Ninja ScrollNinja Scroll is a classic Anime film from 1993 that helped build the popularity of Anime in the 90’s within the US and other English Speaking countries.

The movie is set during the era of Tokugawa rule in Japan. A team of Ninja’s known as the Eight Devils of Kimon have poisoned a small village, which is being mistaken for an epidemic.  Their plan is to recover gold from a ship that will give their clan enough power to overthrow the Tokugawa government and take control of Japan.

When a group of ninjas are sent investigate, they are met by Tessai – a powerful and huge warrior who can turn his skin into stone, making him almost impervious to attack.  The group of ninja’s are killed except one, Kagero, a young, attractive woman who is riddled with poison that can kill anyone who comes into contact with her.

Tessai takes Kagero back to his place with the very clear intention to rape her, when the wandering ninja Jubei arrives and rescues her.

Tessai is ordered not to immediately go after Jubei but finds him later on and they duke it on the road when he is killed by Jubei (with some help from Kagero’s poisoning).  Some of the remaining Eight Devils go after Jubei when he is tricked into working for a small old man by the name of Dakuan.

Dakuan uses a ninja star to jar Jubei out of a state of shock and saves his life, but also poisons the star so that Jubei wil lhave to work for him in order to get the antidote.

Jubei and Dakuan meet up with Kagero and the three work together to stop the Eight (or by now 6) Devils of Kimon and prevent the collapse of the Tokugawa Government.


A Supernatural Ninja Story

This is a film which does an excellent job of giving each character unique abilities that are supernatural, without making it a ridiculous fantasy film.

While Jubei and Kagero are seemingly normal and human, Jubei is able to send a projectile cut from his sword over distances, with a small string attached to his sword as backup (in case he is disarmed).


But the more colorful characters belong to the Eight Devils.  

Under the command of Gemma you’ve got these superhuman warriors:

  • Tessai who can turn to rock
  • Zakuro who can manipulate gunpowder in a supernatureal way (for use as explosives in people or small animals)
  • Yurimaru who can generate electricity transport it through a series of strings
  • Mushizo who seems to be able to communicate with Hornets
  • Shijima who can hide in shadows and create visible clones of himself,
  • Benisato who can turn her snake tattoos in to real, venomous snakes.

Meanwhile one Devil is a blindswordsman with no real superpower other than being a functional fighter despite being blind.

Gemma is the real threat however.  He was beheaded by Jubei in the past and has the ability to reincarnate himself.  He is able to control every piece of flesh and bone (as they say in the movie) which also gives him the ability to shapeshift.

Kagero is taken by Tessai

With Gemma having been ‘killed’ by Jubei in the past, a great rivalry is created and a David vs Goliath battle is built up for the end of the film, with Jubei being the very human but highly skilled warrior taking on a strong and seemingly immortal warrior.

These mystical and supernatural themes create a Ninja story that seems to be pretty unmatched in it’s unique nature. It has excellent animation and character design. They’ve really made Ninja Scroll into something special.

We get to know the characters a little also…

Alongside all of this action we see Jubei trying his best to remind Kagero she is a real person and not just a piece of poisonous meat made for the use of her clan.  This all hits her very emotionally after being raped by Tessai. Her insecurity makes her snappy and resistant to her feelings for Jubei.

Naturally she can’t sleep with anyone due to her poisoned body, but this proves to be the perfect forbidden love that is allowed go further as her poisonous nature is the cure for Jubei’s illness. Rather Poetic isn’t it!

This movie has multiple stories and themes which create a real level of depth amongst the whole situation and the characters, presented in a pretty straight forward story line.

Sword Fight

The Martial Arts and Action

There is actually some well animated, properly thought art martial arts movements in the fights of Ninja Scroll.

When all of the supernatural business is gone, what’s left is Jubei’s swordwork, seen mostly during his fight at the end with Gemma.  If you pay attention you’ll notice some intelligent use of space and body mechanics as Jubei attacks and Gemma evades before Gemma eventually gains the upper hand (no spoilers!).

The way the two men move around each other is very close to what a real live action fight could be choreographed and shot as.  It’s only when the supernatural moves and events taking place that we see more animation specific elements to the fights – most of the fights are based around supernatural powers.

The animation is fairly slick, especially for it’s time and no element of realism is spared when a character is having his arms ripped off or beheaded – plenty of blood is shown.  This movie pulls no punches!

Do I Recommend it?

If you like ‘clean’ entertainment (no rape, gore and excessive adult themes) than you won’t appreciate this movie as much.  it is a classic however and all anime fans should watch, and many martial arts movie fans will love it as well.

On Blu Ray –

Region A (US & Canada)
Ninja Scroll [Blu-ray]

Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe etc)
Ninja Scroll Blu-ray

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
Ninja Scroll

Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Ninja Scroll – 10th Anniversary Special Edition [1995] [DVD]

Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
No Longer Available!

More info on Movie Regions here.

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