Ninja Scroll

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Ninja Scroll
Ninja-Scroll-Poster.jpg
Japanese theatrical poster of Ninja Scroll
Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Produced by Kazuhiko Ikeguchi
Masako Fukuyo
Shigeru Kitayama
Written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Starring Kōichi Yamadera
Emi Shinohara
Daisuke Gōri
Takeshi Aono
Music by Kaoru Wada
Cinematography Hitoshi Yamaguchi
Editing by Yukiko Itō
Harutoshi Ogata
Studio Madhouse
Distributed by Tokyo Theatres
Release dates
  • June 5, 1993 (1993-06-05)
Running time 94 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Ninja Scroll (獣兵衛忍風帖 Jūbei Ninpūchō?) is a 1993 Japanese animated action thriller film written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. The critically acclaimed film was theatrically released on June 5, 1993, and received a Western release in 1995.

Plot[edit]

Ninja Scroll is set in feudal Japan. Five years before the start of the film, the Yamashiro clan's chief retainers (vassal lords) dig gold out of a secret mine behind their lord's back. The lord of the Yamashiro clan wants to have the gold for himself, but his forces are not strong enough, so he cannot act alone. He also cannot go to the government first, because they would take the gold if they knew about the mine. He orders his ninja team, led by Gemma Himuro, to kill the chief retainers, claiming he would then report the mine to the government. Jubei Kibagami and Shinkuro are members of this ninja team. After the chief retainers are murdered, the Yamashiro lord does not report the mine to the government. Later, Gemma orders Shinkuro and others to kill Jubei, hoping they would all kill each other, thus eliminating everyone who knew about the mine. Reluctantly, Jubei kills Shinkuro and the others in self-defense. While Gemma is riding along a pass, Jubei springs from the snow and cuts off his head to avenge Shinkuro and the others. Jubei then becomes a wandering swordsman-for-hire.

Sometime later, Gemma is inexplicably able to reincarnate himself, and over the next five years, becomes leader of a demon ninja group known as the Devils of Kimon, who in turn work for the mysterious Shogun of the Dark (really the lord of the House of Toyotomi), which holds a grudge against the current government, the Tokugawa shogunate, and wants to overthrow it. Gemma tells the Shogun of the Dark the location of the secret mine. Meanwhile, Tokugawa government spies are trying to determine where the mine is. The Shogun of the Dark sends the Devils of Kimon to protect the Yamashiro clan from the government spies and government intervention in return for gold from the mine. The Yamashiro clan sends a large shipment of gold to the Shogun of the Dark, but the ship is wrecked in a storm on the coast near the village of Shimoda, in Mochizuki clan territory. Gemma and the Devils of Kimon are sent to recover the gold. They wipe out Shimoda village by poisoning the wells to get rid of any witnesses. They make it look as if a plague has killed the villagers. The next night, a team of Mochizuki Koga ninja is sent to investigate the plague in Shimoda village, but on their way they are slaughtered. The only survivor is Kagero, who is captured and is almost raped by her assailant, a huge stone golem called Tessai. Rescued by Jubei, Kagero escapes to continue her mission, while Tessai vengefully pursues Jubei. Tessai succeeds in ambushing Jubei but is killed.

Tokugawa shogunate spy Dakuan, who had been observing Jubei, reveals that Tessai belonged to a supernatural ninja group known as the Devils of Kimon, who will constantly attack him to avenge the death of their comrade. Calling his bluff, Jubei is fatally poisoned by Dakuan in an attempt to force Jubei into his employ, the reward for his service being 100 pieces of gold and the antidote to his poison, which will kill him in under a day. The two unite with Kagero to determine the Devils of Kimon agenda and how it relates to the mysterious plague in Shimoda. Dakuan continues the main investigation on his own, using Jubei and Kagero as decoys, who must constantly fend off deadly attacks from the remaining members of the Devils of Kimon, the leader of whom is reputed to be Jubei's old nemesis Gemma, who was killed several years previously. Later on, Dakuan reveals to Kagero that the poison in Jubei can only be cured if she sleeps with him, much to her shock. During this she is abducted by the Devil Shijima, but is later rescued by Jubei.

