Plot: What’s it about?
In the world of feudal Japan, the sword is more important than the pen and in truth, just about anything else. When trouble arises or an argument begins, the swords are drawn first, instead of trying to talk about a more peaceful solution. So the villages often get ransacked by some warrior or another, seeking to conquer more land for themselves. But in the case of The Dark Shogun, a simple village or two simply isn’t enough to satisfy his thirst for power. The Dark Shogun wishes to control all of Japan and in order to do that, he will need to overthrow the current rulers, which is something he is all to willing to make happen. At the same time, an entire village is struck down by a dark plague, one which threatens to spread to the surrounding areas. The local lord has no intentions of sitting idle as his people and holdings fall however, so he dispatches a master swordsman named Jubei, who is to settle the situation. Jubei has his sights dead on The Dark Shogun, but his capture and defeat will not be a simple task. Before that showdown can start, Jubei must face The 8 Devils of Kimon, The Dark Shogun’s chosen protectors. The Dark Shogun has chosen his warriors well, as these demonic beings each have immense superhuman abilities. Can Jubei, even with the help of a fierce female ninja, manage to overcome the forces of The Dark Shogun?
The realm of anime has a massive fanbase, but few anime titles are well known outside of the artform’s rabid fans. But some anime features have crossed over and found success in mainstream audiences. I think more people have seen the television shows like Sailor Moon, but some feature films have also been hits, such as the classic Akira. While this movie never found immense success outside of the anime fanbase, Ninja Scroll is one of the better known anime releases, at least with mainstream viewers. Ninja Scroll is beautiful to look at, with vivid colors, excellent character designs, and bold animation, all of which ensures that it is looked at as an animated feature film, not just some cartoon. So you’ll find some dynamic visuals here, especially in terms of character designs, which are simply superb in Ninja Scroll. There is also a lot of great action to be seen, with intense, well crafted swordfights and the like. Ninja Scroll is not a movie made with children in mind however, so the battles can become quite graphic. There is no shortage of violence and bloodshed, so don’t expect tame fights here. Ninja Scroll falls short in terms of storyline however, as there isn’t much depth to the material. Even so, Ninja Scroll is a fun movie and has made a sizable impact on the world of anime. Manga has revisited Ninja Scroll with this deluxe 10th Anniversary Special Edition, which is well worth a high recommendation.
Video: How does it look?
Ninja Scroll is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a full frame version included on the disc’s flip side. This is the first time American audiences have been able to see Ninja Scroll in widescreen, though some Japanese releases were shown as such. The result is a very clean, very refined presentation that really lets the visuals shine. The print used is much cleaner than Manga’s original release, which means softness is less evident and by turn, the visuals have more depth and impact. The colors are bright, bold, and vivid throughout, with no smears or fades to mention, which is good, since Ninja Scroll is bathed in vibrant hues. I am pleased to find the full frame edition here also however, as fans might prefer it to the new widescreen version. I am unsure of what the original aspect ratio is, but Manga’s case claims the full frame is the original, though the widescreen edition has a natural, well framed presence. No matter though, as now fans can decide for themselves, as both versions are found on this release.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release is loaded with audio options, so many in fact, I was surprised the soundtracks could all fit on this disc. You can choose between the original Japanese soundtrack and an English dub option, but the choices don’t end there. Manga has included brand new remixes for each language, which allows the viewer to experience Ninja Scroll in Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES soundtracks. That’s right, both of these options are available on both languages, which should thrill fans to no end. The material has never sounded better, with a more expansive soundstage and a more immersive atmosphere. There is ample power to be heard here, though the material isn’t always able to make the most of these remixes. I wouldn’t stack the audio up against the latest action blockbuster, but Manga has done some excellent work here. And you have to commend them for putting so much effort into this release. This disc also includes stereo soundtracks in each language, as well as optional English subtitles.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes some character profiles, bonus artwork, interviews with cast & crew members, and a special history of Jubei. Not a lot of extras, but given the abundance of audio options, there probably wasn’t much room left for supplements. And since the film itself comes first, the enhanced presentation more than compensates.