Ninja Scroll

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Ninja Scroll

Ninja Scroll (獣兵衛忍風帖, Jūbei Ninpūchō?) is a Japanese action thriller anime, set in feudal Japan, by critically acclaimed director/writer Yoshiaki Kawajiri who was best known for his previous thriller Wicked City (Yōjū Toshi). The character designs were done by Yutaka Minowa. The movie is an homage to Ninpōchō series, ninja novels by Futaro Yamada.

The movie was released on June 5, 1993 and received a Western release on December 6, 1996. The movie was also released in some regions as Jubei Ninpucho: The Wind Ninja Chronicles. It is licensed by Manga Entertainment in North America. The Japanese title could be translated as "Jubei the Wind Ninja", although this is subject to debate as it does not account for the last part of the title. Ninja Scroll won the Citizen's Award at the 1993 Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. Ninja Scroll is among the most popular anime movies outside of Japan, along with such movies as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. It is well-received in its depiction of the ninja and Japanese legendary creatures such as the Stone Golem, and the Blind Assassin.

The main character, Jubei Kibagami is a homage to the famed Japanese samurai folk hero, Yagyu Jubei.

Rated: Australia:MA15+, R18+ (cut and uncut), Canada: 18, UK: 18, USA: Unrated.

In 1995, the BBFC cut the UK version by approx. 52 seconds. This included a rape scene and images of imitable weaponry. The UK and Australian DVDs were affected by these cuts -- it was not censored in Australia but the Australian DVD was an exact copy of the UK disc. In 2004 the footage was reinstated and the movie in both countries was released uncut.

The film was initially given an MA15+ rating by the OFLC in Australia. In 1996, following an uncut screening of the film on free-to-air television, the Federal Attorney General lodged an application to review the classification of the film. As a result of this, the film's classification was upgraded to an R18+ rating, meaning television airings must be censored as R18+ material cannot be screened. Confusion often occurs due to the re-rating as well as the BBFC cut -- someone could purchase the BBFC-cut R18+ DVD thinking it contained more graphic material than an MA15+ VHS copy, only to discover it contained less.


A team of Koga Ninja is sent to investigate a plague in Shimoda village, but on their way they are slaughtered; the only survivor is Kagero, a beautiful Kunoichi who is their lord's poison-taster. Their assailant is a giant man with stone skin and a colossal double-bladed sword, which can be thrown like a boomerang.

The giant takes Kagero to his hut and proceeds to rape her, but he is interrupted by an interloper who is not intimidated by his ability to turn his skin into stone. Rather, the interloper, a ninja vagabond named Jubei Kibagami, blinds one of his eyes with a dart and escapes with Kagero.

The giant then ambushes Jubei and proceeds to beat him. Although he has the clear advantage as Jubei cannot even scratch his stony hide, he begins to fall apart. The giant throws his sword, but he cannot catch it when Jubei manages to cut his fingers off; the blade drives into the giant's skull. An old monk that had witnessed the battle congratulates Jubei, but he remarks that though Jubei's triumphed over the demonic warrior was impressive, he had outside help. He calls the monster one of "the Eight Devils of Kimon."

Several other strange characters are concerned with the stone man's death: the well-dressed man Yurimaru, who calls the giant Tessai, and the scarred, explosive-wielding female Zakuro, who lusts for Yurimaru, even though Yurimaru is gay (or Shudo) and sleeping with their master, Gemma. After Yurimaru forcefully stops Zakuro's constant harassment, she informs him the Gemma is in fact bisexual and that he regularly sleeps with Benisato, another one of the Devils of Kimon.

Jubei rests his battered body in a hot spring, but is entranced by a female bather and her snake tattoos. She identifies him as the man who killed Tessai (the giant had copied Jubei's face in his palm), and her tattoos begin to move. This hypnotizes Jubei, and the snakes leave her body and approach him. A shuriken strikes Jubei, which wakes him up in time to cut the snakes down. He grabs the woman, but she sheds her skin like a snake and escapes. The old monk appears again. Jubei learns his name is Dakuan, and that the star was poisoned. Jubei must work for Dakuan, a Tokugawa Shogunate operative, in order to receive the antidote, or he will surely die within two days.

As they boat down a river, Dakuan asks Jubei if he killed the chief retainers to the Yamashiro clan five years before, and leader of the Yamashiro ninja, Himuro Gemma, who were getting rich off a hidden and undisclosed gold mine. Dakuan claims that Gemma is still alive, despite Jubei's insistence (and flashback) to the contrary; Jubei claims to have decapitated Gemma.

Once they land they're separated. A shadow attacks Dakuan with a mechanical claw, apparently impaling him against a tree, but the old monk escaped into the branches, camouflaging himself. A man rises out of the shadow, muses that nobody could escape "Shijima's claw," and sinks back down.

Jubei enters an abandoned shrine, where an old woman is chanting the sutra for the dead of Shimoda. She turns out to be a trap and is cut in half by Jubei (revealing that she was full of snakes), and the woman from the spring, Benisato, returns. Kagero grabs Benisato from behind and puts her knife to her throat. A snake slithers out of Benisato's vagina and bites Kagero, but she does not relent. Benisato suddenly dies of electrocution. A thin metal wire, glowing white hot, stretches for miles, and at the other end Yurimaru admonishes Benisato for her failure and disintegrates the wire while Jubei and Kagero follow it.

When Jubei tries to suck the poison from Kagero's wound, she kicks him away, telling him that she is immune. Dakuan pops back up and requests that Kagero join them in their fight against the common enemy, and claims he has valuable information. Dakuan tells Jubei that Kagero poisons any man she sleeps with, and that's how Jubei was able to defeat Tessai.

Yurimaru, Zakuro, and two other Devils gather to figure out how to defeat the man who killed Tessai.

The two of them go with Dakuan to Shimoda, where they see for themselves that the well had been poisoned. A swarm of wasps descends on the village, going after the three of them. Kagero holds them off, and Jubei finds the master of the swarm, a hunchback named Mushizo, another of the Eight Devils, who lets slip that Gemma is still alive. The hunchback's hump is actually a wasp nest growing from his back, and the wasps attack Jubei. They fight in a water-powered mill, and then Jubei escapes into the river. Mushizo follows him, but remains on land. Jubei knocks him into the water, where the wasps sting Mushizo repeatedly trying to escape and then Jubei kills him with his sword.

Dakuan knows about the reincarnation technique, how one must have total control over every little piece of tissue, so that even if one loses a limb, or a head, it might be reattached, but claims human beings cannot achieve such control. Jubei does not seem interested in Kagero owing him a debt.

They climb a cliff to get a better view of the land, but Kagero sees her former commander, Hanza (whose arms Tessai had torn from their sockets), walking aimlessly toward the brink. His eyes and mouth have been sewn shut. Kagero stops him, but Zakuro is there, and she releases streams of gunpowder into the air. Hanza reacts with it, and explodes. Jubei grabs Kagero and throws himself off the cliff to save her.

Jubei is hanging by the cord attached to his sword sheath, and he has Kagero climb up the cliff. When Jubei gets there, a swordsman in white is holding his sword. He introduces himself as Utsutsu Mujuro, and challenges Jubei. Jubei lures the swordsman into a nearby bamboo forest, hoping to take advantage of his blindness, but Mujuro's ears are sharp. Mujuro proves himself more than a match for Jubei. As Mujuro attacks, Jubei is barely able to deflect Mujuro's blows. Kagero tries to attack Mujuro from behind but is unsuccesful and Kagero's blade gets stuck in a bamboo tree. Mujuro then blinds Jubei with the reflection off his katana blade. It is only by sheer luck alone that when Mujuro and Jubei jump, Mujuro hits Jubei's sword and Jubei falls down tumbling; Mujuro doesn't realize Kagero's blade is between him and Jubei. Mujuro is the first to the strike and delivers the killing blow but Mujuros' blow is blocked by Kagero's blade, Jubei then impales Mujuro.

Jubei accuses Kagero of not valuing her life, and she responds by saying that she cannot touch a man, lest she kill him. Kagero passes out through fatigue, and awakens with Jubei. He notices a beached cargo ship, and concludes that the Devils poisoned Shimoda to keep it secret, so they could take the cargo. Kagero wants to stop the cargo from reaching Kishima Harbour, where it will be taken away by boat, so she agrees to work with Jubei until then.

Dakuan finds them, and tells them that the cargo is the gold from the secret Yamashiro mine, which the Shogun of the Dark will use to topple the Tokugawa and initiate a civil war. Jubei chases after something that has followed him, and Kagero sends a message to the chamberlain. She then demands that Dakuan give her the antidote for Jubei. He tells her the secret of the antidote, and it shocks her.

Jubei returns from the chase that yielded nothing, to find Kagero kidnapped, and a ransom note carved into a tree. Dakuan tries to dissuade him, but he runs off after her. He finds her in an abandoned building, but when she awakens, she attacks him, with a disembodied voice goading her on. Jubei has to allow Kagero to stab his wrist so he can block the incoming spring-loaded claw from the shadow. He throws his sword toward the shadow, and he impales Shijima in the back. Shijima falls down, dead, and Kagero snaps out of her trance.

