Japanese film poster
|Directed by||Yoshiaki Kawajiri|
|Produced by||Shigeaki Komatsu
|Screenplay by||Yoshiaki Kawajiri|
|Music by||Kaoru Wada|
|Edited by||Harutoshi Ogata
|Distributed by||Tokyo Theatres|
Ninja Scroll (獣兵衛忍風帖 Jūbē Ninpūchō, lit. “Jubei the Wind Ninja”) is a 1993 Japanese animated jidaigeki–chanbara film written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, starring the voices of Kōichi Yamadera, Emi Shinohara, Takeshi Aono, Daisuke Gōri, Toshihiko Seki and Shūichirō Moriyama. The film was a co-production between JVC, Toho, Movic and Animate, with Madhouse serving as the animation studio. Ninja Scroll was theatrically released in Japan on June 5, 1993, and received an English-dubbed release in Western countries through Manga Entertainment in 1995.
The film takes place in feudal Japan and follows Kibagami Jubei, a mercenary swordsman who battles the Eight Devils of Kimon, a team of ninjas with supernatural powers who are intent on overthrowing the Tokugawa shogunate. During his quest, he is aided by Dakuan, an elderly but crafty government spy, and Kagero, a Koga kunoichi whose body is infused with poisonous toxins. Ninja Scroll’s story and style was influenced by the works of novelist Futaro Yamada and Western spy fiction, with Jubei’s character being loosely inspired by the historical figure Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi.
Praised for its animation and action scenes, Ninja Scroll is regarded by many as one of the most influential anime films ever made. Alongside Akira and Ghost in the Shell, it was responsible for increasing the popularity of adult-oriented anime outside of Japan. The film has been cited by The Wachowskis as an influence on The Matrix franchise, and resulted in Kawajiri later contributing to two segments of the anthology film The Animatrix.
In Edo period–Japan, the Yamashiro clan mines gold in secret, and sends a shipment to the Toyotomi Shogun of the Dark as payment for his protection. The Shogun of the Dark intends to use the gold to buy advanced Spanish weaponry and overthrow the current government, the Tokugawa Shogunate. The ship runs aground onto Mochizuki territory in a storm, and the Eight Devils of Kimon, a ninja team with supernatural powers in the employ of the Yamashiro, kill the people of the nearby village of Shimoda to keep the gold shipment a secret.
While investigating the deaths, a Mochizuki Koga ninja team is massacred by the Devils. The sole survivor, Kagero, is captured by a Devil, Tessai, who molests her. She is rescued by Kibagami Jubei, a mercenary ex-Yamashiro ninja, who fights and eventually kills Tessai. Dakuan, a Tokugawa spy, blackmails Jubei into helping him kill the remaining Devils. To ensure his compliance, Dakuan stabs Jubei with a poisoned shuriken, and promises to give him an antidote once the mission is complete. Jubei learns from Dakuan that the leader of the Devils is Himuro Gemma, the former Yamashiro ninja leader, who had ordered his team’s members to kill each other to cover up the location of the goldmine five years earlier. Jubei, who had been forced to kill his comrades to survive, decapitated Gemma in revenge; Gemma survived due to his immortality. Jubei is attacked by another Devil, Benisato, but he is saved by Kagero; before she can be questioned, Benisato is killed from afar by Yurimaru, Gemma’s right-hand man, for failing her mission. Kagero agrees to work alongside Jubei and Dakuan, who informs Jubei that her body is infused with such deadly toxins that anyone who kisses or sleeps with her dies, which was why Jubei could kill Tessai.
The trio arrive in Shimoda, where they discover that the villagers died due to their water supply being poisoned, making it appear that they were killed by a plague. Jubei and Kagero fend off attacks from three of the Devils – Mushizo, Zakuro and Utsutsu Mujuro; Jubei succeeds in killing Mushizo and Utsutsu. After finding the beached ship, Kagero deduces that the gold has been taken to Kashima Harbour, where it will be transported to the Shogun of the Dark in another ship.
