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Ninja Scroll: Volume One

director: Tatsuo Sato

90 minutes (18) 1995
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Thomas Cropper
At first sight, Ninja Scrolls is an acquired taste. Okay, for real manga and anime fans, I guess it'll be like love at first sight, but for the rest of us, it takes a bit of getting used to. A whole mishmash of characters that stay just long enough to be killed off in whichever way the writers feel fit; a plot that makes no sense whatsoever; and a dubbed translation that bears only a passing resemblance to what appears in the English subtitles. But stay with it, because like athlete's foot it grows on you.
   Ninja Scrolls was originally a movie set (for the sake of argument) in feudal Japan in which Jubei, a lone ninja, helps foil a plot to overthrow the government. So successful was this movie that it spawned a 13-episode series in which Jubei tries to protect someone called the Light Maiden and something called the Dragon Stone from whatever villain is trying to steal it on that particular week.
   And there are a whole host of villains, each with their own peculiar special moves: a girl who attacks her enemies with super long hair; a strange kind of spider creature; a ninja whose forte is ripping out the eyes of corpses so he can see their final moments; and a strange tree-witch type of thing who can turn her hands into tree roots.
   These first four episodes provide only a brief glimpse at what is to come and definitely leaves you wanting more. Each episode follows roughly the same path of a new set of bad guys trying to steal the Dragon Stone only to be foiled in one way or another by Jubei. It's pretty simple, you know what's coming, but nevertheless, it's still a great deal of fun getting there.
   But the best thing, and the thing that sets this apart, is the theme tune composed by the multi award winning Kitaro, which will probably live on in the memory long after the actual series has faded into oblivion. There's even an interview with Kitaro in the extras, so enjoy.
   From the excited chatter from fans on the Internet, this already has a strong cult following and its release here could create a whole new success story. As someone who has always avoided anime like the plague liking this was a bitter pill to swallow, but in the end it's all just a lot of good clean fun.

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