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(Ninja Scroll) has something for everyone; beautiful animation, kinetic action, drama, romance, and some great orchestral music.
10th Anniversary SE
Review by Matthew Anderson
Company: Manga Ent
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rated: NC-17 for gore, nudity, rape, language, and violence
Jubei Kibagami is a swordsman for hire. Traveling around from village to village, he helps those in need, usually at a price.
While traveling through Shimoda Village, Jubei gets caught up in a fight between the evil Kimon Ninja, and the Koga Ninja who serve Lord Mochizuki. At the same time, a government spy named Dakuan is investigating the Kimon, trying to figure up what they are up to.
Dakuan forces Jubei to work for him by injecting the young man with poison. Unless Jubei helps him, Dakuan won't give him the antidote. He also enlists the aid of Kagero, the last of the Koga ninjas. The Kimon are no pushovers, and each devil they face is worse than the one before it.
If Jubei is to survive, he must defeat the eight devils of Kimon, find out what they are up to, and kill their boss before the poison kills him.
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: It's a toss up between the widescreen version and the full screen. The image on the full screen version is sharper and has brighter colors, yet is full of pixels during some of the high action scenes. The wide screen is free of pixels and digital garbage, but the image is softer, and there is some film grain. Since this looks like a transfer from a 35mm print, some clean up would have been nice.
On the full screen version, there is a glitch at 70 minutes in. After cleaning the disc, our DVD player, and trying it on a different machine, nothing worked. I have an email into Manga, to see if it is a problem with our copy. As soon as I know what is wrong, you will know.
AUDIO: All of the tracks sound pretty good. Both the Japanese 5.1 and 2.0 are softer than the English 5.1 and 2.0 There is plenty of surround sound on all versions, and during the action segments, the 5.1 really knocks your socks off. You can also enjoy Kaoru Wada awesome musical score with the 5.1 tracks. It's a shame there isn't a "music only" track.
However, neither the Japanese or English 2.0 are as loud or as clear as the French and Spanish 2.0. They are almost as good as the 5.1 tracks.
Unfortunately, I do not have a DTS receiver, so I am unable to comment on the Japanese and English DTS tracks.
EDITS: The same as the VHS release. The original title "Jubei Ninpochu" has been replaced with "Ninja Scroll". For the closing, Manga uses clean animation with English credits.
EXTRAS: On the disc, we have an interview with the director, English voice actors interview, character data, a text history on Yagyu Jubei Mitsuoski (the inspiration for the character Jubei) and some previews.
The DVD comes in a cool slip case and a fold out holder. Inside, we have a double sided movie poster, and a post card with a picture of the lovely Kagero.
STORY: There is not a really in-depth plot here. It's a typical gun for hire story we have seen before. However, Director/writer Yoshiaki Kawajiri over comes the limitations of the story with frantic pacing, snappy dialogue, slick visuals, and "lighting Samurai action"!
ACTING: Try as they might, no American actor can some close to the intensity and cool tones of the Japanese cast. Like Rurouni Kenshin, their reactions are more appropriate in the original language.
FAN SERVICE: For you Kagero fans, you get to see the hot ninja babe in various states of undress, although some of these instances are not very sexy. Just about every female is nude at some point during the film.
For many of you younger kids, Ninja Scroll was a gateway drug. As an older fan who started with Robotech, it was like moving up from crack to heroin. This movie is one of a select few that can bring in new fans into the world of anime. It has something for everyone; beautiful animation, kinetic action, drama, romance, and some great orchestral music. The fact that non anime publications like "Entertainment Weekly" are thrilled about this release shows how much this anime has become a part of main stream pop culture.
In my humble opinion, Yoshiaki Kawajiri is one of the best anime directors/writers out there. Every movie he makes is fantastic. From Wicked City to Demon City Shinjuku, his films are beautiful and shocking at the same time. Ninja Scroll is him at his best. All the elements that make a Kawajiri film are here; strong yet human characters, supernatural villains, sex and violence, and a dirty old man who knows everything.
Those of you who prefer "historical accuracy" in their anime will find that many liberties were taken with the time line. While the Totoyami and Tokugawa clans did exist, I doubt that they had ninjas equipped with retractable claws and women who could kill with poison. Still, they are cool to look at, and you can see the inspiration for the characters in the TV series.
With the Ninja Scroll TV series, live action film, and Ninja Scroll 2 in the works, Manga has chosen the right time to re-release this classic. Boasting a newly remasterd video, DTS audio track, and plenty of extras, Manga as given all the Ninja Scroll fans out there plenty of bang for your buck. It does look 10 times better than the VHS release. I like the widescreen version as far as scope, but I prefer the full screen for sharpness. With multiple audio tracks, even the most cynical audiophile will find a version to enjoy!
I hope that the technical glitches were only for our screener copy, and not the entire run. As far as I know, DVJ is the only site to mention this fact, so more than likely, its just a bad disc and we were the lucky ones to get it.
While many anime movies will come an go, Ninja Scroll is going to be around for a long time. With Manga giving us a fine DVD release, those of us who love this film will have a chance to join Jubei in his fight for life, liberty, and the pursuit of the very hot Kagero!
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