Jubei, Kagero and Dakuan arrive at Kashima, which has been evacuated due to the townspeople’s fear of the plague. While Jubei battles another Devil, Shijima, Kagero sends a message to Sakaki Hyobu, the Mochizuki chamberlain, to bring his army to the harbour. She also learns from Dakuan that Jubei’s poisoning will only be cured if he copulates with her – the poisons in her body will counteract his. Kagero is captured by Shijima, and Jubei kills him, rescuing her once more. Kagero asks Jubei to sleep with her to cure himself. He decides against it, and upon the arrival of the Shogun of the Dark’s envoy in a ship, he leaves to prevent the gold reaching its destination.
Kagero arrives to meet Sakaki, but he stabs her, revealing himself to be Gemma in disguise. Enraged, Jubei fights through waves of ninjas, but is nearly killed by Yurimaru. A gunpowder-rigged rat, left as a trap by Zakuro for Yurimaru for rejecting her advances, kills him, allowing Jubei to escape. He finds Kagero; mortally wounded, she admits her love for him and they kiss, curing Jubei’s poisoning. Before dying, Kagero gives Jubei her headband.
Jubei and Dakuan board the departing ship. On board, Gemma reveals his true intentions to the Shogun of the Dark’s envoy (who he kills) – he intends to use the gold to raise a ninja army to terrorize Japan, rather than serve as an ally to the Toyotomi. During an altercation with Zakuro, Jubei and Dakuan set the ship ablaze. As Jubei and Gemma engage in a brutal fight, the gold becomes molten and engulfs Gemma, who sinks to the bottom of the sea. Afterwards, Dakuan thanks Jubei, and expresses admiration for his and Kagero’s humanity. Jubei resumes his vagabond lifestyle, with Kagero’s headband tied around his sword’s hilt.
- Kibagami Jubei (牙神 獣兵衛 Kibagami Jūbē): The main protagonist; a vagabond ninja who once served the Yamashiro clan and is blackmailed by Dakuan into fighting the Eight Devils of Kimon. A wisecracking, cynical figure with a strong moral sense, his skill and speed with his sword are such that he is able to attack opponents and destroy objects using the winds created by his slashes. The character was inspired by the famed Japanese folk hero Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi, with the creators not making him the actual hero but having the two characters sharing a name.
- Kagero (陽炎 Kagerō): The food taster for the Mochizuki clan’s Chamberlain, and the only kunoichi in the clan’s Koga ninja team. Kagero has an immunity to poisons as her body itself is infused with toxins; anyone who sleeps with or even kisses her dies shortly thereafter. She is also able to conjure pollens and flower petals that are mixed with a powerful incapacitating agent. The character is a homage to Futaro Yamada‘s first novel in the Ninpōchō series, The Kouga Ninja Scrolls.
- Dakuan (濁庵): A shady Tokugawa spy who is also sent to investigate and stop the Eight Demons of Kimon and their employer, the Shogun of the Dark. He is able to elongate his limbs and body, blend in with his surroundings, and can use a staff that allows him to vault long distances.
- Sakaki Hyobu (榊 兵部 Sakaki Hyōbu): The Mochizuki clan chamberlain, he sends Kagero and the clan’s Koga ninja team to investigate the plague in Shimoda and she sends her reports to him throughout the film.
- Hanza (半佐): The lord of the Koga ninja team. He is killed by Tessai, and his body is used as a booby trap by Zakuro.
The Eight Devils of Kimon
The Eight Devils of Kimon (鬼門八人衆 Kimon Hachinin-shū, “Eight People of the Demon Gate”) are eight demonic ninjas with supernatural powers, seven of which were gathered under Himuro Gemma’s leadership after he reincarnated himself from Jubei’s ambush, and appear to serve under the Shogun of the Dark.
- Himuro Gemma (氷室 弦馬 Himuro Genma): The leader of the Eight Devils of Kimon and the last demon to be defeated. Gemma formerly served under the Yamashiro clan and was decapitated by Jubei prior to the film’s events, but has acquired immortality by mastering control of his body down to the tiniest bone and blood, allowing him to reconnect any severed body parts, including his head. Gemma can also shapeshift as a side effect of his mastery over his entire body. He cannot be killed due to his immortality, but he is instead encased in molten gold and trapped at the bottom of the sea for eternity. Gemma is bisexual, as he is involved with both Yurimaru and Benisato.
