Ninja Scroll

Riding on the very crest of the mid-90’s anime ‘ultra-violence’ invasion was Ninja Scroll, a title from Manga Entertainment that was being announced to the British public as a potential rival to the daddy of ultra violence itself, Fist of the North Star.

Almost 10 years on and Ninja Scroll is still around, getting new fans into anime and making the same powerful impact in cult film circles that it always has done. To celebrate this fact, Manga Entertainment have done this classic anime the justice it deserves and released a ’10th Anniversary Special Edition’ of Ninja Scroll. Digitally remastered, completely UNCUT and chock full of cool special features, Ninja Scroll is yet again ready to be unleashed on the unexpecting British public.

What they say (story)

Feudal Japan – A time of danger, intrigue and deception. Jubei is a masterless ninja who travels the land alone, hiring his services to those with gold…or a worthy cause. His fearsome abilities have served him well, but a hideous plot to overthrow the government threatens to end his wandering ways and possibly his life.

When a small village succumbs to a terrible plague, a team of ninjas are sent to investigate, and realize that all is not as it seems. Ambushed, they are wiped out by a fearsome man-monster with incredible powers, leaving only one alive – Kagero, a beautiful female ninja, whose touch can bring instant death. Jubei saves her from a fate worse than death, and unwittingly becomes drawn into the web of treachery. He is soon faced with his greatest challenge, an enemy for whom death holds no fear, with the power to destroy Jubei’s world.

Totally UNCUT

Fans of the original Manga Ent. VHS release of Ninja Scroll will no doubt be over-joyed to hear that this Anniversary Edition is totally uncut.

So what does this mean to you and me? Well, the infamous rape scene has been restored in it’s entirety (honestly, this is not too bad at all by today’s standards) as well as every image of a flying ‘ninja star’ that had been previously removed.
Why were the ninja stars’ cut in the first place? Only god knows.

Special Features

A full list of the disc special features is below:

  • Director interview
  • Character interviews with key English cast members
  • History of Jubie
  • Photo Gallery
  • Character Synopsis

The highlight of which has to be the interview with Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Director). Despite containing many interesting insights into the making of Ninja Scroll, the funniest thing is his manner. He blatently isn’t interested in answering all of the questions and seems a lot more bothered by brewing his cup of coffee!

The history of Jubie is also worth reading. It seems our hero from the movie is based on actual fact and this biography of sorts is quite fascinating. Nothing in there about fighting demons though!

Straight ahead action anime

Make no mistake about it, Ninja Scroll is a very light anime cinematic ‘flick’ that moves at a high pace from action scene to action scene without so much as a break for us to catch our breath.

You’re not forced to stop and think about the story – events just play out as you expect them to.
That’s the thing that makes Ninja Scroll so appealing though; you can sit down for 90 mins, switch off your brain and just spectate while every action scene is threaded together expertly and executed beautifully.

And I totally mean that, a particular favourite scene of mine has to be the ninja fight in the trees right at the start of the film. At least 15-20 people are getting butchered by this incredibly strong unknown force, but is it wrong to want more?

Amazing animation for it’s time

Remembering Ninja Scroll was created in 1993, the animation is nothing less than beautiful. It’s so brilliantly distinctive and smooth that it’s a joy to watch, regardless of the story.

Character design is another high point. Every main ‘baddie’ is blessed with such an incredibly individual design that despite the relatively short running time, you end up remembering everyone’s names and eventual demise. Ever seen someone with a wasp’s nest growing in their back? Nope? You should probably get this then.

Final Words

Ninja Scroll stands as the high point of mid-90s ‘Manga Ent.’ anime. It’s full of blood, ninja stars, demons and samurai swords. But that’s not why it’s so good, behind the extreme violence beats the heart of a great action story.

I never get bored watching Ninja Scroll, and for a title that is so light in the drama department, that’s an accomplishment in itself. Yep, what we have here folks is possibly the greatest popcorn flick in anime.

8 / 10