The Devils of Kimon recover the gold and move it by cart to nearby Kishima Harbor, to have it picked up by another ship and sent to the Shogun of the Dark. Jubei, Kagero, and Dakuan attempt to stop them, but Kagero is fatally wounded by Gemma, who was impersonating her lord – the Mochizuki clan leader, Sakaki Hyobu. In her dying moments, Jubei rushes to Kagero's aid, who confesses her love for him and the two share a kiss before she passes away, curing Jubei of his poison. Enraged by the death of Kagero, Jubei fights through the enemy forces to get to the ship as it is casting off. Dakuan has also sneaked on the ship; he overhears the Toyotomi retainer and Gemma discussing the Shogun of the Dark's plan for the gold. The Shogun of the Dark plans to use the gold to buy advanced guns from Spain and to overthrow the government. Gemma, however, intends to steal the gold for himself and use it to raise the largest ninja army ever, ultimately ruling the country through fear and intimidation. Gemma kills the Toyotomi retainer, and takes over the ship. Meanwhile, Jubei and Dakuan sneak into the hold of the ship, and in a fight with Zakuro, the ship is set on fire. Gemma goes down to the hold, and in a final battle with Jubei amongst the flames, he falls into the molten gold. Jubei and Dakuan escape the burning ship while Gemma's golden body sinks with the rest of the gold to the bottom of the sea.

Characters[edit]

  • Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese)/Dean Elliott (English) as Jubei Kibagami (牙神 獣兵衛 Kibagami Jūbei?): A vagabond ninja who once served the Yamashiro clan and the main protagonist. The character is inspired by the famed Japanese folk hero Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi.
  • Emi Shinohara (Japanese)/Wendee Lee (English) as Kagero (陽炎 Kagerō?): The official food taster for the Mochizuki clan's Chamberlain. Kagero has an immunity to poisons and her work as a food taster has resulted in her body becoming poisonous due to her ingestion of so many toxins and poisons; anyone who sleeps with or even kisses her therefore dies shortly after due to the poison in her body.
  • Takeshi Aono (Japanese)/Stephen Apostolina (English) as Dakuan (濁庵?): A shady government spy who is also sent to investigate and stop the Eight Demons of Kimon and their employer, the Shogun of the Dark who wishes to overthrow the government. The character is a homage to the famed Japanese monk Takuan Sōhō.[citation needed]
  • The Eight Devils of Kimon (鬼門八人衆 Kimon Hachinin-shū?, literally meaning "Eight People of the Devil Gate") are eight demonic ninjas with supernatural powers, seven of which were gathered under Gemma Himuro's leadership after he reincarnated himself from Jubei's ambush, and appear to serve under the Shogun of the Dark.
  • Daisuke Gōri (Japanese)/Richard Epcar (English) as Gemma Himuro (氷室 弦馬 Himuro Genma?): The leader of the Eight Devils of Kimon and the last demon to be defeated. Gemma formerly served under the Yamashiro clan and was decapitated by Jubei prior to the film's events, but has acquired immortality by mastering control of his body down to the tiniest bone and blood, allowing him to reconnect any and all severed body parts, even his head or if he is split from top to bottom; Gemma can also shapeshift.
  • Ryūzaburō Ōtomo (Japanese)/Beau Billingslea (English) as Tessai (鉄斎?): The first demon to be defeated, he is an incredibly large man who has the ability to turn his skin as hard as rock and fights with a double-bladed sword, which he is capable of throwing great distances.
  • Gara Takashima (Japanese)/Joan-Carol O'Connell (English) as Benisato (紅里?): The second demon to be defeated, she is a seductive woman who has snake tattoos all over her body that can come to life, and can summon a larger quantity of snakes to envelope her victims, as well as shed her skin.
  • Reizō Nomoto (Japanese)/Milton James (English) as Mushizo (蟲蔵 Mushizō?): The third demon to be defeated, he is a hunchbacked dwarf who holds a hornet's nest in his back, is able to control these insects to do his bidding, can shoot out a needle from his throat and wields a two-pronged spear.
  • Norio Wakamoto (Japanese)/Kirk Thornton (English) as Mujuro Utsutsu (現 夢十郎 Utsutsu Mujūrō?): The fourth demon to be defeated, he is a blind swordsman who challenges Jubei to a fight to the death. He is an incredibly skilled swordsman, having an uncanny hearing ability to engage his enemy as well blinding his enemy by reflecting light from his sword.
  • Akimasa Omori (Japanese)/Sonny Byrkett (English) as Shijima (シジマ?): The fifth demon to be defeated, he has the ability to merge into the shadows, create clones of himself, fire a large metallic claw from his hand and even possess peoples' minds.
  • Toshihiko Seki (Japanese)/Richard Cansino (English) as Yurimaru (百合丸?): The sixth demon to be defeated and the right hand of Gemma. Yurimaru has the ability of generate electricity from his body, and would combine with a steel wire that wraps around his target's neck to conduct the electricity.
  • Masako Katsuki (Japanese)/Maureen O'Connell (English) as Zakuro (石榴?): The seventh demon to be defeated. She is in love with Yurimaru, who instead loves Gemma; by this end, she is very vengeful and took revenge against Yurimaru for rejecting her. Zakuro has the ability to manipulate gunpowder, and plants them inside living or dead organisms, having them move as explosive traps.
  • Shūichirō Moriyama (Japanese)/Bob Papenbrook (English) as Hyobu Sakaki (榊 兵部 Sakaki Hyōbu?): The Mochizuki clan chamberlain, he sends Kagero and the Koga clan ninja team to investigate the plague in Shimoda and she sends her reports to him throughout the film.