- Tessai (鉄斎): The first demon to be defeated, he is an incredibly large man who has the ability to turn his skin to stone. He fights with a double-bladed sword, which he can hurl great distances and have it return like a boomerang. He is essentially invulnerable until his skin falls apart as a result of him being poisoned by Kagero while trying to rape her; this allows Jubei to kill him by cutting his fingers, resulting in him being impaled by his own sword due to his inability to catch it.
- Benisato (紅里): The second demon to be defeated, and the female lover of Gemma. She is a seductive woman who has snake tattoos all over her body that can come to life; she also can summon a larger quantity of snakes to envelop her victims and shed her skin. She is killed by Yurimaru after she fails to kill Jubei, but also because of Yurimaru’s jealousy towards her for being Gemma’s lover.
- Mushizo (蟲蔵 Mushizō): The third demon to be defeated, he is a hunchbacked warrior who holds a hornet’s nest in his back. He wields a two-pronged spear and is able to control his hornets to do his bidding, as well as shoot needles from his throat. He is killed by Jubei in a fight underwater when the Hornets try to escape from their hive, fatally stinging their master.
- Utsutsu Mujuro (現 夢十郎 Utsutsu Mujūrō): The fourth demon to be defeated, he is a blind swordsman who challenges Jubei to a fight to the death in a bamboo forest. He uses his uncanny hearing abilities to seek out his enemies and can blind them by reflecting light from his sword. He is the only Devil of Kimon without any apparent supernatural powers. He is killed by Jubei due to Kagero’s sword blocking his own, which he could not hear, making it appear as if Jubei had blocked and attacked him at the same time.
- Shijima (シジマ): The fifth demon to be defeated, he has the ability to merge into the shadows, create clones of himself, fire a large metallic claw from his hand, and possess peoples’ minds. He is killed by Jubei while rescuing Kagero (whom Shijima had hypnotized to try to kill Jubei) when Jubei throws his sword into the shadows just as Shijima attempts to hide in them.
- Yurimaru (百合丸): The sixth demon to be defeated, he is the right-hand-man and male lover of Gemma. Yurimaru has the ability to generate electricity from his body and can combine this ability with a steel wire that he wraps around a target’s neck to conduct the electricity. Zakuro “accidentally” blows him up during his fight with Jubei, due to her hatred towards him after Yurimaru rejected her advances.
- Zakuro (石榴): The seventh demon to be defeated, she has the ability to manipulate gunpowder and plants them inside living or dead organisms, having them move as explosive traps. She is in love with Yurimaru, who instead loves Gemma. Eventually, she becomes very vengeful and takes revenge against Yurimaru for rejecting her. She is killed by Dakuan and Jubei on the ship when they ignite her gunpowder body.
|Jubei Kibagami||Kōichi Yamadera||Dean Wein (Dean Elliot)|
|Kagero||Emi Shinohara||Wendee Lee (Wendee Day)|
|Dakuan||Takeshi Aono||Stephen Apostolina (Rudy Luzion)|
|Himuro Gemma||Daisuke Gōri||Richard Epcar (Richard George)|
|Yurimaru||Toshihiko Seki||Richard Cansino (Richard Hayworth)|
|Sakaki Hyobu||Shūichirō Moriyama||Edward Mannix (Ed Mannix)|
|Zakuro||Masako Katsuki||Riva Spier (uncredited)|
|Tessai||Ryūzaburō Ōtomo||Kevin Seymour
(Jenny Haniver/Dougary Grant)
|Benisato||Gara Takashima||J.C. Henning (uncredited)|
|Mushizo||Reizō Nomoto||Milton James (Richard Barnes)|
|Utsutsu Mujuro||Norio Wakamoto||Kirk Thornton (Spanky Roberts)|
|Toyotomi Envoy||Osamu Saka||Michael Forest (Alfred Thor)|
|Genpachi||Yusaku Yara||Doug Stone|
|Shinkuro||Junichi Sugawara||Milton James (Richard Barnes)|
|Villager||Katsumi Suzuki||Marvyn Byrkett (Sonny Byrkett)|
|Sakachi’s Daughter||Unknown||Maureen O’Connell|
Theron Martin from Anime News Network wrote that the English voice cast included “a mix of short-timers and those who would become long-term veterans”, while the Japanese cast members were “an all-star cast by early 1990s standards”.
