Ninja Scroll Review
Ninja Scroll is a 1993 anime action film directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. It is one of the most well regarded anime films and is a solid, but ultimately disappointing movie.
The plot is the reason why this movie is incredibly flawed. It is never particularly well crafted and the first act is awfully rushed and unexplained. We never get the characters introduced to us properly and the action drives the plot instead of going the other way around. And another problem here is that it can definitely be felt that this was a storyline better suited for a TV show which is the treatment it eventually received. It started to get a lot better from the second act onward, but I was still very much disappointed in the outcome.
The characters are flawed as well. Jubei and Gemma are pretty good, but I strongly disliked Kagero and what they did with her. She is basically eye candy here being naked most of the time and being just there for the male audience to look at. Yes, Ninja Scroll is an awfully sexist movie and I hated that. It treats women in the worst way possible which was just unpleasant to watch. But at least her death scene was emotional and a strong character driven moment for Jubei.
The voice acting is pretty good here and everyone did a nice job. The directing from Yoshiaki Kawajiri is also pretty good and the pacing is mostly good from the second act as the first one is awfully rushed. I really liked the action in Ninja Scroll. It is polished, looks well and is very entertaining to watch. The movements are well choreographed, the weapons are nicely incorporated and most of the fights are really well executed. The mythology of the world is also very good and the world building is fantastic which only adds to my disappointment that the end product is so rushed and does not use the world’s capabilities properly.
The animation in Ninja Scroll is quite good, albeit dated by now. It is crisp and looks good, but is sometimes on the TV level of quality. But the characters look good, the action is great and some scenery is great to look at. I loved a couple of scenes here with some fights being awesome and some being really intriguing. There are many fascinating choices here from a very interesting use of weapons to some great characters and especially villains.
However, what I strongly disliked is the use of violence. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad later on as it is in the first half, but some of those scenes where just too gruesome and too gory to bear. The sexual scenes were even more annoying to me due to that evident sexist approach to the characters. Some violent scenes are needed as to raise the stakes in an already mature movie, but some are just plain unnecessary in their disgusting imagery which is one of my particular pet peeves.
The emotion is there, but it is too cold at times. The tone is too serious with just a couple of comedic moments to be had. The score is very good, I must admit. It greatly accompanies some intense scenes with great sounds. The story is entertaining, but not that sophisticated and you never get anything particularly deep or complex here. The dialogue is mostly good in the scenes where it is present. But overall, this is a style over substance and a disappointing anime flick in my opinion.
Ninja Scroll has some very interesting scenes, the world building is great, the score is pretty good and the action is very well executed and mostly fantastic, but the characters aren’t that well developed, the film is rushed at times, it is always a style over substance and the film is too violent and incredibly sexist which was really annoying leading to a solid, but disappointing film.