Las Vegas Film Society

Ninja Scroll

director YOSHIAKI KAWAJIRI original story and screenplay YOSHIAKI KAWAJIRI
character design and animation director YUTAKA MINOWA art director HIROMASA OGURA
director of photography HITOSHI YAMAGUCHI sound director YASUNORI HONDA

Well, being this is the first "anime" film that I am writing up, I suppose it would be wise for me to define what is "anime" and what type of things am I looking at when reviewing such a film.

"Anime" is short for "Animation" and that particular term refers to Japanese animation (also sometimes referred to as "Japanimation.") When I am reviewing an "anime", I basically still use the standard formula for film review (i.e. plot, characters, direction, sound, flow, etc...) with one major addition, and that is quality of the artwork and the smoothness of the animation.

The major difference between American animation and Japanese animation is level of realism and amount of detail. For instance, in an american cartoon (including Disney), more often than not the main characters on the screen are the only things moving. Sometimes, they seem like the only things ON the screen (simple cartoon layout: A fence, blue for the sky, and two characters interacting). In a Japanese cartoon, they are basically trying to recreate a realistic environment through animation. For instance, the grass is blowing, the clouds are moving, the wind is affecting not only the clothes on the main characters, but everything in the background as well. The sun is causing glare, glass shatters, people scream, and occaisonally, they also die. (Unlike deaths that occur in Disney films, which almost always occur by the villain falling to his/her death and meeting that fate somewhere far below and out of sight.)

Ok, all that out of the way, I do believe that 'Ninja Scroll' is one of the best of the best of the "anime" crop. Like I said earlier, the artwork/animation is absolutely gorgeous, the best I have ever seen. The storyline is absolutely brilliant, and, for lack of a better word, the "direction" of the characters is simply superb. The Japanese have mastered the art of making cartoons not only look like the real thing, but making good use of such efforts by providing the type of quality writing that would be in demand in any major Hollywood production.

The premise behind 'Ninja Scroll' is basically the interaction between a vagabond drifter "Ninja for Hire" and a government agent who accidentally get entagled when the drifter kills one of the infamous "eight devils of Kimone," who the agent is following. There is, of course, several minor plots that are all entagled within' the main storyline, but to discuss any of those here, now, would only serve to ruin the experience of seeing this movie for the most part unawares.

Even if you are not a fan of real world animation, or have never even seen an 'anime', I highly recommend renting (or buying) this film. It is available in both English subtitled and dubbed versions, so you may chose whether to accept the voice acting (not too bad in this film, believe it or not!) or whether you are in the mood to read a good movie.

'Ninja Scroll' runs approximately 94 minutes and is not rated. I personally recommend this movie as a 17 and older film as it does contain nudity, sexual situations, and extreme violence. Everything you need to complete that holiday weekend.


Another proud member of the Emperor family.