|NINJA SCROLL 10
Anniversary Edition $34.95
|Region 0 NC-17
|Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.33.1)
|Audio: English/Japanese DTS
& DD 5.1, English DD 2.0
|Chapter Stops: 34
|Ninja Scroll Poster
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
This 1995 animated film was originally
released in Japan as JUBEI NINPOCHO. The film was created and directed by
Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the creative mastermind who brought us WICKED CITY, BIOHUNTER,
and DEMON CITY SHINJUKU. This is another one of those supernatural shogun/ninja
period films, with an emphasis on characters, plot, thrill-a-minute action, with
lots of blood, gore, and sexual content. This is one animated film that’s not
for the kiddies.
The story unfolds in the village of
Shimoda. All the people are dead and a plague is suspected. The Koga ninja team
is sent to the village to investigate. While on the way to Shimoda, the Koga
Ninjas are slaughtered by Tessal, a sword wielding monster with a body of stone.
Kagera, a female ninja is the only survivor. After warning the Koga clan, she
returns to find out more about the mystery surrounding Shimoda village when she
is captured by Tessai. When Tessai returns to his dwelling with Kagero and has
his way with her a stranger appears. It is a man named Jubei who asks for
directions to the town of Kaklo. Tessai is irritated by Jubei and attempts to
kill him. Jubei and Kagero escape when a dart thrown by Jubei hits the monster
in the eye.
Jubei and Kagero meet again later and
Tessai is killed. After the fight, and old man who has been watching nearby
saves Jubei when he is attacked by a snake controlling sorceress. The old man
Dakuan is a spy for the Tokogawa government. The old man explains that these
monster are members of the Eight Devils of Kimon, a group of supernatural beings
who work for the Shogun of the Dark. Now the rest of the Eight Devils group will
surely be looking for Jubei to avenge the death of Tessai. The old man offers
Jubei a hundred pieces of gold to find out what the devils are up to. At first
Jubei refuses Dakuans offer, but finally agrees when he finds out the old man
has poisoned him. Dakuan will give him the antidote only after he has helped the
old man. Otherwise, he will die the next day.
As they begin their journey, Dakuans
suspicions that Jubei was the ninja who killed the retainers of the Yashimoto
Clan are confirmed. He tells Jubei that the leader of the clan, Lord Gemma, is
still alive and working for the Shogun of the Dark. Gemma is actually the leader
of the Kimon Devils. Kagero arrives to save Jubei from the second attack of the
serpent sorceress. Dakuan knowing that Kagero has the ability to poison anyone
she makes love to, asks her to join them. The trio soon discover that the
villagers of Shimoda were not killed by an epidemic, but by the well water
poisoned by the Kimon Devils. When Jubei battles and defeats the Devil member
Mushizo and his deadly wasps, he learns that Gemma has the ability of
The Kimon Devils are now hot on their
trail. After a near escape from the Sorceress of Explosions Zakuro, Jubei and
Kagero manage to defeat the blind devil Muforo Utsutsu. As they arrive at a
beach cliff, they see a cargo that has drifted ashore from a ship wrecked by a
recent storm. They now realize that the false epidemic was created by the devils
so that no one would go near the village of Shimoda and discover the drifting
cargo. Dakuan guesses that the ship was carrying gold that was on its way to the
Shogun of the Dark. With the gold, the Shogun could topple the Tokogawa
government and the country would plunge into another civil war. Kagero informs
the Mochizuki clan of the Shogun’s plan. Then Dakuan explains to her about the
antidote to Jubei’s poison.
Kagero is captured by another Kimon
Devil. Shijimata. Jubei comes to Kagero’s rescue and Shijina becomes the fifth
devil to be defeated. Feeling that she is indebted to him, Kagero tells Jubei
how to counteract the poison. The poison must be killed by another poison. If
Kagero makes love to Jubei, it cure him. Returning to the wharf, Jubei devises a
plan to sink the cargo ship. However, before his plan is executed, the Mochiaki
clan arrives. Kagero, seeing that her lord has arrived, goes out to greet him—too
late to see that it was a trap. Kagero is stabbed by Gemma who has disguised
himself as her leader. The ship is loaded with the cargo of gold that while be
used to purchase weapons from other countries. This will give the House of
Toyotomi the upper hand to defeat the Tokugawa goverment.
Gemma has other plans. He wants to use
the gold to organize a powerful army of ninjas who will rule the country with
terror. Yurimaru, who is second in command to Gemma is unwittingly trapped and
defeated by the vindictive devil, Zakuro, whose amorous advances he rejected.
Meanwhile, Jubei bids farewell to the dying Kagero and heads for the departing
ship. He sets fire to the hull where the cargo is held and Zakuro is blown to
pieces in the explosion. This leaves Jubei and the last of the Kimon devils,
Gemma to battle it out. No matter what Jubei does, he cannot defeat the
reincarnating Gemma. When Jubei has injured Gemma enough to slow him down the
devil is covered by molten gold caused by the fire. The lava is cooled by sea
water that enters the hull, leaving Gemma forever encased in a golden coffin.
