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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 10/21/98



Ninja Scroll
1995 (1998) - Magna Video

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Film Rating: A+
This is one of my all-time favorite animes -- and I've seen a boat load of anime.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B+
The audio and video are great, and the supplements are interesting. A trailer and summation of the film and it's characters. It's more than you get with the video -- and it looks better in DVD than it ever has before.

Overall Rating: A
Highly Recommended. For those of you who have problems with Ninja Scroll's quality -- keep reading for info on replacing your defective copy.

Specs and Features

94 minutes, unrated, full frame (1.33:1), single-layered, single-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, complete guide to Ninja Scroll, key character art and synopsis, trailer, Manga Video Fan Club trailer, Manga Video commercial, film-themed menu screens, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Japanese (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

Review

First let me start things off by saying that I love anime. Cute movies like Kiki's Delivery Service, middle of the road fare like Ranma 1/2, and even the borderline porn featuring spewing tentacles and white underwear. I admire the art, the use of color and the mythology that these Japanese cartoons evoke. It's all quite charming. Of course I have my favorites, and they're not just the Akiras and the Ghost In The Shells. My favorite titles are Giant Robo, Gunsmith Cats, and The New Cutey Honey -- oh, and Ninja Scroll. Honestly, Ninja Scroll is my all-time favorite anime. It's self contained, it features some of the coolest monsters ever created and it doesn't look like any cartoon ever made before it. And when I found out it was coming to DVD -- I went loopy.

Ninja Scroll is the story of Jubei, a masterless ninja who stumbles into a huge adventure, and ends up going head to head with a group of monster assassins and thieves. Actually, Ninja Scroll has always struck me as one of the Star Wars prequels -- most likely the third one. Here's my theory. Jubei is Obi-Wan, a wandering warrior who has a dark past that we aren't quite sure of. Someone he trusted has turned to the dark side of life and tried to have him killed. During this betrayal, Jubei thinks he's killed his friend and new nemesis, Gemma. But Gemma has made a pact with the devil and has the power to regenerate himself -- so he's not quite dead. While wondering the Earth, Jubei bumps into Dakuan (read: Yoda), a small, cryptic emissary from the king who is investigating the goings-on surrounding a load of gold that's turned up missing.

The gold is not the only mystery in this story. A town has suddenly turned up dead -- and a warning from a dead woman to keep away from the town, only causes a team of ninja from the Koga clan to try and find out what's going on. The group of Koga ninja, on route to the town, stumble onto the monster henchman of Gemma, who proceeds to rip everyone to shreds. He's a huge monster that can turn himself into stone and throws a huge boomerang/sword that cuts through everything in its path, including trees.

The only ninja who has survived the initial attack from Gemma's crew is the beautiful, but tortured Kagero. She is the clan's poison taster and because of her profession, she is left poisonous herself -- any man who dares make love to her, dies.

Joining Jubei and Dakuan on their quest to stop Gemma and his devils from carrying out their nefarious plan, Kagero must herself battle the rest of Gemma's henchmen. Along with the stone monster, there is a hermaphrodite who can electrocute people using a thin metallic string he keeps tied to his hand. There are two evil women, one who can cause things to explode and another who plays host to a living tattoo of snakes. And there's a hunchback who keeps a swarm of killer bees in his back, and a puppetmaster of the dead who can replicate himself and hide in the shadows. All in all, it's not a good thing that Jubei has gotten on the bad side of this crew -- aptly named the Eight Devils of Kimon.

Yes, it's pretty complicated -- but it is one of the best pieces of animation I've ever seen. It's beautiful stylized, has a great story, and has some really cool monsters (designed in several killer styles).

As for the DVD, there were many reported problems with this disc when it first came out. Among them were audio dropouts, the disc would default back to the main menu after it played the first chapter, and so on. It seemed everyone had a story to tell about this disc. Me? I never experienced a problem. Not on a Sony player, a Panasonic, an RCA or a Toshiba. That doesn't matter though, the issue stands that many did have those problems. So, I have good news for all those of you that love the movie, and are pissed that it didn't work. There is a new "fixed" version in stores now. You can spot it by the "QC" sticker on the packaging. Pick it up and you get a perfectly good copy of one of the greatest animes.

For those of you who already spent your hard-earned money, you too can get a brand new (read: working) copy. Just send your faulty copy to:

Manga Entertainment
"Please replace my Ninja Scroll"
727 N. Hudson St., Suite 100
Chicago, IL 60610

Upon receipt, they'll send you the working copy (via UPS), and a free Magna Video cap. What could be better? All the new copies have been tested and work just fine. And here's why you need to get one: DVD is the only way to watch Ninja Scroll. The colors are cool and crisp, the sound is high caliber, and this is the only way you'll get a Japanese tracked, English subtitled version of the film. It sounds so much better in Japanese than it does in English -- only because the guy playing Jubei in English is so jovial. Supplements include a trailer, a summary of the film, and a listing of all the characters in the film. It's a great anime with great packaging.

Bottom line

Fans of this film now have a reason to pick it up on DVD: it finally works. And if you spent your money on a defective copy, the good folks at Manga will replace it for you. It looks great, sounds even better, and you won't find a better anime film on DVD. That is, until the special edition of Akira finally makes it to the format.

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com




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