Ninja Scroll (1993)

ninja scroll poster 1993 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking anime

Story takes a while to get going

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Ninja Scroll

Studio:  Victor Company of Japan (JVC)/Toho Company/Movic

Genre(s):  Animated/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  June 5, 1993 (Japan)/June 20, 1995 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

ninja scroll kibagami jubei

Jubei to the rescue?

Kibagami Jubei has been pulled into a war that he didn’t intend to fight.  Poisoned by Dakuan, Jubei learns that only by helping stop a team of superhuman ninja called the Eight Devils of Kimon can Jubei get the antidote he needs to save himself.  The Eight Devils of Kimon have driven out the residents of a town and have captured a prize that could change the course of the region…Jubei, Dakuan, and a mysterious woman named Kagero could be the only thing standing in their way!

Directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Ninja Scroll (獣兵衛忍風帖 or Jūbē Ninpūchō), is a Japanese action-adventure anime.  The film was released to critical acclaim and was an influence on films and series which followed.

While I have seen the other early crossover hits Akira and The Ghost in the Shell, I hadn’t seen Ninja Scroll (despite owning a copy of the follow-up TV series).  The movie feels ahead of its time in look and execution, but it also feels less influential by today’s standards because so many have copied the format…which means it really could almost be more influential.

ninja scroll rape scene kagero

Poor Kagero is put through the ringer in this movie…

The series is a jidaigeki-chanbara film which is roughly considered a Japanese period drama involving samurai and set in the feudal Japan.  This storyline was obviously played out in countless movies before Ninja Scroll, but Ninja Scroll took the story and style and applied it to anime in a way that has the same kinetic energy that is hard for animation to sometimes capture.  It feels like a real-life samurai movie but it also has the advantage of having the unlimited imagination of animation.

The story is a bit overly complex and is benefited by multiple viewings.  It is a movie for adults and carries adult themes (there is a very uncomfortable rape scene that might be too intense for some viewers).  The movie has such great action sequences that you potentially lose yourself in them and forget what’s going on.  Ninja Scroll might take a bit more focus than your average animated action film (something that also has been continued in modern animation and anime).

ninja scroll snake woman

American animated snakes would do a better job at covering your privates, lady!

The movie is wrapped around Jubei, and he is a likeable character.  He has that code of honor which is unique to the samurai and sometimes hard to grasp for people not raised in the culture.  Jubei has been tricked into fighting for his life, but even when he is given a potential out, he takes the high road (at risk to himself).  In a world where “fasten your seatbelt first then help others” is the mantra, putting others before yourself regardless if you might not be 100% is something that isn’t accessible to everyone.

Ninja Scroll is a great anime that is high on action and features a story that requires concentration.  The Jubei character is good and a follow-up series (that doesn’t make many overt references to this film) was released in 2003 and is a worthy follow-up for fans of this film…check them both out!

Related Links:

Ninja Scroll:  The Series Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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