Hey, Animaniacs! Today we’re diving into the dark, fantastical world of an old favorite that I promised myself I would blog about one day – “Ninja Scroll.” If you’ve seen it, you know it’s an anime masterpiece, and if you haven’t, it’s an absolute must-watch, especially if you’re a fan of ridiculous amounts of animated violence. Picture this: samurais, demons, political intrigue, and horror elements—all cogs in a captivating tale that never fails to leave you scrabbling to pick your jaw up off the floor. If that doesn’t sound like a dish cooked to perfection, I don’t know what does.
Released in 1993, “Ninja Scroll” is directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, a name that resonates in the anime community for his iconic storytelling and artistic flair. The movie is set in feudal Japan and gives us a grim, thrilling narrative loaded with dark ambiance—a perfect recipe for anyone who loves the intersection of horror and anime.
The story kicks off with our protagonist, Jubei Kibagami, a masterless wandering swordsman, getting unwittingly involved in a sinister plot. A mysterious plague has devastated a village, and as Jubei finds out, the plague is just a cover for a deeper, darker scheme. Hired to investigate the circumstances, Jubei teams up with a government spy, Dakuan, and Kagero, a deadly but doomed female ninja whose body has been weaponized with poison.
A Twisted Tale of Power
The antagonist in this tale is the malevolent Gemma Himuro, Jubei’s former clan leader who is now intent on seizing ultimate power. He has assembled a motley crew called “The Eight Devils of Kimon,” – supernatural beings with unique abilities that make them both fascinating and terrifying. As Jubei and his allies navigate through lethal traps, dark sorcery, and monstrous foes, they uncover a plot to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate and let the dark powers reign over Japan.
The Horror Elements
While it might not be your conventional horror movie, “Ninja Scroll” seamlessly blends elements of the genre into its narrative. Monstrous forms, dark magic, and a general atmosphere of dread create a vivid landscape that could only be possible in anime. The story doesn’t shy away from gore or dark themes, either, fully embracing its horror roots.
Why It’s So Epic
Alright, let’s get to the juicy stuff: why is “Ninja Scroll” such an epic masterpiece? First of all, the sheer amount of detail in the artwork and the animation quality make this movie an aesthetic treat. Whether it’s the ominous backgrounds, visceral fight scenes, or the intricately designed characters, every frame feels like a meticulously crafted piece of art.
Speaking of characters, each one in this film is beautifully flawed, carrying their own histories and moral complexities. Jubei, the wandering swordsman, for instance, is not your typical goody-two-shoes hero. He’s more of an anti-hero, driven by a personal vendetta and the harsh realities of life, making him much more relatable and interesting.
Thrilling Action and Storytelling
The action sequences are another feather in its cap. Fluid, fast-paced, and gruesome, these scenes keep your heart pounding from start to finish. And let’s not forget the horror elements—each of the “Eight Devils of Kimon” is a nightmarish creature pulled straight from the darkest corners of folklore and imagination.
Ranking the Devils: A Countdown to Darkness
If you’ve watched “Ninja Scroll,” you know that the Eight Devils of Kimon are a critical aspect that makes the movie a boss battle extravaganza. These supernatural badasses come with their own set of unique abilities and, in some cases, grotesque appendages, and today, Here they are, ranked!
Starting off our list is Benisato, a seductress with a venomous charm. She’s a master of disguise, and her entire body is covered with arcane tattoos that can come to life as snakes. While she’s intriguing, she doesn’t last long in the movie, making her the least intimidating of the bunch.
Mushizo, the hunchbacked monk, has a swarm of wasps living inside his back, which he can command at will. His ability is grotesque and somewhat disturbing but doesn’t quite match up to the others in terms of combat prowess.
6. Utsutsu Mujuro
This blind swordsman doesn’t need eyes to see; he senses the movements of his enemies. Mujuro is a master of kenjutsu, and his fighting style is graceful and efficient. However, his lack of supernatural abilities places him a bit lower on the list.
Shijima is a ninja with the ability to blend into shadows, making him nearly invisible. He can also control people through small puppet-like creatures. His cunning and stealth make him a formidable opponent, though he falls short when it comes to raw power.
Yurimaru is Gemma Himuro’s second-in-command and has the ability to conduct electricity through wires. His attacks are swift, precise, and almost always lethal. His devotion to Gemma and his ruthless efficiency make him one of the more dangerous devils. In the film he spurns the affections of the scarred pyrokine Zakuro while coveting an unrequited love for his leader Gemma. Both these factors contribute to his downfall.
This pyrokinetic woman takes the third spot with her ability to ignite anything she touches. Her explosive attacks make for some of the most visually stunning scenes in the movie. Her unstable personality adds another layer of danger, making her an extremely volatile foe.
Tessai is a human juggernaut with skin as tough as stone, and is easily the most terrifying Devil. His immense strength and nearly impervious skin make him a force to be reckoned with. When he’s not tearing the arms off unlucky ninjas or guzzling blood from severed stumps, he attempts to rape women. This sick bastard comes armed with a massive double-bladed sword, which he can hurl in a spinning arc that can slice through anything in his path. It takes a lot to bring this behemoth down. Fortunately, Jubei has got what it takes in spades.
1. Gemma Himuro
Topping the list is the mastermind himself, Gemma Himuro. He’s not just a brilliant tactician but also possesses immortality and can regenerate his body. His unyielding lust for power drives him to incredible lengths, and his abilities make him almost invincible.
A Liberal Gem
From a liberal perspective, what’s interesting is the subtle tackling of power dynamics, gender roles, and societal norms in the context of feudal Japan. Though set in a different era, the themes feel incredibly relevant, urging us to contemplate and question. In many ways, the female ninja Kagero is the real hero of the tale, because she refuses to be cast in the role tradition reserves for her. Powerful stuff.
Ultimately, “Ninja Scroll” is a stunning fusion of horror, anime, and political intrigue that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re here for the action, the storytelling, or the dark, twisted atmosphere, this movie doesn’t disappoint. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? This is one scroll you’ll want to unroll!
So, have you watched “Ninja Scroll”? What are your thoughts on this epic journey into the darker realms of anime and horror? And who’s your favorite Devil? Drop a comment below, and let’s keep this discussion going. And while you’re at it, please share this post on your socials, and subscribe to the blog. It’ll be much appreciated.
Till next time, fright fans, stay spooked and keep on ninja-scrolling!
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