Ninja Scroll TV
Four years after his clash with Hibari Genma and his ambitions, Kibagami Jubei finds himself caught in the middle of another power struggle between ninja clans. In the middle of it all, between the destruction of the village where Shigure served as a priestess and the secret of the Dragon Jewel, Jubei will once again have to put his skills to the test if he wants to survive.
When talking about this show, it's a given that one also has to mention its prequel, the Ninja Scroll movie, which, to this day, remains one of my favorite action pieces involving the feudal era, even if it's halfway made up. The Ninja Scroll movie was a fairly simple, but tense, tragic and ludicruously violent affair, and it kicked ass both literally and figuratively.
You could probably not call Ninja Scroll, the TV series Madhouse's best work, but the show doesn't really suffer much on the visual end. No, it doesn't look as good as the movie -- I didn't really expect it to -- but for what it's worth, the TV series also have a good sense for visual designs, particularly when it comes to the characters. Some of them are maybe a little bit too cartoonishly goofy for their own good, but that's more in line with another problem the show has.
In contrast, the music was kind of boring, and also somewhat out of line with what the movie had on offer. Where the movie, not counting the superhuman abilities of most of the villains, stuck to a realistic representation of the world the show was built around, the TV series largely eschews this, particularly as we get close to the end. This is easily represented by the musical tracks, sticking mostly to traditional fare in the movie, but mixing in large amounts of generic quasi-electronic tracks for the TV series.
The story fares little better. The movie managed to keep secret revelations being uncovered at an even pace, which is the way to go if you want to keep viewer interest. But then, there's the TV series, where they chose to lay it out, fantasy style, with a set goal in mind and a princess to guard. There isn't going to be any huge surprises or shocking revelations here. That is unfortunately going to be painfully obvious right from the beginning.
All this is what Robert Nelson already mentioned in his review, but there was one more thing I'd like to mention that he didn't: one thing that I felt was more detrimental to Ninja Scroll - The TV series than any of the other stuff. The apparent need for comic relief. Actually, even worse; the need for comic relief characters. Early in the show, we are introduced to Tsubute, a goofball thief. While he's talented enough in a fight against most normal people, his contributions in the more serious fights are lacking, to say the least, which leave his offerings being the kind of guy who sticks around due to pride and being the "thug with a heart of gold", even if he sticks out like a fifth wheel, which is exactly what he was. He literally meets his match in a later episode, though THIS character's appearance was thankfully kept to a single episode, as was the last and worst of the comic relief characters; Rokai of the Yagyu clan, who acts in a effeminate manner and has the ability to control his body fat in ways that makes him look like a cross between a demented evil princess from a Disney show and one of the hopefuls in the Dunkin' Donuts mascot contest. So if you thought the movie didn't feel enough like a Saturday Morning Cartoon Special, then these guys are here to help the TV series succeed with that.
Ninja Scroll, the TV series would have been disappointing enough as a standalone show. For being a sequel to one of my favorite anime action pieces, it's even more so. The fact that it's not as bad as Ninja Resurrection or Sword of Truth is little comfort, and I can only hope the second Ninja Scroll movie, should I ever have the chance to watch it, is more of a return to form.
This is really Ninja Scroll? Seriously? — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Like the movie, this is not for children. Though nowhere near as pornographic as the movie, there is a ton of grotesque violence and an implied rape scene to go along with it.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, bilingual
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Ninja Scroll TV © 2003 Kawajri Yoshiaki / Mad House / Jubei Ryunohodyokugumi
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