Aug 5, 2007
YourMessageHere (All reviews)
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.