Reviewer: Rich (Webmaster)
on: Volume 1 (anime)
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
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
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.
The defence of the hidden village.
The pointless hair controlling demon.