Two hours later, the Koga army hasn't arrived, and Kagero wonders why Jubei stepped into an obvious trap to save her. He tells her that she's his comrade, since they've worked together since the day before. Kagero then tells him that she has to pay back the debt, and insists that she do so now. She strips, and tells him that the antidote for his poison is another poison, and that she can save him, if he sleeps with her. He refuses, and leaves to intercept the Shogun of the Dark's forces.

ubei meets up with Dakuan, and plans to sink the ship when it's fully loaded and out to sea. The Mochizuki have apparently decided to intervene, but the chamberlain stabs Kagero, and transforms into Gemma. Jubei attacks, but the ninja horde stands in his way. Yurimaru asks for the honour of killing Jubei, and Gemma lets him.

Yurimaru leads Jubei into a warehouse, where he strings him up and electrocutes him. Yurimaru notices a rat scurrying about, and then it collapses. He sees the sutured cut on its belly, and the gunpowder on the ground, and then the rat explodes. Yurimaru's dismembered arm falls into the water, and Zakuro picks it up. She muses that he "accidentally" walked into her trap, and now he's "Queen of the Devils."

Jubei finds the dying Kagero, who is glad that she found someone who treated her as a person, and not an expendable soldier. She expresses her wish that they could have made love just once, and then they kiss just before she dies (her kiss possesses enough venom to kill a man, therefore enough venom to counteract the poison). Setting her adrift on a funeral boat, Jubei takes her headband and tears the arms off his shirt.

Gemma meets the leader of the Toyotomi ninja, and declares that the Devils of Kimon (of which only two remain at this point, himself and Zakuro) will take the gold and build a ninja army to terrorize Japan, and not even the Shogun of the Dark can stop them.

Zakuro finds Dakuan rooting about in the hold, and he throws one of his gourds at her. She cuts it in half, spraying liquid on her and the floor. Dakuan grabs a candle, but she puts it out. Jubei appears with another lit candle, and ignites the flammable oil, immolating Zakuro. Her gunpowder also explodes, breaching the hull and setting alight the ship's interior.

Gemma enters the hold and finds Jubei, and they fight to the death. Jubei cuts Gemma's arm off, but Gemma still manages to throw Jubei a beating before reattaching it. Jubei headbutts Gemma repeatedly with such force as to collapse Gemma's face and skull, but Gemma heals and stands up. Even when the ceiling crashes down on him, Gemma stands up, impaled on a wooden beam. He pounds on Jubei, proclaiming that he can't die. Jubei then stabs him and cuts upward, splitting him in half from the belly up. Gemma again recovers, but a river of liquid gold flows over him. Gemma grabs onto Jubei climbing to safety, but Jubei slices off his left arm in one swift cut at the last second and he then falls into the molten metal, sinking to the bottom of the sea frozen in a shell of gold.


A Japanese animated television series was released in 2003 called, Jubei Ninpucho: Ryuhogyoku-hen and ran for 13 episodes. It was released in the west as Ninja Scroll: The Series. The series is partly written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, but remains only a spiritual sequel to the film because the story stands alone; however, many references suggest that it is indeed a continuation from the movie. In the series, Jubei gets caught in the middle of a battle between the Kimon Clan and the Hiruko Clan. He meets up with the Light Maiden Shigure, a young lady whose village was destroyed by the Kimon Clan and whom Jubei was charged with delivering a Dragon Stone to. The duo are joined by Tsubute and Dakuan, and together they try to find out why both the Kimon and the Hiruko Clan are after her and why the Dragon Stone she carries is so important to them. The show was directed by Tatsuo Sato (Martian Successor Nadesico), with character design done by Takahiro Yoshimatsu (Trigun).

An official sequel, Jubei Ninpucho 2, is classed as in production with no specific release date. The film is scheduled to be written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, and will most likely be released in the west as Ninja Scroll 2.

In North America, the Ninja Resurrection anime films were marketed as sequels to Ninja Scroll, but were actually created by a separate animation studio. The only similarities they have is that both lead characters first name is Jubei. The films are not connected in any way to Ninja Scroll.

In September 2006, Wildstorm launched a five-part comic book series based on (and called) Ninja Scroll written by J. Torres, which follows the further adventures of Jubei. The entire comic is slated to be released in trade paperback form in August 2007.

Original soundtrack

A soundtrack was released titled Jubei Ninpucho (Ninja Scroll) with music composed by Kaoru Wada from the movie. Tracks 8 and 15 are composed and sung by Ryouhei Yamanashi with lyrics by Shou Jitsukawa.

Track Listing:

1. Prologue
2. Jubei
3. Eight Warriors of the Demon Clan
4. Blood Wind
5. Kagerou
6. Visions
7. Devil Shadow
8. To Those Who Face the Wind
9. Pursuit
10. Devil Swordsman
11. Strategy
12. Reincarnation
13. Struggle to the Death
14. Epilogue
15. Somewhere, Faraway, Everyone is Listening to a Ballad

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