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Japanese theatrical poster of Ninja Scroll
|Directed by||Yoshiaki Kawajiri|
|Produced by||Kazuhiko Ikeguchi
|Written by||Yoshiaki Kawajiri|
|Music by||Kaoru Wada|
|Edited by||Yukiko Itō
|Distributed by||Tokyo Theatres|
Ninja Scroll (獣兵衛忍風帖 Jūbē Ninpūchō?) is a 1993 Japanese animated chanbara film written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. The film was theatrically released on June 5, 1993, and received a Western release in 1995.
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 Genma 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, Genma orders Shinkuro and the other ninjas to kill each other, thus eliminating everyone who knew about the mine. Reluctantly, Jubei kills Shinkuro his friend in self-defense, while the other team members lie dead. While Genma 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, Genma 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. Genma 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. Genma 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 sexually assaulted by a huge stone demon called Tessai. Before Tessai can rape her, however, she is rescued by Jubei, who blinds him in one eye. Kagero continues her mission, while Tessai vengefully pursues Jubei. Tessai ambushes Jubei but Jubei manages to kill him. It is later revealed that this was possible because Tessai had been poisoned earlier when he kissed Kagero during his assault upon her.
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 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 shortly. 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 Genma, 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 Genma, who was impersonating her lord – the Mochizuki clan leader, Sakaki Hyobu (whom he had killed earlier). 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 Genma 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. Genma, 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. Genma 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. Genma goes down to the hold, and in a final battle with Jubei amongst the flames, he falls into the molten gold, and trapped in a shell hardened by the cold waters of the sea, Genma's gilded body sinks with the rest of the gold to the bottom of the sea.
A brief epilogue aboard the sinking wreckage of the Toyotomi ship show Jubei, resting from his injuries and mourning the death of Kagero, being complimented by Dakuan for giving Kagero a brief taste of happiness, musing with genuine respect how a "heartless ninja" like himself can never be capable of such sincerity and human kindness. Jubei sees through the spy's final ploy to silence him once they reach Edo for his payment, dissolves their partnership in disgust, and wanders into the wilderness alone once more, with Kagero's Headband tied around his Katana's scabbard in loving remembrance.
- Kōichi Yamadera (Japanese) and Dean Elliott (English) as Jubei Kibagami (牙神 獣兵衛 Kibagami Jūbē?): 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) and Wendee Lee (English) as Kagero (陽炎 Kagerō?): The official poison taster for the Mochizuki clan's Chamberlain. Kagero has an immunity to poisons as her work as a poison 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. The character is a homage to Futaro Yamada's first novel in Ninpōchō series: The Kouga Ninja Scrolls.
- Takeshi Aono (Japanese) and 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.
The Eight Devils of Kimon
The Eight Devils of Kimon (鬼門八人衆 Kimon Hachinin-shū?, literally meaning "Eight People of the Demon 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) and Richard Epcar (English) as Genma Himuro (氷室 弦馬 Himuro Genma?): The leader of the Eight Devils of Kimon and the last demon to be defeated. Genma 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; Genma can also shapeshift as a side effect of his mastery of his entire body. He can't be killed due to his immortality, but is instead encased in molten gold and trapped at the bottom of the ocean for eternity.
- Ryūzaburō Ōtomo (Japanese) and 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. He is essentially invulnerable until his stone skin falls apart as a result of him being poisoned by Kagero while trying to rape her.
- Gara Takashima (Japanese) and 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. She is killed by Yurimaru after she failed to kill Jubei, but also because of Yurimaru's jealousy towards her for being Gemma's lover.
- Reizō Nomoto (Japanese) and Milton James (English) as Mushizo (蟲蔵 Mushizō?): The third demon to be defeated, he is a hunchbacked monk warrior 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. He is killed by Jubei in a fight under water when the hornets try to escape from the water, fatally stinging their master.
- Norio Wakamoto (Japanese) and 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. He is apparently the only Kimon Demon without supernatural powers. He is killed by Jubei during a sword duel which he loses due to Kageros sword blocking his own, which he could not hear, making it seem like Jubei had both blocked and attacked at the same time.
- Akimasa Omori (Japanese)and 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. He is killed by Jubei during Jubei's rescue of Kagero, whom he had hypnotized to try to kill Jubei, when Jubei throws his sword into the shadows just as Shijima attempts to hide in them.
- Toshihiko Seki (Japanese) and Richard Cansino (English) as Yurimaru (百合丸?): The sixth demon to be defeated and the right hand of Genma. 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. Zakuro "accidentally" blows him up during his fight with Jubei, most likely because of her hatred towards him after Yurimaru rejected her.
- Masako Katsuki (Japanese) and Maureen O'Connell (English) as Zakuro (石榴?): The seventh demon to be defeated. She is in love with Yurimaru, who instead loves Genma (Genma is apparently bisexual, as he apparently sleeps with both Yurimaru and Benisato); 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. She is killed by Dakuan and Jubei on the ship when they ignite her gunpowder body.
- Shūichirō Moriyama (Japanese) and 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.
- Katsuji Mori (Japanese) and Kirk Thornton (English) as Hanza (半佐?): The captain for Koga clan ninja team.
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In 1995 most American viewers got their early glimpses of Ninja Scroll from MTV, which previously had much success in debuting new animations during their hit series Liquid Television. For Ninja Scroll, MTV cleverly used small snippets of the film, showcasing the style and action, as a teaser commercial for the upcoming The Maxx series marathon. It caught attention, generated a buzz among animation fans and caused a series of pre-internet investigations into where the full film came from and was to be released. 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 released the movie in a Blu-ray steelbook format in October 2012. 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. 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 the sexual assault 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 January 1998 it broadcast twice on midnights on the new Teletoon station in Canada along with the Macross Plus trilogy.
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 18A rating, while it was released Unrated in the United States. The film was released on Blu-ray in Japan on May 23, 2012.
|Jubei Ninpucho Ninja Scroll|
|Soundtrack album by Kaoru Wada, Ryouhei Yamanashi|
|Label||ADV Films (North America)|
- "Eight Warriors of the Demon Clan"
- "Blood Wind"
- "Devil Shadow"
- "To Those Who Face the Wind"
- "Devil Swordsman"
- "Struggle to the Death"
- "Somewhere, Faraway, Everyone Is Listening to a Ballad"
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.
During the 1990s, Ninja Scroll was among the most popular anime movies outside 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.
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).
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.
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.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- "Manga Entertainment: U.S. Rights to Ninja Scroll Expired". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- "Sentai Filmworks Adds Penguindrum, Ninja Scroll, Letter Bee". Anime News Network. September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
- "TELETOON - Adult Shows". Teletoon.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 1998.
Various Animé from Japan
Jan 3 & 9 - Ninja Scroll
Jan 10 & 16 - Macross Plus I
Jan 17 & 23 - Macross Plus II
Jan 24 & 30 - Macross Plus III
Fri. & Sat.: midnight
- "Jubei Ninpucho (Blu-ray) (Japan Version)". Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- Ninja Scroll Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
- 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.
- Goldstein, Hilary (August 24, 2006). "Ninja Scroll Continues". IGN. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
- "DiCaprio Considers SMAP for Ninja Scroll Film". Anime News Network. April 6, 2009. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- "Warner Bros. Acquires Ninja Scroll". ComingSoon.net. CraveOnline. October 26, 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
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