I'm Your Sensei! Er, Master! Er...Wait...

Am I the only one who remembers that back in 2011, Wu was referred to as “Sensei Wu?” It wasn’t until 2015 that he adopted the moniker “Master Wu.” Why the change? Were people complaining that using the word “Sensei” was offensive for some reason? I can’t see how that could’ve been the case, because “Sensei” is defined as a wise teacher of martial arts. Wu definitely fits this criteria, given that he teaches his students ninja skills. So what was the mindset behind making him the “Master?”


I am also super curious about this change. “Sensei” always sounded a lot cooler to me than “Master”.


They changed it due to the appropriation of the title for a lego theme being deemed insenseitive.


I really want to say something, but I won’t.


i have no idea, maybe “master wu” just is easier to pronounce.

I think there was some issue about it in different countries, but I really don’t know.

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I’ve seen different theories, but nothing concrete.

In addition to what was said above, I’ve seen some people saying that it was because Wu starting being more of a leader than a teacher in the later seasons. Other people say it was simply one of the changes they made in the soft reboot that happened with the movie.

Sensei Wu explanation
As far as I can tell, the only official statements are pretty vague, but it kinda sounds like Lego might be afraid of being accused of cultural appropriation. Honestly I don’t see why “sensei” would be a problem when ninja is fine, since both are Japanese. My theory is that they were worried about using a Japanese title for Wu, given his white voice actor and the fact that Wu himself has Caucasian features (they’re not so obvious when he’s old, but flashbacks show him with light hair; plus, Garmadon and Lloyd definitely look white).


No, the “Master” term was in use before the movie. As I said in my opening post, it began in 2015 with the Possession wave.

Lego had already been accused of cultural appropriation…at least, by some people on BZPower.

I dunno…pretty much every minifigure in the TV series has yellow skin…but you do have a point in that the majority of the cast is white.

huh, I never even noticed the change (granted, I don’t follow Ninjago very closely)


I still struggle to identify what exactly can be considered inappropriate about the term “Sensei”. As far as I know, it has just one universal meaning, which is teacher. Just because it may mean something else in other languages shouldn’t really matter.

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What?! But- he doesn’t look Caucasian.

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Wu young
I said young Wu. I mean, race in Lego is ambiguous at best, but look at him

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Outside of a couple instances in the past, LEGO doesn’t really do race. The idea is that the minifigure heads, unless licensed, are to be interpreted however you want.


In our world, people want to interpret them as whatever offends them most. And of course Lego knows that.

Besides, it’s not like Lego isn’t portraying real world phenotypes. This is the minifig lineup of 80103 Dragon Boat Race. Notice anything?
Dragon Boat 1
Dragon Boat 2

I brought up how Wu’s race might be interpreted to illustrate how Lego could be painted into a corner. If he appears overtly Asian, then it could potentially be seen as whitewashing with regard to his VA, and potentially stereotypical on top of that. If he’s not overtly Asian (which personally, I think is what they shot for), then his Asian cultural trappings on a non-Asian character could still be seen as whitewashing.

Point is, the only coherent explanation I can see for dropping a term like sensei, with no apparent loaded meaning, and for Tommy Andreasen’s clunky, overly vague explanation, is that Lego realized they had applied a Japanese title to a character with a Chinese name, portrayed by a white man, playing an archetype - the wise kung fu master - with a long history of multiple Asian stereotypes.

Did Lego ever really get in trouble for this? No. But did they know that they wouldn’t? No. So, they took a calculated gamble and dropped the word “sensei.” It’s a lot easier than writing Wu out, and they weren’t going to actually say that any of this could be problematic - why admit even possible guilt to something nobody’s mad at yet? Just defuse that bomb quietly, before anyone even notices it.

It might sound like strained reasoning, but it also sounds exactly like corporate reasoning.

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Come to think of it, Lego Western did have Native American figures such as these: