Ninja Scroll (the movie) ranks up there with Akira and Ghost in the Shell in terms of gateway drug anime. I remember, in the mid 90's, being blown away by Akira, but Ninja Scroll is what got me hooked on anime, and prompted me to scour the world looking for more. This series resembles nothing of the film. I'd be ok with a fresh, new approach, but this is an uninspiring product all by itself, and takes its place as a leader in low quality anime. I won't crap on it too hard. I believe there's an audience for everything. My goal is to help steer away those who are bothered by low quality, regurgitated themes, plastic characters, and truly thin storylines. Here we go.
There are some ninja battles. They are poorly drawn, covered in 2 frame movements, one-hit-kill lazy choreography, and not reminiscent of the vicious style showcased in Ninja Scroll (film). The action is still there. It's just doesn't hold a candle to 90% of other anime. Jubei swings his sword once a battle (sometimes twice) to kill his foes. His single swing is also a long range attack, so it doesn't matter where the villain is, they're dead. If that satisfies you then great! They try to amass an evil crew of villains, each with their own power (much like the 8 Devils of Kimon from the movie). A couple of them are intriguing, but are used unimaginatively. The story resembles the thinnest of video game quests. Let's find the Dragon Stone. You can follow it from the kitchen while you cook and never miss a thing. That can be a plus.
The darkness of the film is nowhere to be found. It's abrasively bright with vivid colors that resemble the palette from Pokémon. There is only 1 level of shading used in most scenes, which makes the characters look like flat cutouts. Juebi's clothes are missing detailing that makes him look a bag of potatoes. There are 2 frame movements, choppy animation, and pathetic gimmicks used to make fights feel epic, but actually just let animators avoid having to draw out battles. A slash cuts the screen, then a body lies there to inform you of its success. I expect a lot more from Japanese animation and I think most other fans do too.
The cast of this show is for ages 14 and below. While Jubei is not too bad, he is joined by a token, tough female who needs help but won't admit it, and a punk, street thief that carries about as much charm with him as Jar Jar Binks. The master villain is a Doctor Robotnic Buddha mixed with a Harley Davidson.
Single track, basic storylines can work if executed with purpose. This, however, is about as intriguing and thought provoking as playing a game of Candy Land sober. Find the Dragon Stone, stop the bad guys, and stumble all over a bland world engaging in side quests to satisfy the worst of regurgitated fables. Its fine for kids, but not for Ninja Scroll.
Horrible grunge/rock that has no place in feudal Japan. It's jarring and pushy.
All in all, this is just a mis-marketed piece of work. The title needs to be replaced. Call it, "Dragon Stone," and park it next to Bleach and Naruto. Just don't confuse it with Ninja Scroll. This is it's polar opposite. If you want a ninja series that's adult, full of fantastic battles, gore, and twisted ninja's endowed with special abilities, watch Basilisk. If you like a series that is colorful, action packed, adult and funky, watch Samurai Champloo. If you want a youthful, fun, ninja adventure with some plain characters, watch Bleach or Naruto. There are better versions of EVERYTHING. This is the lowest doppelganger of them all. If you haven't seen it yet, and are bothered by what I described above, then save your money and the health of your neck, for if you get this, you'll be shaking your head for hours.
Oh Jubie, we know by profession you’re a Ninja, so why don’t you bother buying some actual ninja weapons…..also stop using the hiten mitsurugi technique, you’re better than that.
Story - 3/10
The story of Ninja Scroll: The Series seems to be nothing more than a vehicle to push bloody and graphic battles. Jubei is given a mission by a dying man, find the young light maiden and deliver the dragon stone to her, so that she may fulfill her destiny. But of course that would be too easy, so we have a litany of monstrous looking villains tasked with capturing the girl and retrieving the story’s maguffin. So now Jubie will have to chop people in half, literally, in order to protect the girl and the stone, doing little else in between.
