Rich (Webmaster)

Based on: Volume 1 (anime)

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD)

It seems to be a popular thing in Japan nowadays to resurrect old franchises for TV consumption – we’ve recently seen the Ghost in the Shell, Fist of the North Star, Astro Boy and Cyborg 009 amongst many others come to the small screen – but the small screen adaptation of the classic film Ninja Scroll is the first of this trend to hit the UK on DVD.

Once again revolving around the legendary ninja Jubei Kibagami, the TV series also reintroduces the scheming monk Dakuan from the film and introduces the beautiful swordswoman Shigure and comic relief thief Tsubute to create an unlikely central quartet.  The plot is complex, but simplistic on the surface – an ancient artefact is sought by two rival ninja clans as it has the power to unlock a prized (but unspecified) treasure when in the hands of the Wind Maiden, who happens to be the aforementioned Shigure.  Of course the artefact ends up in the hands of Jubei, who is honour-bound to give it to the Wind Maiden, who, for her part, has no idea of her own significance.  Obviously this leads to much fighting as Jubei & Shigure, now joined by Dakuan and Tsubute, strive to stop the rival ninjas from getting their hands on the artefact and Shigure herself.

The first thing to remember with Ninja Scroll is that there is a very large supernatural element.  Demonic ninjas, magical powers and monsters are all part and parcel of feudal Japan in the Ninja Scroll world, if you’re expecting straightforward swordplay then look to Rurouni Kenshin.  However, suspend disbelief and you will find a series that successfully carries the feel of the original film without making concessions in the action or violence department.

The most noticeable thing about Ninja Scroll TV is the quality of the art and animation.  Lavish backgrounds, perfectly integrated CGI, fluid movement and a superb attention to detail makes for a series that visually matches or outdoes the original film pretty much all of the time.  The fight scenes are frequent, clear and played at a frenetic pace, and surprisingly for a TV series there is quite a lot of gore flying about.  The music is excellent too, mixing very traditional Japanese styles with modern electronica to great effect, and the plot is absorbing and interesting.

In fact the only thing I can really fault this on is that some of the demon designs are a bit lazy, and look like something from an early 90’s horror anime.  Conversely though, some of the demons are superb (in particular the disturbing demonic woman who excretes flesh eating grubs and whose child lives within her, occasionally rising out of her shoulder to comment on proceedings), and some even seem very similar to characters from the excellent Trigun, so in this respect it can be a bit of a mixed bag.  There are also moments when the use of technology by one of the ninja clan clashes a bit with the period setting but to be honest these are minor quibbles and don’t really detract from it too much.

Ninja Scroll TV is a great example of how to go from the large to small screen without compromising on quality or style.  In places it plays like a very hard edged version of the excellent Inu-Yasha and is a great fantasy alternative to Rurouni Kenshin, there aren’t a lot of ninja anime series available in the UK so when one this good comes along you can’t afford to miss it.

Best Bit:  The defence of the hidden village.

Worst Bit:  The pointless hair controlling demon.


Feature:   Extras: N/A

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