The film has some bizarre images and
- Jubei continuously headbutts
the sinister Lord Gemma mercilessly until his face caves in, but the
evil one comes back from the dead.
- A monster rips the limbs off
of a ninja warrior.
- A ninja woman is impaled on a
sword by her master.
- An enraged samurai warrior
single handedly uses his sword to dispatch an army of assassins (the
blood really flies).
- Lord Gemma is split in half by
a samurai sword.
- A man is scalded to death by a
river flow of molten gold.
- A monster rapes a woman who
has poison for blood, and the monster dies from the poison.
- A ninja is garroted and
- A team of ninjas are
decapitated by a monster's scythe-like weapon.
- Lord Gemma is impaled on a
wooden lance, and then has his chest punctured by his foe, but still
he lives on to attack his opponent.
- In the most violently graphic
scene from the film, a humanoid monster gets his own weapon struck
right into his forehead; he falls forward and his head runs down the
length of the sword as blood spurts everywhere.
The movie tries hard to add some
complexity to its story and its characters. While it’s no AKIRA, it is a very
good samurai action film with very smooth and fluid animation. The animation is
also used in a very stylistic way with lots of Sam Raimi-style angles and rapid
editing. Director Kawajiri is a master at this stuff and this is his best work
to date, both animation-wise and character-wise. The film is incredibly violent
and bloody, yet the mayhem does not repulse you, instead it grabs you by the
neck and draws you in to this colorful world.
The artwork is phenomenal and the
character development enviable. This film shows the mature range of drama,
action, and a cast of tragic characters that an animated film can present. Take
the lead character Jubei, you find yourself cheering for him one minute and
feeling pity for him the next. Another strong theme is the role of women in
Japan's Tokogawa period and the near absurdity (at the time) of a woman ninja.
By taking a man's role, Kegaro denies herself her very gender in the presence of
others, as seen in her waiting for Jubei to go down the road before breaking
down emotionally after being raped by the demon.
Manga Entertainment delivered two versions of Ninja
Scroll on a single DVD-18. On one side, we have the original 4x3 full
screen, which I used for my primary viewing session. For a film made ten years
ago, the source material was obviously in excellent condition. I didn't notice a
single scratch on the film. The transfer was beautiful all, colors were bright
and clear. Cross coloration and aliasing were nearly nonexistent.
One of the big parts about the Tenth anniversary release is Manga placing a 16x9
widescreen version on the DVD for "home theatre enthusiasts". Of
course, this is pure marketing speech, as someone really into home theatre would
want something in its original aspect ratio. Manga doesn't even both to list the
correct aspect ratio for the film. It looks to be 1:78:1 to me. In order to do
this, Manga chopped off parts of the bottom and top of the picture. Sigh. It
also looked grainy to me, and the colors were not as bright as the 4x3 full
Manga went full on out with all the
different sound tracks that they made available on this DVD. There are EIGHT
different audio tracks on this DVD. The English and Japanese language tracks
come in stereo, DD-EX, and DTS-ES, while there are also stereo tracks in French
and Spanish. I'm sure if the DVD standard didn't specify just eight audio
tracks, I'm sure Manga would have tried to stuff more on there.
For my primary listening session, I took advantage of the Japanese DTS-ES 6.1
track, since I did have a rear center speaker. The mix was quite well done.
Directionality was very well done, and the experience was immersive. The rear
center was lightly used, but that's the way it should be. Everything was easy to
understand, and the music and dialogue were distortion free. Possibly the only
problem was the volume level of a character's speech during one scene.
There is a character synopsis featuring
our 3 heroes, The 8 Devils of Kimon, and Lord Gemma. Six screens include
information on the real life Jubei. Two interviews are also included. One with
Wendee Lee (Kagero) and Dean Elliot (Jubei), and the other is with Director
Yoshiaki Kawajiri. Both are twenty minutes long each. Topics go all over the
place, and Kawajiri is even asked about his Animatrix work.
NINJA SCROLL is an outstanding
achievement in animation, not just in the realm of Japanese Animation. The film
is technically superb, superseding anything that Disney or the Dreamworks ever
came up with (or can be expected to come up with, considering their gravitation
towards an 8-year old audience). The plot has more twists and turns than your
average adult animated fare. Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s story comes to life through
carefully constructed characters such as the silent but violent Jubei, and the
female ninja with a poisonous touch, Kagero. NINJA SCROLL is indeed one of the
most incredible excursions in anime we have ever been blessed with. If you see
only one anime title this year, you must acquire this epic DVD. Manga
Video spent a lot of time, money, and effort into this release and it really
SCROLL is available at DVDEmpire
SCROLL 10th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION is available at DVDEmpire
SCROLL THE SERIES VOLUME 1 is available at DVDEmpire
Rating (out of 5):
TO REVIEW INDEX