Production[edit]

The film is a homage to Futaro Yamada's Ninpōchō series of ninja-themed novels. The character designs were done by Yutaka Minowa.

Release[edit]

The film was also released in some regions as Jubei Ninpucho: The Wind Ninja Chronicles. It was licensed by Manga Entertainment in Australia and North America until 2012 while its UK subsidiary kept the license and releasing Ninja Scroll in a Blu-ray steelbook format in October 2012.[1] The film has since been re-licensed in North America to Sentai Filmworks who re-released the film on DVD and Blu-ray in December 2012.[2] It is not known if Manga Entertainment UK will re-license Ninja Scroll for Australia, but Madman Entertainment has not ruled out a deal with Manga.

In 1995, the BBFC cut the UK version by approximately 52 seconds, removing a rape scene and images of throwing stars. These cuts were waived for the 2004 10th Anniversary release. Ninja Scroll was released in Australia by Manga UK in 1995 uncut with the MA15+ classification. In 1997 after it was screened on SBS, former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock controversially appealed the film's original classification and successfully had the classification upgraded to R18+ with no cuts. In 2000 when Manga and Madman Entertainment released Ninja Scroll on DVD, Madman mistakenly used the UK cut of the film instead of using the uncut Australian version. This was rectified in 2004 when Manga Entertainment released the 10th Anniversary Special Edition of Ninja Scroll into western countries, and both Australia and the UK received Ninja Scroll uncut and remastered from a PAL VHS source. In Canada the film was given an R18+ rating, while it was released Unrated in the United States. The film was released on Blu-ray in Japan on May 23, 2012.[3]

Original soundtrack[edit]

Jubei Ninpucho Ninja Scroll
Soundtrack album by Kaoru Wada, Ryouhei Yamanashi
Released 2000
Label ADV Films (North America)

A soundtrack titled Jubei Ninpucho (Ninja Scroll) features music composed by Kaoru Wada from the movie. Tracks 8 and 15 are composed and sung by Ryouhei Yamanashi with lyrics by Shou Jitsukawa.

