NOTE: though I was careful to avoid spoilers in the synopsis and screenshots, this anime is just too hilarious to not put specifics into the review. I don't necessarily think the things I'll discuss are spoilers compared to what every other site says about the anime (not to mention you find these things out in the first 10 minutes), but be forewarned if you are particularly sensitive.
Picture, if you will, a morose scene set in 1580 where an invincible and powerful warrior lunges at limber ninja and samurai, striking them down when they stand. In a desperate attempt to bring him down, one lone ninja puts the warrior into a headlock to prevent him from pursuing and killing his comrades. However, what he didn't anticipate was the warrior... EJECTING HIS CYBERNETIC HEAD AND FLYING THROUGH THE AIR, LAUGHING AND SHOOTING AT PEOPLE WITH LASERS!!!!
Seriously folks. CAN IT BE ANY MORE AWESOME?!
Black Lion, like Crystal Triangle, has the most absurd and confusing story ever. It starts out reasonably normal: in the year 1580, samurai and ninja are fighting against Nobunaga Oda, but a new "Ninja Killer" has emerged who seems to be unstoppable. The only caveat is, the killer is... a cyborg! And he's been changed by seemingly otherworldly aliens who are orbiting the planet in a ship. Oh, and let's not forget the random bits of technology strewn about Japan, which only certain people know about. Black Lion also has immense amounts of terrible dialogue, but the real kicker is that nothing is ever explained, and the ending is open and useless! Truly, Black Lion is one of the worst things ever.
Without all of the fantastical elements, Black Lion would be a boring and generic slasher flick; but with the elements, Black Lion is a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style comedy that everyone should see. Don't get me wrong - the good stuff doesn't kick in until the 45-minute OVA is almost complete, but trust me, the flying head scene makes it all worth it.
Animation is not the strong point of Black Lion - but then again, you wouldn't be watching it for the animation. Character designs are generic and bland, action scenes seem slightly awkward and shaky, and colors are generally muted (which doesn't help the gore look very shocking or horrific). The true gems of the animation lie with the cyborg depictions of Ginnai in all of his Terminator-ripoff glory (and of course, the flying head and laser sequence).
Much of Black Lion is devoid of any background music. Parts that do have an accompanying track tend to be forgettable, though. Typical synths are used, along with the occasional flute.
The ninja Shishimaru is easily the only memorable character of Black Lion - barely. He loses someone close to him at the hands of Ginnai, which sends him on a fury-filled path of revenge. Other characters include a rival ninja girl whose back story we see to some extent, and a whole cast of "red shirts" (for you Star Trek nerds out there) who have their heads crushed open or bodies torn apart by T-1000... I mean, Ginnai. With the exception of knowing about a few of the characters' pasts, none are developed to the point where we care about any of them.
And then there's the characters who just make no sense at all! Like the "aliens", the man who has a freaking science lab in his 16th century hut, and Ginnai himself. It's like Go Nagai pulled out a Mad Libs tablet and filled in the blanks, "_____ and _____ in an _____ world". Of course! Aliens, cyborgs, ancient samurai!
The flying head scene does make Ginnai the best character ever, though.
The majority of Black Lion is unforgettable and terrible; after seeing 2/3rds of the OVA, I couldn't help but be disappointed that Black Lion was bad (and not bad enough to be funny). However, then the flying head sequence arrives and blows all expectations out of the water. Truly, I think that Black Lion is worth seeing for this scene alone, but the additional alien/spaceship/cyborg scenes make it hilariously awful as well. Don't watch Black Lion expecting anything good, and don't watch it expecting a typical Go Nagai piece (this is one of his least ecchi titles). Do watch Black Lion for how incredibly outrageous the story is, and expect to laugh it up. Big time.
In the year 1580, Nobunaga Oda is on a warpath to obtain rulership of Japan at any cost, and ninja and samurai alike are banding together to try to put a stop to his tirade. But when the invincible warrior Ginnai Doma – also known as the Ninja Killer – enters the picture, more than just a little blood will be shed. It's up to Shishimaru of the Iga Ninja and other powerful fighters to take down Ginnai once and for all, but little do they know that aliens, cyborgs, and even strange technology are somehow involved!
My fav genres include sci fi and horror, but you'll find a lot of obscure reviews from me too, given I watch a ton to add to the database. My new reviews are written a lot better than my old ones, so when in doubt, sort by date! ^_^ Enjoy, and I welcome any and all feedback.