Each episode has it’s monsters of the week, each with their own power, who of course stand little to no chance against our hero. On and on this goes until they reach their destination, which culminates in a huge battle and a tidy ending. There is so little going on from the point Jubie receives the stone till the finale that you would think this was originally conceived as another movie but they got a TV offer instead, so they just filled the four hours in between with gratuitous violence.
Animation - 4/10
After a certain point all the “Ninja” and “Samurai” series start to look very similar. Now that’s not to say the animation itself isn’t top notch, but the design we’ve seen before. Like Kenshin, the original Ninja Scroll film or Samurai Deeper Kyo, these all take place around the same time period in, so we’re subject to the vast pastoral scenes or waving grain and thatched houses. Likewise the villains all have the half human, half monster, some almost resembling exact copies of what Kenshin had fought years earlier.
This is a great example of the animators doing an amazing job everywhere they were asked, but the creative end just dropped the ball.
Sound - 8/10
I really enjoyed the music from the series. Composed entirely by new age musician Kitaro and Peter McEvilley, it sounds as if it would be a perfect score for a eighties Hollywood karate film staring Jean Claude Van Dam. Fifes, jazz kits and keyboards all mix together to actually enhance a series that was more about over the top duels and horror movie levels of blood spurts, than story.
The voices are what you would expect for the time. Each one does a good job of matching the character or monster it’s associated with and they are all very well acted.
Characters - 2/10
The character development for this series, where there actually was any, was weak at best. We have such a small handful of characters, yet not much is known about them. Jubei is a wandering Ninja (seems more Samurai to me) who just wants some peace and quiet. Shigure, a young farm girl, is apparently the descendant of an ancient race and holds the knowledge to unlock it’s treasure. Dakuan is an old man helping them reach their destination, we know he’s a trained fighter, but that’s the extent of it, we never know where he came from or why he really wants to help them, they also never get into the connection he has with Jubei from the movie and if it’s supposed to be in the same world as the film. The final member of our hero party is the young thief Tsubute, who plays the annoying “comedy” role so many of these series felt like they needed to add.
On the villains side all we ever know is that they want Shigure and the dragon stone for the treasure both can unlock, but besides that we get squat.
Overall - 4/10
In and of itself it’s not the worst series, but with so many similar shows it’s hard to look at it in a bubble. You’ll always compare it to the depth, characters and story line of Kenshin or the legacy of the original film. Even looking at series that came after it, it just doesn’t hold up as more than a time killer or a show more for the action and gore, than the story.
I felt the need to write a review since there seems to be a lot of unjust negative feedback for this series. I was almost immediatly turned off from watching the series after reading these reviews. Luckily most of them were wrong, as this series was overall better than a lot of other simple shounen that aren't at the top.
It was decently well written for 13 episodes. The dragon stone was little reminiscent of Inuyasha, as it does get seperated and the group is forced to chase down the stone and return it to normal. There were two seperate clans, one that wanted to manipulate the shrine maiden to do what they willed, the other appeared to want to assist the shrine maiden and be by her side while she creates a new country. The pacing seemed fine and didn't seem bad at all compared to other anime of similar budget.
The animation was on par for the anime at the time, it could have been improved slightly but overall the art was perfectly passable. The sword strikes and slashes were done well, as was the gore and fatal injuries. A good amount of enemies and allies that were made to be drawn in a quite unique manner.
The sound rated the lowest for me overall, and am unsure how anyone reviewed this to be the best aspect of the short series. At times of action it would break out into a soundtrack that sounded a little too arcade-like for the era the show took place in. At times it sounded like It was as if it was from a start screen in an old Nintendo64 game. It really did not fit at all almost 100% of the time. I do admit I got used to it by the end, though.