The original conception of this film was that it would be a series of two films, each being 45 minutes.
The film was licensed by Manga Entertainment in Australia and North America until 2012 while its UK subsidiary kept the license and released the movie in a Blu-ray steelbook format in October 2012. The film has since been re-licensed in North America to Sentai Filmworks who re-released the film on DVD and Blu-ray in December 2012.
In 1995, the BBFC cut the UK version by approximately 52 seconds, removing the sexual assault scene and images of throwing stars. These cuts were waived for the 2004 10th Anniversary release. Ninja Scroll was released in Australia by Manga UK in 1995 uncut with the MA15+ classification. In 1997 after it was screened on SBS, former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock controversially appealed the film’s original classification and successfully had the classification upgraded to R18+ with no cuts. In January 1998 it broadcast twice on midnights on the new Teletoon station in Canada along with the Macross Plus trilogy.
GKIDS later announced that it would distribute the film within North America, with a theatrical release scheduled for April 2018.
In 2000 when Manga and Madman Entertainment released Ninja Scroll on DVD, Madman mistakenly used the UK cut of the film instead of using the uncut Australian version. This was rectified in 2004 when Manga Entertainment released the 10th Anniversary Special Edition of Ninja Scroll into western countries, and both Australia and the UK received Ninja Scroll uncut and remastered from a PAL VHS source. In Canada the film was given an 18A rating, while it was released Unrated in the United States. The film was released on Blu-ray in Japan on May 23, 2012.
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||December 3, 2003|
|Genre||Japanese Modern Classical|
|Label||ADV Music (2003)
Milan Records (2015)
|Soundtrack Geek||69.2/100 link|
|Soundtrack Dreams||69/100 link|
The film’s score was composed by Kaoru Wada. In the United States, the soundtrack was originally released on CD in 2003 by ADV Music under licence from Toho with the title Jubei Ninpucho Ninja Scroll (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack). Following ADV’s closure, Milan Records re-released the album in 2015 on CD and digital music formats. In 2016, Milan also released the album on LP with a slightly different track listing and cover art by Godzilla artist Yuji Kaida; this release was limited to 500 copies.
All tracks written by Kaoru Wada except “To Those Who Face The Wind” and “Somewhere, Faraway, Everyone Is Listening To A Ballad”, by Ryouhei Yamanashi (music) and Sho Jitsukawa (lyrics).
CD/digital release, 2003/2015:
LP release, 2016:
Ninja Scroll won the Citizen’s Award at the 1993 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 93%, based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10
During the 1990s, Ninja Scroll was among the most popular anime movies outside Japan, along with such movies as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. The North American video release of Ninja Scroll had sold more than 70,000 copies by May 1996, becoming Manga Entertainment’s best-selling title at the time. In February 2004, Cinefantastique listed the anime as one of the “10 Essential Animations”.
Martin stated that the “action scenes sizzle with energy and powerful maneuvers unencumbered by tiresome dramatics” and describe the plot as “mostly exists just to set up conflicts between the protagonists and the Devils of Kimon and allow various characters to show off their colorful ninja techniques”. He concluded that “Ninja Scroll‘s story is too thin for it to ever legitimately be considered one of the all-time great anime movies” but considers it to be a classic. He stated that the dubbed English version, which he stated has “slightly more attitude and some distinctive vocal styling mixed in with an occasional awkward emphasis”, is “very faithful” script-wise to the original Japanese version and that it still “holds its own” in 2012.
A Japanese animated television series named Ninja Scroll: The Series aired in Japan in 2003 and ran for 13 episodes. The series is a stand-alone sequel to the film; however, many references suggest that it is indeed a continuation. In the series, Jubei gets caught in the middle of a battle between the Kimon clan and the Hiruko clan. He meets up with the Light Maiden Shigure, a young lady whose village was destroyed by the Kimon clan and whom Jubei was charged with delivering a Dragon Stone to. The duo are joined by Tsubute (a young thief) and Dakuan (Tokugawa shogunate spy), and together they try to find out why both the Kimon and the Hiruko clan are after her and why the Dragon Stone she carries is so important to them. The show was directed by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico), with character design done by Takahiro Yoshimatsu (Trigun).
