Ninja Scroll (1996)

ninja scroll

“I swear that if you come back to life I’ll kill you again, no matter how many times!”

The Scoop: 1996 NR, Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri/Kevin Seymour and starring Dean Elliot and Wendee Lee (English version)

Summary Capsule: It’s the final countdown! Bah da baaa baaa! Ba-da -bap ba baaaaa!

heatherbanner

Heather’s rating: Rated “NR” for “Nightmare Reaper”

Heather’s review: I recently outed myself on our forum as an anime fan during Kaleb’s specific and frighteningly telling anime contests. Sadly I did not win, for both times Eunice trampled me with her mad anime nerd skillz, for which I give much props. Word.

I’m a big fan of anime tv series, but never delved much into the movies. I’ve seen the Cowboy Bebop movie, but the only other anime films I had ever watched were Hayao Miyazak’s works  (which is not to say that HM’s stuff isn’t awesome, ’cause it is).

I was talking with a friend of mine online and in the middle of the conversation he throws out a movie quote, saying he’d be impressed if I recognized it.  I failed to impress and had to admit that I had no clue what he was talking about. The ensuing reaction was something along the lines of “AAAH you have to watch this movie now AAAHHH!!!” I imagine he was probably yelling at me through his computer screen, typing furiously in order to alert me as quickly as possible to Ninja Scroll,  a piece of cinematic awesome that is one of his favorite films of all time OMG.

I looked it up on Netflix, which has it available for instant play. In response to my friend’s pleading I decided that I could put off my attempts to permanently burn Facebook’s Farm Town application onto my retinas for at least another day while I watched a movie about Japan, ninjas, and demons. I think I made the right choice.

The hero of the story is Jubei, a ninja-for-hire who finds out that an old nemesis of his is back with sinister plans and an army of demons. Wendee Lee (squee!) voices the beautiful ninja warrior Kagero, whom Jubei rescues from one of the demons and befriends. The two set off together on their quest with your stereotypical goofy old Japanese sensei-type character in tow. The whole dramatic and over the top warringsideseveryonediesbloodsplatterseverywhere anime isn’t usually my thing. ESPECIALLY if there are gratuitous sex scenes  involved.

That being said I still ended up liking this movie, despite its best efforts. For instance, there was so much blood and gore that in one shot it is literally raining blood. Body parts become detached in a myriad of interesting and physics-defying fashions. I really wish I could have had a video recorder handy so that I could go back and watch the faces I was making during the dismemberment scenes. Judging by the way my facial muscles felt afterwords I must have looked like an extra in a Tim Burton film.

The sexual parts of the film were typically offensive and bordering on creepy Japanese fetish material. Honestly at one point I began to wonder whether or not Netflix had sneaked a hentai in on me. It never quite went to that level, but it sure toed the line.

I’m not going to blame this one on the movie, because it could be the fault of the translators, but the dialogue in this movie is pretty stiff and awkward.  During long bouts of talking I would just tune out until blood started flying again. I guess I can see why they didn’t worry too much about the dialogue, ’cause who’s really paying attention to what’s being saidwhen a guy’s face is sliding down the edge of a sword?

What brought the film from brainless slaughtering and sex to brainless slaughtering and sex that I’ll actually keep watching was the very interesting plot, terrific voice cast , and a large dose of imagination in the storytelling. The demons were so diverse and creepy as only the Japanese can make ‘em. Don’t even get me started on the wasp-controlling monster who, at one horrifying point, revealed himself to be the demon equivalent of a Surinami toad. A Surinami toad that, instead of giving birth to little toad babies out of the holes in his back, spawns wasps. Holy mother of everything good and decent in this world I want to know what was wrong with the human being who dredged that up from the seventh layer of Hell and can he/she please not procreate?

My phobias aside, the movie’s creativity, well-crafted story and terrific editing were an unexpected joy that kept me watching. I’ll even venture to say that I would watch it again.

But next time I’m totally skipping past the wasp scene.

Wish to punch me, you will

Intermission!

  • Strategic snake placement
  • That chamberlain sure knows how to multitask
  • Ninja Scroll was much more popular upon its release in the US than it was in Japan.

Groovy Quotes:

Tesai: Not quite the right direction. The road to Hell is… RIGHT HERE.

Utsutsu Mujuro: If you want to kill me, you mustn’t make any sound at all.

Jubei: The only sound you’ll hear is the sound of your own voice screaming.

Jubei: I swear if you come back to life again that I’ll kill you again, no matter how many times! Aaaaaaah!

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4 comments

  1. I’m torn on it myself. It’s a very iconic film, and one of the ones an anime fan has to watch once, but it’s just not compelling enough to rewatch. Pretty brutal too.

    I think if you liked it, and want more story, the series Blade of the Immortal might be good. If you want a carbon copy of the relationship the two leads had, try Basilisk.

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