Synopsis: When a small village succumbs to a terrible plague, a team of ninjas are sent to investigate. As soon as they realize that something is wrong, they are ambushed by a fearsome man-monster. Kagero, a beautiful female ninja, is the sole survivor of the massacre. She is saved by Jubei, a highly skilled ninja who hires his services to others. Jubei and Kagero stumble on an intricate plot to overthrow the government engineered by an underground group. They become targets for extermination and together, Jubei and Kagero must stop their assailants and get to the bottom of things.
Review: Widely considered as classic anime fare, Ninja Scroll combines exquisite animation with a solid plot. Since it is set in feudal Japan, the mood is somewhat historic. Political themes, as well as ninja-fantasy elements, are woven into the story. A lot of unique fighting techniques are featured -- some of which are impossible to execute in real life. The amazing thing is, Ninja Scroll pulls it all off without losing the earthy and realistic atmosphere of the whole story.
Character development is excellent. Jubei and Kagero reveal a little bit of themselves with every incident, so viewers gradually come to understand them fully. A bittersweet romance also develops, giving this title just the right amount of emotional pull. Villains benefit from good characterization as well, and they all possess very distinct personalities.
The action sequences are virtual bloodbaths. The depiction of violence got too graphic and brutal for my taste, especially in the first part. I felt a bit queasy at one point, to the extent that I just looked away from the screen to keep from gagging. Like the overall mood of the film, the visual style also possesses a certain lifelike quality. The characters don't have a cartoon-ish look, so they seem much like actual people. The English dub is basically okay. The voices fit the characters well; I just can't stand how they pronounce "Kagero". If you want a more authentic experience, the subtitled version is suggested. Ninja Scroll remains the undisputed ultimate ninja anime experience, despite more recent efforts (such as the Ninja Scroll-wannabe "Sword for Truth").
Miscellanies: Almost every guy I know loves Ninja Scroll.