Don’t underestimate the power of good illustration. Like prey, people like me always get trapped by its web. That’s what happened to me with Ninja Scroll. I jumped into this film without knowing anything about it. I just saw the cover and I thought it looked cool. And I was not wrong. The illustration is stunningly beautiful despite the gore, sex, and violence which enhanced the overall viewing experience. I was in awe or perhaps, after seeing so many subpar animations, it’s nice to finally see the real deal. Then again, I like the films directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, which I later found out after watching this film that the same director did Demon City Shinjuku (1988). I noticed his style. It’s alluring. Ninja Scroll is how I would define a romance story. The relationship between the poison taster Kagero (female lead) and the wandering ninja Kibagami Jubei (male lead), illustrates a romantic union for human survival.
Right off the bat, the film starts cool when Jubei, a very skilled swordsman, is attacked by thieves. It’s later, we learn that Jubei has been hired by a clan for 20 ryo to get a highly treasured sword back for a poor clan. How many people do you know would accept modest compensation for a big task? Only a big-heart hero like Jubei would. Instantly, I was wooed.
On the other hand, Kagero’s entrance came on strong as well. In fact, highly admirable. The way how the scene introduces her barging into a room of ninjas, instantly won me over. She refuses to stay behind and watch all of the clan members get wiped out by the Shogun of the Dark clan. Hot-headed and as fearless as she is, makes her an entertaining character to watch alongside the more relaxed, hobo-ish ninja, Jubei.
Of course, it is probably not intended to be a romance story, or perhaps it’s a subtle romance story about humanity striving to survive the corrupted world filled with demons (I am thinking abstractly here). Your experience with the film may differ from mine. But I think we can agree that the animation in this film is top-notch. Some of the scenes, however, involving women, can be gruesomely graphic (rape scenes). It may make some uncomfortable, but it didn’t offend me because it serves a purpose by illustrating how politically corrupted the world is in that time era. And honestly, I kind of like that over-the-top exaggerated storytelling. It’s art. To be fair, both men and women in this film are both sexualized and both are just as equally strong while having their unique vulnerabilities. It is nice to see the masculine and feminine energy at play, metaphorically speaking.
In conclusion, I have never experienced love to know what romance is until I watched this film. I protect you; you protect me. Isn’t that how romance should be? Kagero and Jubei make a great team. This film is my definition of what makes a romantic love story.