Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

Ninja Scroll


Starring (voice): Daisuke Gouri, Emi Shinohara, Kouichi Yamadera and Takeshi Aono
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 18
Available 26 November 2012

Jubei Kibagami is a masterless ninja for hire, following a previous mission, which saw his whole group destroyed. Taking shelter from the rain in an abandoned house Jubei’s meditations are disturbed when an unconscious Kagero is dragged in by an enormous brute with rape on his mind. She had been sent by her lord to discover the reason for a sudden plague and reports of men fleeing the area. He is forced to fight and kill the rapist and rescue the girl. Thinking that it was the end of the matter Jubei is angry when the elderly government agent, Dakuan, poisons him to gain his help against the Dark Shogun. Eventually, Kegero rejoins Jubei and the three travel towards danger and the Devils of Kimon and danger...

Ninja Scroll (1993 - 1 hr, 27 min, 53 sec) is an anime film, written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. The film was successful enough to spawn an anime show.

Ninja Scroll is generally held in high regard and stands as one of the three anime films which popularised the format in the west and for good reason.

Anyone who has suffered through endless Edo inspired ninja shows, whose only reason for existence is the fight sequences, will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Ninja Scroll has a solid, if tragic, story at its heart. Jubei is not a testosterone poisoned moron, there are points in the film when it looks like his prodigious talent with a sword will fail him. This was an important aspect of the film. It was not based on a long running manga, so the audience has no idea whether Jubei, although he remains the central figure, will survive to the end of the film. It also gives his character more than the usual two dimensional personalities, which populate Edo shows.

Kegero is an angry woman, although even the loss of her whole ninja team cannot explain her hostility towards Jubei. What initially looks like ingratitude for him rescuing her from the rape, is brought into sharp focus when Dakuan reveals that Jubei didn’t defeat the first devil by himself, but that as soon as the devil touched Kegero he was a dead man walking. Having spent many years testing for poison, Kegero’s body is so infused with the stuff that any man who touches her dies. This has left her isolated and angry, as she can never more be touched, like a woman. As the relationship between Jubei and Kegero grows this barrier makes their growing, mutual, affection all the more tragic.

With two intense characters the film needs some comic relief to balance it out, so we have the wizened Dakuan, who is on his own mission to stop the devils and their master. He is not above using the budding lovers for his own ends.

On its initial release, the film was cut for a western audience, with the rape scene and some sections of throwing stars taken out. The film presented here is the full uncut version. To be honest the rape scene isn’t that graphic, there are a few shots of bare breasts, only if you find the idea of a bloke so big he can get half of Kegero face in his mouth over stimulating will you run into trouble.

The animation style looks a little dated in places, though the artists have not stuck to one single style and many of the shots have a semi-experimental feel to the visuals, which help to keep it relevant to a modern audience.

The film is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio, with a very clear print. There is no reference to it being restored, so I presume that they got the film from one of the original prints, given its lack of faults. You have options for either an English 5.1 Dolby Digital track or the original Japanese 2.0 stereo track, with English subtitles. Normally I would have gone with the original Japanese track, but, here, the English dub is as good as the original.

The disc has a number of extras, including the original trailer (2 min, 04 sec) and TV spot (24 sec). The main extra is a full length commentary moderated by Ohnuma Hirojuki and contributions from director Yoshiaki Kawajiri and character designer Yutaka Minowa. It’s an in-depth, honest and illuminating look at the making of the show and well worth a listen.

Although looking a little aged in places, there is still much to enjoy in the strong narrative and innovative use of animation.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£13.99 (
£13.99 (
£14.00 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.