animefringe november 2003 / reviews

Ninja Scroll - 10th Anniversary Special Edition
Format: bilingual DVD, 94 min.
Production: Manga Entertainment / Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Comments: A fitting rerelease.
Animefringe Reviews:
Ninja Scroll - 10th Anniversary Special Edition

Ninja Scroll is widely viewed as a classic among classics--but does this flick really deserve such high praise? In a word: yes!

The gory and exciting film is one that nearly every emerging anime fan sees in their early years of fandom. It ranks up there with Akira and Ghost in the Shell on virtually everyone's 'must-see' list.

I remember first watching this film back in 1997 on my old computer via the now long out-of-print Movie CD release. The picture was tolerable, but it was full screen and it only came dubbed. Not exactly laserdisc or even VHS quality, but it worked well at the time.

I refrained from buying the original DVD release of Ninja Scroll because I never really held the film in such high regard as everyone else. It had never been my favorite anime, but I enjoyed it and always sugested it to anyone just getting into anime. I was younger then, and found the nudity to be almost contrived and the movie to be overly violent. Boy, how a few years can change your mind.

When I heard about the 10th Anniversary Edition, I was pretty excited. Just having some extras would be worth it, but getting the film in both widescreen and full screen? Priceless.

Though the extras are still a tad lacking -- only a director interview, dub voice actor interviews, and some trailers are given -- this two-sided DVD release stacks up pretty well when all things are considered. While the animation does seem a bit dated by today's standards, it can hold its own alongside other movies of its day.

The significance of this new release is that it did something for me that no other DVD has ever done -- it erased every doubt I ever had about this film. I feel as though I actually understand this movie better than I did before. I can actually say I "get it" now. It seems there's a lot more to this film that just showing how gruesomely someone can be killed or when the next breast shot can be thrown in. In fact, in these respects, this movie seems downright tame by today's standards! Even so, it is still one of the coolest anime flicks out there.

Set in feudal Japan, the story revolves around a wandering ninja named Jubei who offers his services to anyone willing to pay him in gold. Unbeknownst to him, a plague has ravaged a nearby village and the Koga ninjas have gone to investigate. All of the fighters are viciously slaughtered, leaving the lovely female ninja Kagero alive to report back. Captured and about to be raped by the stone-skinned beast who killed her comrades, Jubei steps in and his wanderings take a bizarre turn as he learns an enemy he once killed is still alive.

Do yourself a favor -- if you haven't picked up Ninja Scroll on DVD yet, do it! This is the perfect release to prep you for the TV series and upcoming sequel movie.