Ninja Scroll turned 20 years old this month, so thought it’d be nice to indulge and celebrate in its existence a little. It’s a bit of an anime classic in certain areas of fandom, particularly long-term fans, and I like to think that anyone who’s so far missed out on it can still find much to enjoy.
Jubei is a wandering swordsman dragged unwillingly into an adventure of conspiracies, ninjas and the obligatory old enemies. It doesn’t display the strongest plot you’ll ever see in a film, but is good enough to excuse a near-constant stream of fantasy sword fights while sustaining an interest in the strained relationship between Jubei and fellow ninja Kagerou. The animators flex their muscles for the battle scenes and apply interesting palette choices to help give each fight its own unique atmosphere. Night times, blazing sunny days and sunset scenes are effectively portrayed to help maintain this interesting variety, and the rapid pace is drummed into you with an effective soundtrack. It’s good stuff.
Be warned that it is hyper violent and boobs abound (spoilers: Kagerou gets a particularly raw deal out of the film), so this is strictly for more mature fans who like their blood spurts to hit the ceiling and don’t freak out when they see a bit of skin. Overall Ninja Scroll is just extremely well made and doesn’t waste time on deep thought or needless sentimentality. The recent Blu-Ray release is well worth your time.
So why is there no sequel? Ninja Scroll is very well regarded amongst western fans, but is something that is curiously disproportionate compared to its more moderate regard in Japan. There was a semi-related TV series which came out in 2003, which is a serviceable addition, but no true successor has appeared as yet. Director Kawajiri is up for it though and even produced a teaser trailer in hopes of gaining studio/financial support, but so far this is as far as the franchise goes.
Don’t touch Ninja Resurrection by the way, it’s as unrelated as it is awful. ;-)