Track listing:

  1. "Prologue"
  2. "Jubei"
  3. "Eight Warriors of the Demon Clan"
  4. "Blood Wind"
  5. "Kagerou"
  6. "Visions"
  7. "Devil Shadow"
  8. "To Those Who Face the Wind"
  9. "Pursuit"
  10. "Devil Swordsman"
  11. "Strategy"
  12. "Reincarnation"
  13. "Struggle to the Death"
  14. "Epilogue"
  15. "Somewhere, Faraway, Everyone Is Listening to a Ballad"

Reception[edit]

Ninja Scroll won the Citizen's Award at the 1993 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. As of 2011, the film is rated 100% "Fresh" (5/5 positive critic reviews) with an 86% audience (over 11,000 votes) rating at Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

During the 1990s, Ninja Scroll was among the most popular anime movies outside of Japan, along with such movies as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. The North American video release of Ninja Scroll had sold more than 70,000 copies by May 1996, becoming Manga Entertainment's best-selling title at the time.[5]

Legacy[edit]

Anime series[edit]

A Japanese animated television series named Ninja Scroll: The Series aired in Japan in 2003 and ran for 13 episodes. The series is partly written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, but remains only a spiritual sequel to the film because the story stands alone; however, many references suggest that it is indeed a continuation from the movie. In the series, Jubei gets caught in the middle of a battle between the Kimon clan and the Hiruko clan. He meets up with the Light Maiden Shigure, a young lady whose village was destroyed by the Kimon clan and whom Jubei was charged with delivering a Dragon Stone to. The duo are joined by Tsubute (a young thief) and Dakuan (Tokugawa shogunate spy), and together they try to find out why both the Kimon and the Hiruko clan are after her and why the Dragon Stone she carries is so important to them. The show was directed by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico), with character design done by Takahiro Yoshimatsu (Trigun).

Anime sequel[edit]

An official sequel, Jūbē Ninpūchō 2, is classed as in production with no specific release date. The film is scheduled to be written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, and will most likely be released in the west as Ninja Scroll 2.

In North America, the Ninja Resurrection anime films were marketed as sequels to Ninja Scroll, but were actually created by a separate animation studio. The only similarity they both share is a lead character named Jubei. The Jubei in Ninja Resurrection was Yagyū Jūbei while Ninja Scroll featured Jubei Kibagami.

Comics[edit]

In September 2006, WildStorm launched a 12-issue Ninja Scroll comic book series written by J. Torres, which follows the further adventures of Jubei.[6]

Live-action adaptation[edit]

In October 2008, Warner Bros. began development of a live-action remake of the anime. The production companies Appian Way, Madhouse Productions, and Jungo Maruta are involved in development. Screenwriter Alex Tse, co-writer of the movie adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen, was hired to write the adapted screenplay. In 2008, Leonardo DiCaprio was reported to be a producer. He later considered casting the Japanese boy band SMAP as the main leads for Ninja Scroll.[7][8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Manga Entertainment: U.S. Rights to Ninja Scroll Expired". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "Sentai Filmworks Adds Penguindrum, Ninja Scroll, Letter Bee". Anime News Network. September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Jubei Ninpucho (Blu-ray) (Japan Version)". Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Ninja Scroll Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Fitzpatrick, Eileen (May 18, 1996). "Shelf Talk: Manga Chopping Out Space On Store Shelves For Its Japanimation Releases". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media): p. 67. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  6. ^ Goldstein, Hilary (August 24, 2006). "Ninja Scroll Continues". IGN. Retrieved August 4, 2013. 
  7. ^ "DiCaprio Considers SMAP for Ninja Scroll Film". Anime News Network. April 6, 2009. Retrieved February 29, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Warner Bros. Acquires Ninja Scroll". ComingSoon.net (CraveOnline). October 26, 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2010. 

External links[edit]