In August 2008, Madhouse announced that an official sequel was in the works with Kawajiri returning to write and direct. In July 2012, the studio released a teaser trailer for a “three-episode short animation” titled Ninja Scroll Burst, intended to attract investors to the project. In February 2014, Madhouse CEO Hiroyuki Okada confirmed that Kawajiri had a finished script, tentatively titled Ninja Scroll Kocho, and that production would move ahead as soon as financing had been secured. He also divulged that the studio was experiencing difficulty finding investors due to the fact that the original film was “not a big hit in Japan”. As of 2019, the project remains in limbo.
In North America, the Ninja Resurrection anime films were marketed as sequels to Ninja Scroll, but were actually based on an unrelated story and created by a different animation studio. The only similarity shared by the films is a lead character with the given name “Jubei”.
In October 2008, it was reported that Warner Bros. had acquired the rights to develop a live-action adaptation of Ninja Scroll, with Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way Productions, Madhouse, and Japanese producer Jungo Maruta also involved in the project. Screenwriter Alex Tse, who co-wrote the 2009 film Watchmen, was hired to write the screenplay. In April 2009, it was reported that DiCaprio would act as producer, and was considering casting the Japanese boy band SMAP in the lead roles. In October 2015, Dracula Untold director Gary Shore revealed he had once been attached to direct the film, releasing a proof of concept trailer he had produced with motion capture by 87Eleven and animation by The Third Floor. As of 2018, the production remains in development hell.
- “Ninja Scroll (movie)”. Crystalacids. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
- Ninja Scroll (Booklet – Yoshiaki Kawajiri: In His Own Words)(Blu-ray). Richmond, Victoria: Madman Entertainment. 1993.
- “Sakura-Con 2012 – Yoshiaki Kawajiri Q&A”. Anime News Network. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
- “Interview with Writer Yoshiaki Kawajiri”. MatrixFans.net. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
- Ninja Scroll (DVD). Houston, Texas: Sentai Filmworks. 2012.
- Martin, Theron. “Ninja Scroll Blu-Ray Review”, Anime News Network, Nov 30, 2012. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
- Ninja Scroll (VHS). Chicago, Illinois: Manga Entertainment. 1995.
- “Manga Entertainment: U.S. Rights to Ninja Scroll Expired”. Anime News Network. Retrieved 2 September 2012.
- “Sentai Filmworks Adds Penguindrum, Ninja Scroll, Letter Bee”. Anime News Network. September 1, 2012. Retrieved September 2, 2012.
- “TELETOON – Adult Shows”. Teletoon.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 1998.
Various Animé from Japan
Jan 3 & 9 – Ninja Scroll
Jan 10 & 16 – Macross Plus I
Jan 17 & 23 – Macross Plus II
Jan 24 & 30 – Macross Plus III
Fri. & Sat.: midnight
- “Jubei Ninpucho (Blu-ray) (Japan Version)”. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
- “Ninja Scroll – original music by Kaoru Wada”. Milan Records. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- “Jubei Ninpucho (Ninja Scroll)”. Soundtrack.net. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- “Ninja Scroll vinyl – original music by Kaoru Wada”. Milan Records. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
- “Ninja Scroll”. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 16,2018.
- Fitzpatrick, Eileen (May 18, 1996). “Shelf Talk: Manga Chopping Out Space On Store Shelves For Its Japanimation Releases”. Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. p. 67. ISSN 0006-2510.
- Persons, Dan (February–March 2004). “The Americanization of Anime: 10 Essential Animations”. Cinefantastique. 36 (1): 48. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
- “Ninja Scroll Animated Sequel Planned”. Bloody Disgusting. August 11, 2008. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
- “Madhouse Updates on Planned Ninja Scroll Project”. Anime News Network. February 28, 2014. Retrieved June 24,2018.
- Goldstein, Hilary (August 24, 2006). “Ninja Scroll Continues”. IGN. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
- “Warner Bros. Acquires Ninja Scroll“. ComingSoon.net. CraveOnline. October 26, 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
- “DiCaprio Considers SMAP for Ninja Scroll Film”. Anime News Network. April 6, 2009. Retrieved February 29, 2012.
- “Live-Action Ninja Scroll Proof of Concept Video Shows What Might Have Been”. Anime News Network. October 30, 2015. Retrieved June 24, 2018.