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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/6/03

Ninja Scroll
10th Anniversary Edition - 1994 (2003) - Manga Video

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Ninja Scroll: 10th Anniversary Edition Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/B+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A

Specs and Features
94 minutes, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.75:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-layered, dual-sided, Digipak packaging, interview with Yoshiaki Kawajiri, key character art and synopsis, text-based history of historical Jubei, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (24 chapters), languages: English and Japanese (DD 5.1 EX & DTS-ES 6.1), French and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

Ninja Scroll, the exciting story a masterless ninja named Jubei, is back on DVD... bigger, badder and tricked out in its new 10th Anniversary Edition form. But is it necessary and is it good? You'd better believe it.

Considering this is one of the greatest animes ever made, you should all know the drill by now. While wandering the Earth, Jubei bumps into Dakuan, a small cryptic emissary from the Emperor who is investigating a load of gold that's turned up missing. But the missing gold isn't the only mystery in this story. An entire town's citizens have turned up dead - and a warning from a dying woman to keep away from the town only causes a panic. Searching for an answer, a team of ninja from the Koga clan try to find out what's going on. But while en-route, they bump heads with the henchmen of Gemma, the suspected leader of a gang of thieves and assassins known as the Eight Devils of Kimon. One of Gemma's henchmen, Tessai, is a huge man/monster that can turn himself into stone (and throws a huge boomerang/sword that cuts through everything in its path). Tessai proceeds to rip everyone into shreds. Everyone that is, except for the beautiful and tortured Kagero. Kagero is the clan's poison taster and, because of her profession, her entire being is left poisonous. Any man who dares make love to her, dies. Tessai and Kagero play a literal game of cat and mouse, until she is "saved" by Jubei, who now finds himself smack dab in the middle of these two mysteries... mysteries that involve his own past. Together Kagero, Jubei and Dakuan must fight to stop Gemma and the other Eight Devils from carrying out their nefarious plan.

The cast of villains here, and the battles with them, is what makes this film so great. Along with Tessai the stone monster, and Gemma, there is Yurimaru a hermaphrodite who can electrocute people using a thin metallic string he keeps tied to his hand, and Mujuru the honorable but deadly blind swordsman. There are two evil woman in the group as well. Zakuro, whose power is to cause things to explode, and Benisato, who plays host to a living tattoo of deadly snakes. There's also Mushizo, a hunchback who keeps a swarm of killer bees in his back, and Shijima, a puppet master of the dead who can replicate himself and hide within the shadows. All in all, it's not a good thing that Jubei has gotten on the bad side of this crew.

Yes, the story, with its swirling battles and dense subplots, is pretty complicated. Still, this is one of the best pieces of Japanese animation I've ever seen. It's beautiful, stylized, has a great story, and has some really cool and wonderfully designed monsters.

Manga went above and beyond for this new 10th Anniversary set. First is the film's presentation. Available here in both full frame and anamorphic widescreen (both totally remastered), you can't help but marvel at the work that was done. Ninja Scroll's original aspect ratio is 4x3, and always will be full screen 4x3, but Manga went ahead and created a brand new 16x9 version for those of us with widescreen TVs, to fulfill the whole cinematic experience home theater enthusiasts strive for everyday. This, of course, involved a very long, expensive and meticulous modification of the film in order to display it in its new aspect ratio of 1:75:1. Now, unless you have a new fangled TV screen, you really won't see much of a difference aside from the black bars lending a bit of credibility. But those with an anamorphic set will definitely reap the benefits of the new "reversioning." And keep in mind that the original version is here too for purists.

The sound is presented in an English dub and the original Japanese, both in DTS-ES 6.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX. Both sound great, with no real standout between the two. French and Spanish are also available in Dolby Digital 2.0.

The extras are a bit on the light side for a special edition. We get new menus, character synopsis, a text history of the real Jubei, a long and tedious interview with director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (where he lets us in on the fact that a true sequel is in the works - not to be confused with the Ninja Scroll TV series) and an interview with voice actors Wendee Lee (Kagero) and Dean Wein (Jubei). It's all interesting to see, except that I'm not a big fan of Wein's work in this film, so hearing him expound didn't thrill me much. The disc is rounded out by the standard Manga/Palm/Sputnik video propaganda. All in all, it's not a bad disc, if you ask me. It's enough just to get the stupendous video and audio presentation.

You can't really chalk this DVD off as a re-issue, because the film has been gone over so well. So my advice is to chuck your old edition and pick this one up instead.

Todd Doogan
[email protected]

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