It's hard to believe, but it's been 10 years since the release of the anime classic NINJA SCROLL. To celebrate this anniversary, Manga has put together a great package to honor this animation classic, whose impact is still seen in today's martial arts anime.
In feudal Japan, a lone ninja walks the road to nowhere, calmly eating his rice ball. Assassins erupt from under the bridge he's traversing, but the ninja simply tosses his rice in the air, takes out the villains, then catches and resumes his lunch. As a storm breaks, the rogue ninja - Jubei - heads for cover, while a mysterious clan gathers in a nearby village. The next day, a girl from that village wanders into a nearby town - it appears her village has been ravaged by an epidemic. The town chamberlain is suspicious of the circumstances, and sends his team of ninjas to investigate. Joining them is female ninja Kagera - the feudal lords poison taster. They have heard that eight strangers were seen in the town prior to the epidemic. But it takes only one to slaughter them all - Tessai, who wields a double-edged boomerang sword and is made of stone. Kagera is spared; simply so Tessai can rape her. However, Tessai's mauling is interrupted by the appearance of Jubei. Striking at the rock monster's only vulnerability - his eye - Jubei rescues Kagera. She reports back to her chamberlain of the situation; the leader sends her back to continue gathering information.
Meanwhile, Jubei runs into Tessai, who pounds the samurai into the ground. But Jubei is up to the task and cracks the stone monster's skin, leaving him vulnerable to his own flying sword. Ancient government spy Dakuan observes the fight and then offers Jubei a job to join him against the 'Eight Devils of Kimon', especially now that Jubei's a marked man because he's killed one. Jubei declines, but is later saved by Dakaun from a second Devil - snake queen Benisato. Dakuan makes Jubei an offer he can't refuse; the old man's poisoned Jubei, and the ninja must join him for the antidote! It seems the 'Shogun of the Dark' has recruited the Devils to aid him in overthrowing the government, and the Devils' leader is an old friend of Jubei's - Lord Gemma. Jubei is outraged, for he believes he decapitated Gemma years ago. It seems the evil overlord can resurrected himself, however. Jubei falls into a snake trap set by Benisato, but is rescued by Kagera. After years of poison tasting, Kagera has built up immunity to venom, and Benisato is doomed - electrocuted by fellow Devil Yurimaru for her failure. Jubei, Kagera and Dakuan agree to team up against the remaining Devils and Gemma for their own reasons, knowing there is strength in numbers. But will our heroic trio be able to defeat the remaining Devils? Can they solve the mystery of the plague? How will they stop the indestructible Lord Gemma? And is it a strange or fatal attraction between Jubei and Kagera? Well, you're just gonna have to watch NINJA SROLL yourself for the answers...
This film is a lot of fun. Not only does NINJA SCROLL have a great story, but also there's a tremendous amount of kick-ass action. The main players have complex and intriguing back-stories, and even the lesser villains are given a depth that's sorely lacking in other anime of this type. The crazy powers of the Devils became the template for host of similar ninja movies. The fight scenes are all superb; each is varied and more interesting than the last. The animation is excellent- there's a lot of attention paid to the details (and this was before the extensive use of CGI made animating hundreds of bees routine!). One of the interesting things I learned from watching this DVD was Jubei is based on the "urban legends" of an actual feudal swordsman. You can't stop watching NINJA SCROLL once you begin - you've got to know what happens next! It just gets better and better, with an ending that won't let you down!
Manga has gone all-out and done an excellent job in releasing this 10th anniversary edition of NINJA SCROLL. For starters, the DVD is a double-sided, dual-layered DVD 18 release; there is a widescreen version on one side, a full screen version on the other. A note for purists: NINJA SCROLL was originally shot in 4x3, but has been enhanced to 16x9 for this release, so no one will be "pan & scanned" out of any action. Either way, the picture is exceptional with bright colors and clean lines. They haven't skimped on the audio, either. If you have the whole surround set-up, prepare to be blown away. Even in stereo the audio is clear and powerful. Each side has the same features - an interview with director Yoshiaki Kawajiri reflecting on NINJA SCROLL's 10 years, interviews with the English voice actors (very informative), and a 'hidden' NINJA SCROLL trailer. There is also a set of character profiles, a bit on the historical basis of Jubei (see above), and the requisite Manga previews and web links. Also, Manga includes a catalog of their available titles. NINJA SCROLL certainly gives you enough bang for your buck! (or should that be 'slices"; Jubei is a ninja, after all...)
When I first saw NINJA SCROLL on videotape, I loved it. But when I saw this new DVD version, I went one step beyond. The picture, the audio, the whole movie has gone to a new level. Whether you've never seen NINJA SCROLL or have been a fan for ten years; this is the DVD to get. NINJA SCROLL is truly one of the essential titles of any anime fan! You go Jubei!
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