The main group had a wandering samurai, a shrine maiden, an old quirky monk, and an inept young thief. From this group, most had a good personality. The samurai Jubei is lax and only truly wanted to live wandering in peace. His quote of the series was similar to "The sky is the same, no matter where one travels". He ended up having to escort, guard, and save the shrine maiden many times throughout the adventure. He eventually completes the task at hand, miraculously suv
The shrine maiden is a young girl that only wished to live a normal life, not one of importance or significance, as she saw how constantly people had to die for her. She had good emotion and
The old quirky monk could have been described a little better, but he is in the Movie version and it gives a bit of insight of who he is. He can always see through situations and always ends up back alongside the main cast. Quite a reliable character, even though it seemed like he may have had other intentions.
The young thief was the worst character out of the group, he supplied zero assistance throughout the series and was only there to complain or... no, just to complain. He only helped a tiny bit in the series, when he threw small rocks at fodder pursuers. His character was drawn well but offered no benefits, and often hindered the group.
The other characters throughout were actually particularly interesting. The kunoichi girl that could become and manipulate plants and the parasite swordsman that had a man-eating creature dwelling within his abdomen his whole life were my particular favorites.
Overall I believe the series is very deserving of a watch if you do enjoy the genre of anime. Even though I was almost turned away from watching the series due to these inaccurate reviews, I had no qualms watching the series and found that it played out rather well. I have seen nearly 10000 episodes of anime, so I can spot when one is particularly bad or not. I felt obligated to make this review after seeing so many low ratings, when worse anime are rated twice as high. I would take the people whimsically reviewing this anime exeptionally low with a grain of salt. Don't have them deter you from this series, as I almost was. I would have regretted never watching this if I listened to them.
Sort of like a sequel to the classic movie of the same name, it didn't had that much gore and nudity etc as compared to the movie but did had a better story.
Action was a mixed bag. Sometimes it was good, while other times it was just meh. This anime had even more weird ass ninja's and powers compared to the movie.
Best thing about the anime for me was the soundtrack, most specifically the main theme, the heroic one. Loved it.
Recommended for those who liked the movie.
Over ten years after Ninja Scroll, This TV series was quietly released. There are 13 episodes in total (4 for Vol 1 and 2, 5 for the 3rd) that take place in ancient feudal Japan, as did the film, and includes a huge variety of new original characters that reminds fans why they fell in love with the film. Fascinating creatures that, almost, give the 8 devils a run for their money. But Jubei is not alone in this series, he is "Accompanied" by the old government spy Dakuan, and meets new characters: Shigure a mysterious young woman bored of her life in a remote village and Tsubute the thief thrown in mostly for comedic value, in between a raging quest to find the elusive "Dragon Stone".
But there are others eager to unlock the power of this stone, the Kimon and the Hiruko Clans, two syndicates that both have an array of super powered demons with abilities like you wouldn't believe: being able to reattach limbs, release webs and little demonic parasites, earth/nature melding, and so many other indescribable talents. While the animation is a slight disappointment compared to the movie, it still holds a high standard for an anime series. A major downside in the series is that it is a 15, instead of an 18, with less violence/bad language/nudity - good stuff, but dont get me wrong, there is still plenty of sword slicing, blood spraying, demon decapitation to keep you entertained for hours with each episode ranging from 20 to 25 minutes. And if that isn't enough there are a couple of extra features thrown in, like interviews with the directors, voice actors and composers, art galleries and an in depth look at the True character of Jubei Kibagami and his exploits that are lightly based on in the story.
The ending is by far the worst part about the series, I won't spoil it but its one of those WTF just happened, you cannot be series etc etc moments. There are only a handful of tracks/songs included throughout the series so don't be surprised if you hear the same ones every now and again - they're not bad, quite funky and jazzy sometimes but can get a bit repetitive. Admittedly, its not the greatest story ever told and it doesn't do the film justice but it is definitely worth a watch/rent, probably best bought for the anime aficionado. So here it is, a collection of the exciting Ninja Scroll TV series, which I'd recommend buying as a complete set as its far cheaper then to buy singles, and if you liked Ninja Scroll the movie, this series is worth it.