Ninja Resurrection

Who hasn't heard of Ninja Scroll? Indeed, Ninja Scroll is a gateway title, not unlike Robotech, Star Blazers, or Speed Racer, that introduced a huge new audience to the world of anime. Like those other gateway titles, it's borne its share of criticism, but there are plenty of fans out there that absolutely loved the tale of Jubei, a rogue ninja whose sense of honor and justice gets him into a huge mess with a rival who's returned from the grave. Jubei is an actual character in Japan's history, and so stories about him take many forms...and unfortunately, Ninja Resurrection is a terrible example. ADV Films made a huge mistake when they tried to market this as some sort of sequel to Ninja Scroll, because not only is the Jubei character here very different from the incarnation in Scroll, but also because this is an incomplete story. What's more, while Ninja Scroll was brutally violent, Ninja Resurrection is repulsively so.

Ninja Resurrection is two episodes of an OVA series placed together, and it starts with an incomprehensible scene of violence that leads into the main titles. (It's essentially most of the action in the episode edited altogether into one sequence.) Then the story starts...there is a prophecy about a man who is supposed to lead the Japanese Christians, and if he follows the narrow road, he will be the son of God. However, if he somehow is led astray, he will become the son of Satan. His band of folks have taken a huge castle, and we have a large amount of exposition about them. Nearly 20 minutes into the episode, Jubei shows up, as he is supposed to assassinate the Christian leader. Violence ensues. Then, in the second episode, we find out that the leader has indeed become the son of Satan, and as the episode ends, a whole bunch of dead samurai are unleashed on Japan. Jubei, meanwhile, sits back and tries to make sense of it all. That's it--the show is incomplete, and since production on the series was cancelled, there's not going to be any more. And that's not a bad thing.

Let's get the good stuff out of the way. Ninja Resurrection has certain sequences that are gorgeously animated, and the money is right there on the screen. The action sequences in particular look very good, and they are impressive.

That's the good stuff.

The bad stuff is legion, but I'll try to make it brief. First off, when the animation isn't looking beautiful, it's looking bad. The money was spent on certain key sequences, and other sequences look shoddy in comparison. Secondly, those looking for the excitement of Ninja Scroll will be incredibly disappointed. The character of Jubei is not really the same in any significant way. At the same time, the show has an immense amount of exposition, with whole sequences that are not animated at all per se but are just still shots of artwork allegedly from the time period the show covers (1600s Japan). This gets old quick, and as the first episode opens with not an action sequence in sight, those expecting thrills will be bored out of their skulls. The pacing is terrible.

The reason the pacing is terrible is because the show has no idea what it wants to be. It opens with these huge sections of plot given to us by the narrator, which makes you expect that it might be a historical show such as The Hakkenden. Then it switches into comedy/cute time, as each episode starts by following a couple of kids around doing cute things. Then, finally, when things get serious, this show gets ultraviolent. If the plot made any sense at all, it might work, but the whole "son of God/son of Satan" bit has no point whatsoever, and it feels just plain stupid. Prophecies like that do exist throughout Eastern religions, but never in Judaism or Christianity, and so it just feels like a bit of overextended Christian bashing.

Now I have seen some incredibly violent sequences in anime, but this is approaching the level of violence one would expect from Legend of the Overfiend. The violence level is repulsive, with sequences so gruesome that it became physically uncomfortable to watch them--and this is from someone who made it through the beachhead sequence in Saving Private Ryan with nary a second glance. What is particularly disgusting is that the show seems to revel in its violence, which includes the slaughter of innocent civilians as well as young children. Shots of incredible cruelty linger on and on, as if someone was enjoying this sort of thing. Two sequences in the second episode involve violence towards women that is particularly chilling, and it brings about further comparisons to Overfiend. What makes this all the more sickening is that we've been watching comedy not five minutes prior to this brutality--if the point of the show was going to be ultraviolence, it shouldn't have been interspliced with humor, because it makes the show all the worse.

Finally, the show has no ending, and it won't have an ending--and since the show ends on a cliffhanger, the disappointment is complete. Let me be frank...I didn't think this title was boring. I did, however, think it was poorly written, poorly conceptualized, and violent to the point of revulsion. Sometimes, I'll let a poor show with decent animation off with a low score. This time, though, the sequences of excellent animation just highlighted the poor animation in other sequences--and no one needs to see brutality of this sort, well drawn or not. This one joins the ranks of the few others that hit the trash bin. Thank goodness it was a rental.

Ninja Resurrection -- graphic violence, rape, nudity/adult situations, etc. -- F