Ninja Scroll box cover

© 1993 Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Mad House, JVC, Toho Co. Ltd., Movie Inc.


Available on VHS and DVD from Manga Entertainment.
90 minutes
Martial Arts/Action
Version I Watched: English dubbed
Objectionable Content: Nudity, sexual situations, graphic violence

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Ninja Scroll

Usually when martial arts action flicks are made, things like character development and a decent plot are placed on the backburner. It's refreshing to see a martial arts anime that delivers on all counts.

The first thing you'll notice are the incredible visuals. The artwork and animation are superb, with a realistic style seen too rarely in anime. The voice acting was also pretty good. Kagaro could've been voiced a little better, but she was passable.

The plot in Ninja Scroll is fairly straightforward. Jubei, a lone ninja for hire, gets involved in a web of events surrounding a nemesis from his past. He must do battle with the Eight Devils of Kimon, uncover the secret behind the mysterious Lord Gemma, and try to stay alive in the process.

While the premise (lone ninja takes on various bad guys) sounds typical of this genre, the plot actually has some depth to it. It even gets somewhat confusing at times, and has enough intrigue and plot twists to keep things interesting.

The characters are another strong point. The hero, Jubei, is your typical lone-wolf tough guy, but he has enough charisma to get by. He is supported by Kagaro, a female ninja, and Dakuwan, a short fellow who reminds me a little of Yoda.

The villains featured are simply excellent. Each of the Eight Devils of Kimon are unique in appearance, style, and personality (or lack of it). They also (thankfully) do not appear in successive order of strength (a cliche which I've seen far too many times).

But what about the main reason for watching a film of this genre: pure martial arts action. The action sequences are rather inventive with some neat tricks on part of the combatants. Most of the time things are relatively believable, except for a couple bits. In one sequence, a rather exaggerated battle is staged as Jubei falls into the "hero loses it and everyone dies" cliche. There is also a rather sappy romantic subplot which I found to be a little on the corny side and distracting for this style of anime.

Aside from a couple eye-rolling moments, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. For great martial arts action, Ninja Scroll is probably the best of its genre.

The Verdict: * * * * 1/2 (very good)


Ninja Scroll image
Ninja Scroll image
Ninja Scroll image
Ninja Scroll image

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