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Ninja Scroll

Japan (1993), 94 minutes
Starring: Yamadera Kouichi, Shinohara Emi, Aono Takeshi
Reviewer: Vance Aandahl
Genre: Animation
Rating: 3
I finally got around to watching Ninja Scroll. I enjoyed its exciting music and dramatic visual effects. Having the heroine be poisonous so she cannot kiss the hero for fear of killing him is a clever device that heightens the emotional intensity of their unconsummated love. The director is equally clever in having them fall for each other after, not before, the demons’ bondage-and-sexual-defilement scenes — the contrast serves to emphasize the purity of their love. And there are some fresh, imaginative details in Ninja Scroll, for example, the demon whose hunchback is a wasps’ nest.
But the plot is familiar and routine (good guys stop bad guys from getting away with gold), and so too are most of the combat scenes. (I must confess I did like the sequence near the end when our hero caves in the bad guy’s face and hammers it into the back of his head with a series of forehead butts. I associate the forehead butt with drunken brawls in Irish and Scottish pubs, so it was refreshing to see it used in a Japanese scrap.) Finally, the little old man who leads the hero and heroine on their quest is patterned too closely, too obviously, on Yoda.
So… for your overly analytical old fart of a paterfamilias, Ninja Scroll provided a generally pleasurable viewing experience with some appealing high points but also a few moments of disappointment. It’s no Ghost In The Shell, that’s for sure, but it’s better than a lot of the artsy-fartsy pseudo-intellectual French films I pay good money to see when I go to the Esquire, the Mayan, the Cheese Artist, the Starz, and the Madstone.