Jubei Kibagami wanders feudal Japan as an itinerant swordsman-for-hire. After a past betrayal left him masterless, he has no more patience for warring political factions and their schemes. Unfortunately, both past and political intrigue collide when he meets and saves a female ninja named Kagero from a man with the ability to make his body as hard as stone.
The sole survivor of a ninja clan, Kagero continues her team's last mission: investigate a mysterious plague that wiped out an entire village. Jubei wants nothing to do with this, but the stone-like man's allies, a group of ninja with supernatural powers known as the Devils of Kimon, make that option difficult. To make matters worse, a government spy poisons Jubei, promising him an antidote if he can unravel the true intentions of the Devils of Kimon and their connection to the plague. The trail leads to shadow leaders, a plot to overthrow the government, and a man that Jubei thought he would never see again.
Ah Ninja Scroll, the epitome of everything a ninja anime needs and tries...and fails to be. My friend and I saw this at our local Blockbuster and he had heard of it from a coworker who said "WATCH THIS MOVIE!" Now generally when I get recommendations from my friends I don't enjoy them all too much but Ninja Scroll was and is possibly one of my favourite films.
Story: Ninja Scroll in a very realistic sense is an anime B-movie. So the story was pretty heinous. Essentially the entire plot can be seen as a device to switch setting and to move
to the next fight scene. However the story itself (if you're actually paying attention) isn't all too bad. There were some interesting little character developments and a couple neat twists and turns. It gets slightly weird towards the end and the actual ending itself was a little lacking. But the forte of the anime is the action scenes. Almost all of them were brilliant, I say almost all because frankly I wanted to see a couple stretched out a little longer. Each enemy that Jubei faces is different and even though it's pretty clear that he can't be beaten it's interesting to see him face some of the tougher opponenets.
Art: The art completely and perfectly suits the feel of the anime. The art isn't good, it isn't bright or colourful....it's mediocre. But the movie wouldn't feel right without the style of art that's used. Granted there were 2-3 moments where I was forced to turn on the lights because I felt like I was going to have a seizure. Most of the screen flashed red and black really quickly and I quickly averted my eyes. But that's my only qualm about the art.
Sound: Cheesy, oldschool....perfect for the movie.
Character: Jubeii is....the best and most powerful swordsman ever. Well, maybe not ever, but he's still pretty amazing and he has a good heart. All the characters are pretty one dimensional are never developed. You get a couple "reveal" moments, but they're a little bit boring as well. About the only noteworthy character is Kagero. I felt really sorry for her during pretty much the entire movie. However the interactions and "development" of characters is meaningless to the film. The film is about action and fighting so, for me at least, it's understandable that the characters are pretty flat.
Enjoyment: I love Ninja Scroll. It's a seriously fun ride. There's nothing deep about it, there's no meaning to it....the film is about action and that's exactly what it delivers. The movie is also quite gory and has a lot of nudity in it. There's also a really hilarious sex-scene...well...it was at least funny to me. There's also rape...so if you're offended by that you probably should steer clear.
If you enjoy Ninja Scroll, which I can only hope you do, you should definitely check out Wicked City, which is from the same director and in many respects is practically the same film.
This was the very first anime film I ever saw. This takes me back to a time before even pokemon was in the US. Although a lot of people today will say that the art isn't that good. Or that the character development is terrible etc. etc. Those are also the people that have only been watching anime since it became popular in the US.
The story is amazing. Demon ninjas with terrible powers, each unique.
The Art for it's time is also excellent. This is the movie that made me realize that cartoons could be serious, not just Bugs Bunny style.
If you like movies that have
amazing villians, and a hero willing to fight them, and not cry about it the whole time. Violence. Great visuals. Imagination. Very good storyline. This movie is for you. I'll also mention that this is one of the only animes that I can watch in either English of Japanese. The English dub was done very well.
Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. If you don't like it, then you have only lost an hour and a half of your life. A small price to pay for anime history.
Ninja Scroll was one of the first examples of anime I ever saw, and it made a lasting impression on me - a bad one. Luckily, I was already convinced of the ability of anime to stand up to anything that live action could throw at it. This, on the other hand, went a long way towards making me realise that, as with anything else (I now realise - I was young and had no sense), not all anime is superb.
So, what's wrong? Well, ninjas. I await the day when I can see a ninja character that I can even begin
to believe in. However, it seems it is illegal to have ninjas that you can actually believe in; they all have to be supernatural and/or sublimely skilled, to an order of magnitude above and beyond your garden variety trained killer. Ninja Scroll is the very epitome of this attitude. They're not just sneaky guys with throwing knives, they turn to stone and have steerable mystic claws on endless chains and can hold off their own deaths until they deliver that one vital message. All the most hackneyed and OTT things you can imagine ninjas doing, in all the most trashy b-movies and cheesy games, they happen here. It's also, to my eye, unnecessarily nasty in its graphicness, tone and inference - I'm not squeamish, but I would rather gore had some point. Think Naruto meets Urotsukidoji, but with rather less sex and filler episodes, and zero lightheartedness or charm.
