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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ninja Scroll
Ninja Scroll
Manga // Unrated // January 1, 1999
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Chris Hughes | posted May 15, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Features: Full Screen (Standard) - 1.33:1, Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Subtitles: English. Theatrical trailer. Available subtitles: English. Complete movie synopsis. Key character art and text files. Production notes. Manga Fan Trailer.

The Movie:
I'm a relative newcomer to the world of Anime. Until recently the only Japanamation picture I had seen was Akira. Later, after screening Ghost in the Shell I became much more interested in the genre and sought out a wider variety of films. My impression of Anime is somewhat mixed. You'll find many extremes in these films. There are sexually explicit titles, mega-violent ones, productions with amazing animation and others with sub standard images. As you can see, finding a perfect mix can be difficult.

Ninja Scroll is about as close to a perfect mix of Anime elements that you'll ever find. There's ample violence, a good deal of explicit sexual content, a solid (if a bit confusing) plot and some of the most original animation to date. The story concerns Jubei, a masterless Samurai who, against his better judgment, gets involved in a quest to vanquish an evil group of master warriors known as the Eight Devils of Kimon. Along the way Jubei links up with a female samurai called Kagero who joins him in order to exact her own vengeance on the Eight Devils. The plot isn't as complex as some other Anime titles but it is more involved than the average Hollywood fair. I recommend watching the film twice in quick succession; once to enjoy the animation and once to pick up the finer plot points.

Ninja Scroll has a unique look that reminds me of the German expressionist approach. In the quiet scenes the animation takes on a soft, almost impressionist look. When things get violent the animation shifts into an incredibly detailed and frenetic mode. The environment, costumes and lighting always work to support the plot by making the themes tangible in the visual realm. Ninja Scroll is replete with unique monsters, fantastic situations and stunningly beautiful and disturbing artwork. It's a feast from the first frame to the last.

The Picture:
The transfer on this DVD is beautiful in most respects. The color saturation (a key element in any animation title) is full but not overly intense with vivid colors that don't slip into chroma noise. The blacks are very deep without sacrificing shadow detail and I wasn't able to detect any instances of digital artifacting or edge enhancement effects. The film elements used for the transfer seem substantially free from dust, dirt, scratches and other flaws.

The Sound:
If you're heard the sound mix on Ghost in the Shell or The Matrix you'll have an idea of what to expect here. It's a very aggressive mix that takes full advantage the 360-degree sound field. Sounds fly back and forth from front to back and sweep from side to side. Thanks to a very well mixed LFE channel many of the sounds seem to move up and down as they soar and dive from high to low. There are plenty of heavy thumps, swirling surround effects and crisp musical elements to put your home theater through its paces and all of it is masterfully combined into a seamless whole. Through all of this barrage of effects and music the dialogue stays firmly planted on the center channel and is consistently clean and understandable.

The Extras:
Ninja Scroll could have really benefited from a special edition. I would have loved to have seen a documentary along the lies of the one found on Ghost in the Shell. I'm sure everyone involved in this project has interesting things to say about how it was done. As it is the only extra of note on the disc is a collection of detailed text screens that offer an outline of the plot (handy of you're having trouble following the action on screen) and profiles of the characters. The US theatrical trailer is also included along with a Manga Video sampler showing brief clips from many of their other releases.

Conclusion:
Ninja Scroll is clearly one of the best Anime titles available. It's visually innovative, thematically complex and eminently enjoyable. It should be noted that much of the content here is adult in nature and not suitable for small children. That being said I highly recommend this disc to fans of the genre, animation, action and science fiction films.
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