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Ninja Scroll | Series | Volume 1 | Dragon Stone | review | dvd | Lollipop

Ninja Scroll: The Series

Volume 1: Dragon Stone (Urban Vision)
by Tim Den

For those unfamiliar, Ninja Scroll was an early-'90s anime feature that took a twisted plotline and filled it with stylish demons, vegabonds, ninjas, revenge, loyalty, immortality, all that good stuff. Set in feudal 16th century Japan, the action and pure sinister tones of the film launched a sea of imitators, propelling its creative team to World Class status (check out "The Program" from The Animatrix) and turning the film into an idol of worship. There was just something about the lazily murderous sparkle in the characters' eyes, the sharp outlines of their blood-dripping jaws, the hypnotic slithering of their limbs that made the film special. So special, in fact, that I'm surprised The Series was able to recapture a good portion of its magic.

Specifically, the ninja/demon designs are just as ridiculously imaginative as the original. Bug-eyed kite-flyer, mechanic samurai Cyclops, electrified Buddha (who moves by sliding around on his toes, no less), centepede giraffe dude... seriously, where do they get this shit? Who cares? The presence of these creatures amazes you enough that you almost forget the negatives. Almost.

First complaint: The music. Guess who only had enough budget to hire a MiDi composer? The Series' fights (and tense moments) are accompanied by totally inappropriate, video game-ish music that reminds me of Mega Man when you fight a midboss or something. I envision Japanese businessmen singing karaoke to this. Terrible. Second complaint: Just cuz you've stacked monsters up to the ceiling doesn't mean they'll provide a good storyline. The basic premise of these four episodes? Protect stone, protect girl, kill the crap out of each other. Not exactly gripping.

All in all, though, I like the animation (not quite as good as the original team's, but whatever) and the character designs enough to make me put my cynicism aside and just enjoy the stylish bloodshed. I mean, come on, at least be glad that they didn't humiliate the namesake, right? I'm actually looking forward to the next two volumes!

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