Tom (Webmaster)

Based on: Volume 1 (anime)

UK Distributor:  MVM (DVD)

Based upon the classic film of the same name, the TV series of Ninja Scroll looks set to be just as big due to giving more the action that made the film so popular.

Ninja Scroll starts off simple enough – there is a mystical stone (entitled the ‘dragon stone’) which brings power to those who possess it.  Unsurprisingly all manner of demonic beasts are after this treasure but thankfully it falls into the hands of our hero – the great ninja Jubei – during the first episode.  It is given to him by a dying man who asks him to deliver it to a young lady who is supposedly the ‘Wind Maiden’ and Jubei keeps his promise.  Throw a standard wise monk, a standard comic relief naďve thief and a horde of endless demons into the mix and bang!  You have an action series!

Ok the plot does sound a bit thin but surprisingly it is an interesting as the story folds very gradually, only telling the viewer what they need to hear in-between the action.  Plot elements are not repeated as often as you would expect from an anime of this kind and this allows for more of what Ninja Scroll is best at – action.

The action in Ninja Scroll is second-to-none and is well animated with speed-lines aplenty. The sword fights that feature are some of the best to grace an anime series and are only better by Samurai X (a.k.a Rurouni Kenshin).  There is also humour thankfully with Jubei delivering the odd quip and you can’t beat a TNT throwing monk who often makes himself useful rather then just spouting philosophy all the time.  The bad guys are a little disappointing though as many of the demons look a bit lame and will probably remind of the many demon anime of the early 90’s with their large animal bodies and stupid facial expressions.  This is a shame as some of the demons really are creepy, but not enough of them to inject a feeling of dread when an enemy does show up.  When an enemy does show up though forget about characterisation, as they are often dead within minutes of arriving.  This can be a good and bad thing as on one hand you will know an enemy is usually doomed no matter how hard they are, but on the other hand you get a good fight and the quick death means that there will soon be another fight with a demon who fights differently.  I lean more towards the latter on this, as it was refreshing to see an action anime where the characters do not talk for half the episode before getting down to business.  Ninja Scroll’s approach is to deliver the action thick and fast and it works.

A mention must also go to the surprisingly eclectic soundtrack.  There is a variety of styles, right from the traditional opening to techno during fighting.  Initially it did not sound quite right but during the second episode it ‘clicked’ with me and from then on I loved the varied style which fitted very well with changing scenery of Ninja Scroll.  This is not like most demon anime which are set to dark hellish backgrounds.  Instead you are treated to the lush landscapes you would expect from Japan’s feudal era, which are much easier on eye.

Overall I found Ninja Scroll to be hugely entertaining and I couldn’t wait to witness the next fight, none of which disappointed.  Great action, fluid animation, clever music all make up one of the best action titles available in the UK.


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