Combustible Celluloid
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With: Koichi Yamadera, Emi Shinohara, Takeshi Aono, Daisuke Gori, Toshihiko Seki, Shuichiro Moriyama
Written by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 06/05/1993

Ninja Scroll (1993)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The 'Scroll' Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Along with titles like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll is considered one of the classics of anime here in the West. Like many others of its genre, the plot is very complex and relies heavily on "backstory" events that occur well before the movie begins. Eventually it becomes clear that we get three heroes: a good guy, a tough, pretty girl and a wise old man. Everyone else in the story is a bad guy, and everything clicks into place.

Jubei is a wandering samurai-for-hire, with deadly sword-fighting skills. During his travels, he happens upon a village that appears to have been wiped out by a plague, but in reality, eight powerful, evil creatures, the Devils of Kimon, have done the damage in order to retrieve some lost gold. Jubei rescues a girl ninja, Kagero, but finds himself the Devils' new target; they will continue to attack him one by one. Worse, it turns out that Jubei's old enemy Gemma has been reincarnated and is behind all the violence. With the help of an elderly little spy, Jubei must survive this onslaught of deadly attacks, and -- possibly more difficult -- resist falling in love with the mysterious Kagero.

The movie features some truly dazzling action sequences and some tense fight scenes. Characters zip through the trees and move quick as a flash; there's a real sense of speed and weight to these scenes. It also does a wonderful job setting up a rich atmosphere and the time period of feudal Japan with excellent artwork and character designs. The "devils" are appropriately scary and the movie manages a constant sense of mystery and dread. It should be noted, however, that the violence is very, very strong here, including sequences of explicit sex (and even rape). This is not for kids.

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