Review: Ninja Scrolls (TV)

Genres – action, adventure, comedy, horror, supernatural

Nnja Scroll TV

Fourteen years after defeating the immortal warrior Himuro Genma and thwarting the Shogun of the Dark’s evil plans, Kibagami Jubei continues to roam all over Japan as a masterless swordsman. During his journey, he meets Shigure, a priestess who has never seen the world outside her village. But when a group of demons destroys the village and kills everyone, Jubei becomes a prime target after acquiring the Dragon Jewel – a stone with an unknown origin. Meanwhile, Shigure – along with the monk Dakuan and a young thief named Tsubute – travels to the village of Yagyu. And with two demon clans now hunting down Shigure, Dakuan must once again aquire Jubei to protect the Princess of Light named Shigure.
STORY2.9

What’s better than seeing an awesome samurai beat the tar out of bad guys rocking a cool beat? Maybe an awesome story as well? While Ninja Scrolls certainly has many “awesome” moments, it’s story is about par with most ‘brave hero rescues princess’ stories.

Par as it may be, Ninja Scroll has its element of surprise, reaching into the void of weird encounters and pulling out nightmarish demons and foes alike. Each episode is its own horror story, with Jubei and his core companions being the only ones to survive usually. I’ll have to warn you, there is a lot of weird and horrific violence in the show, even to the point of seeing someone drink a dead man’s blood. Whether its the risque (it did earn on technicality the “ecchi” label, although I would differ still) or creepy factor, its not your kids show. Still, seeing Jubei defeat his foes with nothing but his sword and wits is what made the show significant. And to the degree that the Light Maiden Shigure made her presence in the story, there is a lot of love given to Jubei.

Having said this, Shigure’s plight and ultimate purpose was definitely a cool move for the show. All the fire and smoke, and fierce enemies were a huge plus when our Hero beats them all. But at the same time, getting to that purpose did require going through a quagmire of twists which might seem a little cheesy with the average acting skills. Or should I say bad acting skills? Even though they do get some nice ratings, don’t misunderstand: A character may very well do well in a show dispite bad lines or bad story telling, but that still can’t you out of the ditch. Consider at the end with poor Shigure: Jubei is a hero, and she all the more greatful, yet dispite being around them, you feel Shigure’s past and future is largely a mystery, and there is some cause to feel frusterated.

Now, I did feel the way Jubei’s and Shigure’s ending departure like the old classic stories, but this also got the show in more trouble. Because it feels unsatisfactory. Jubei is just going to travel beyond, never finding peace and leaving a romantically confused stiff-board to soften without ever getting to be soft. And when looking back at the somewhat cheesy Samurai Jack ending, and your further bothered by the apparent bad overall taste Ninja Scroll leaves you.

Without a doubt, a cool idea that just never made it to the level it should have. And for all those Samurai-Jack lovers, it almost a let down that a grown-up version gets even worse acting skills than a show that didn’t really REQUIRE acting skills to begin with.

EMOTIONAL DRAW3.7

Humor in the show is reserved, and probably rightfully so. As I said, Ninja Scroll is not a kids show, and some of the enemies (in particular that tree demon we meet), employed some powerful, even loathsome emotions from the viewer.

There was a scene involving the same tree demon which sees her getting raped by another grotesque demon. And as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, the events that occur afterwards were really gross. Or the beginning scenes with that demon in the shed….quite the weird horror going on. Really, if you get easily upset over intense material, Ninja Scroll is probably not your show.

Now…as for acting, well the show probably tried hard with their one take. Don’t expect very much emotions from many of the cast members, because it wasn’t a very big focus from the director. He probably took one take with the sentences and maxed out his budget! How absurd to waste intense scenes and powerful moments in a show because you didn’t care enough to go over the material a few more times.

Ninja Scroll was decent, but not too good. It had some moments but combined with the lack of enough emotions in the anime and the prolonged scenes (from which Samurai Jack had some inspiration I’ll wager) made it forgettable. Ouch. Still the ending wasn’t so bad, as it certainly struck some well timed feelings, particularly with Shigure….if only the rest of it was half as good…

CHARACTERS4.08

Jubei 1 Jubei 2Jubei – 4.8

Not bad. He was the most consistent of the characters. You really got into him, which felt was a lost cause at the end with all the mono-toning going on. In fact, his voice was rather good. A champion for justice, Jubei further rocks a sweet beat whenever he gets into his groove, and definitely was the highlight of the show.

Shigure 3 Shigure Shigure – 3.7

She is the light maiden whom everyone is chasing. Not too much is known about the maiden, so besides her great looks or soft voice, there’s not really much to further deepen your interest. Seriously…the lack of attention for details in voices took away much of the impactful scenes, and is about the only reason she gets such a grade (I guess I’m feeling half-full today).

DakuanDakuan – 4.7

Well done little priest. Ugly but had very good humor in a world where average is normal. One of the few with good acting skills, he has a few surprises to show you throughout the show, and was pretty legit when he needed to be.

Tsubute

Tsubute – 3.1

Decent character, worse voice talent. We first meet him on a road attempting to steal the jewel Shigure possesses. Somewhat of a bumbler who’s always trying to steal, he accompanies the group and ends up changing his ways of a sort.

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CREATIVITY 3.5

Decent at best. The uniqueness of every occurrence and the horror-like feel of the show with its harsh drawings made it so you didn’t stay bored with some of the bad acting. I did feel however that some of the classic Samurai Jack feel was lost in some of the transit, with the author’s attempt to make every encounter more disastrous a little too much. The simplistic scenery was forgettable and perhaps got in the way a few times, but overall decent.

Music is a classic rock and roll feel, and although not noted as much as it deserves, the main theme will rock your socks off when the going gets tough. Definitely a highlight of the show was the beginning intro (his theme song), and helped put you into the mood for watching something very strange yet mesmerizing.
OVERALL SCORE3.46

(Ninja Scroll is a classic Samurai adventure story set in a unearthly time period when evil lurks behind every rock. Although the acting will rob some or a lot of the glamor (depending on your patience) , I believe you’ll find Ninja Scrolls worth a watch)

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