Everything in Ninja Scroll is resolutely (tediously) grim and opressive all the time. It's actually quite tiring. All the characters are also gratingly simplistic. There's a hero, a heroine who is not allowed to be strong enough to look after herself in order that our hero Jubei can save her from a nasty fate, assorted sneaky buggers and of course all those supernatural ninjas. No-one is remotely credible as a character. Of course, they're not supposed to be, really, Ninja Scroll is clearly a very long way from realism. The point is, this is a genre piece, and if you're not enamoured of the stereotype of ninjas, well, this'll not do anything to persuade you. Then again, if Magikal Ninjery is your line, I'm sure you'll think I should rate this way higher.
To be fair, it's not the worst thing ever in the history of ever. The art style isn't really my cup of tea, but is distinctive and unique, with bold outlines, solid colours and overall a very stylised look. Some of the ideas, if you can get past the basic ridiculousness to suspend your disbelief, are inventive and unexpected. However, I was unable to make it that far.
I'm not going to pretend to be objective or anything, this is what I think, and I think Ninja Scroll is terrible. There are likely many who will disagree, but there it is, it's the kind of thing that polarises opinions.
Long before the Naruto craze and a myriad other ninja themed shows, there was Ninja Scroll. Premiering in 1993, Ninja Scroll could probably be the anime movie that fans everywhere could point their fingers at, saying that it jumpstarted the ninja trend, much like Gundam for mecha, Tenchi Muyo for harem, or Akira for cyberpunk, and what a spectacle it is. This is one of those movies that a lot of oldtaku were exposed to as kids, and is probably at least 50% responsible for the once-stigma of anime being sexed up, ultraviolent, and DEFINITELY not for kids.
Madhouse blends this winning combination of stylized,
but grotesque, bloody violence with a touch of sexuality, and an unhealthy dose of visual awesomeness to bring Ninja Scroll to life. The story follows a lone wanderer, a ninja swordsman by the name of Juubei. His introduction is by and large unnecessary, because the viewer is generally aware of the wandering swordsman/ronin trope that's not unique to this series, but more of a culturally osmosis'd idea that we're aware of. The man has a dark past, and a lot of dangerous enemies who have nothing but bloodlust and revenge on the mind. After being tricked into accepting a job from the mysterious old man, Dakuon, Juubei is poisoned, and told that if he does not complete the task given to him in 3 days, he will die. This task, naturally, involves foiling a plot by a shadowy ninja clan who plan to take over feudal Japan through a power struggle created by ownership of the currency of the time: gold bullion.
The setup for the movie is quite simple, but the story itself is not where Ninja Scroll shines through its brightest. No, that element would be the presentation of the Ninja, and the great care and detail that Madhouse put into the production of the movie. The aesthetic of the movie reminds me much of a previous Madhouse production; another darkly stylistic and incredibly detailed film: Wicked City. The fluidity is incredible, the character models and scenery gorgeous, and the cinematography and direction are top notch as well. Maybe I'm a sucker for old school animation, but this is incredible work. Its focus on aesthetics and style coupled with brutal action and a number of buckets of blood lend edge to the visual feast- in a way that Mad Max Fury Road was visually striking- Ninja Scroll does a similar thing with the posturing and manner of attack and movement of the characters. There's none of the silly handwaving and yelling out attacks, but ALL of the awesome mystical powers of the fabled ninja: body clones, melding into shadows, invisible wires, poison, incredible speed and strength, proficiency with all manner of melee weapons, and other just cool sh*t. Ninja are cool- and Ninja Scroll shows off the best of the genre, in all honesty. The 8 antagonist characters never progress much beyond being Ninja with XY skills, but the powers they're given keep the action interesting, and it never devolves into a drawn out shonen filler battle that, if it were a TV show, you KNOW would take up at least half a season.
No, Ninja Scroll is practically the antithesis of that, as most of the 8 major battles are over in a matter of minutes. This lends a very quick pace to the movie (which is far better than plodding), which may be offputting to some, but I was glad it was not incredibly drawn out or overblown for each battle. Everything was summed up succinctly, and satisfactorily. Even the romantic and intrigue elements were handled well. The atmosphere is nearly tangible in its dark done, and gritty is the name of the game. We see the plight of the peasants and warring feudal factions that are immediately indicative of Sengoku period Japan (warring states). The movie even mentions the Tokugawa shogunate, and, supernatural elements aside, could have been some form of historical fiction if bent somewhat. All that to say: the presentation is time period appropriate- which lends an air of realism and credibility to it. All told, this is a true anime classic, and one that everyone should see once, especially if you like a good action romp.