? A spy. That's what ninja were, simplifying it for the sake of keeping things simple. They slunk about, keeping their faces hidden, and usually their weapons sheathed. Obviously, these ninja are ninja in name only.
I remember many scenes of the Ninjago ninjas sneaking around. As for the rest, yes, they're ninjas (to some extent) in name only -- and that's clearly by design. Real-world ninjas don't spin in a circle and transform into tornados of fire.
Last I checked.
The others are clearly Western in origin, and, to my knowledge, all have American accents in the TV show. These ninja aren't even Japanese ninja. They're American corruptions of the idea.
I hope you are not suggesting that a varied group of people living in one place and getting along well, working together seamlessly, etc. -- some with American names, and others with Japanese (at least sounding) names is somehow wrong. It happens in America... and believe it or not, it happens in modern Japan too. (But this isn't America or Japan, it's Ninjago, a fictional world of minifigures and LEGO bricks.)
Also unable to be made out of Japanese characters is their "power", Spinjitzu. The name is clearly a corruption of ninjutsu
I always thought it was alluding to jui-jitsu more than anything specifically Japanese. But not an expert on martial arts. I think you're looking at it from apparently a purist localist perspective, when LEGO is by contrast intentionally taking a globalist attitude and celebrating unity of different influences. It appears to me you have missed this and that may be part of why you're having this reaction; mistaking their true intent for "quick-buck-ism" and the like.
As for the Japanese characters thing, it's no secret LEGO primarily markets to English-speaking audiences, although that is unfortunate.
(speaking solely from promotional art here, as I have not seen any episodes of the series with dragons)
Are you saying you haven't watched the TV episodes at all? Or just the ones with dragons? Regardless, I hope you aren't judging before you watch. I at least find the series very enjoyable, as long as you keep in mind the intentional genre and see it for what it's meant to be. Maybe your tastes would mean you wouldn't enjoy it as much, but if you haven't actually watched it, that would seem to explain some of your statements that do not seem to jive with the series I'm seeing.
That said, there's a few things even I grimace a little at, like "Garmatron!!!!11!"
On the other hand, I tend to laugh with them at even this, as they clearly are being silly on purpose for silly's sake; it's not like they intend such things to be taken seriously. That's part of the genre of Ninjago, and oddly enough it seems to work.
It takes place in an entire different universe - ninja could mean something different there, yes? What universe you are in can change the meaning of a word.
Exactly, fishers. If this was meant as seriously as Bionicle, we would say that "ninja" was a "translation approximation" of a concept in an alternate universe. Of course, it's minifigs and part comedy, it's not meant to be that serious in the first place. We're free to imagine the same translation explanation as was used in Bionicle, but the story need not spell it out. They're not trying to create a world that you might think would actually exist.
There is a single culture that has ninja; that is the ONLY POSSIBLE source of inspiration. Therefore, it is that concept alone these ninja are based on, and thus, corrupted into a twisted Western imagining of what a ninja is.
Italicization and bolding here is mine. Ital part is an accurate statement. However, notice the keyword in bold. Something in fiction can validly be inspired by something from the real world, without being forced to be an exact duplicate of the real thing. Your argument amounts to "fiction isn't identical to real life, therefore it's bad." But if it was identical, it wouldn't be fiction.
Some genres of fiction obviously intentionally take on the task of being much more identical to real life. However, that is simply NOT the genre Ninjago is operating within, so it really is unfair to treat it as if it were.