STUDIO: Animego
MSRP: $24.98
RUNNING TIME:  105 Minutes
• Image Gallery
• Program Notes
• Theatrical Trailer

The Pitch

“The story of a ninja who loves the dick out of surround sound.”

The Humans

Raizo Ichikawa, Yunosuke Ito, Shiho Fujimura, Tomisaburo Wakayama

The Nutshell

Oh, I don’t know, how about FUCKING NINJA WARS.

The Lowdown

I think we can all agree on one thing: ninjas are fucking awesome (even the ‘attack one at a time and get roundhouse kicked in the face’-type ninjas have their positive qualities). So a movie whose title translated into English reads “The Ninjas” has already created almost unreachable expectation level right out of the gate. However, the sort of gritty and bare bones approach to the ninjitsu lifestyle portrayed in Shinobi No Mono is exactly the type of thing that defies expectation and manages to satisfy them all at the same time, even if it doesn’t live up to the lofty goal set by its title.

Little did they know this wasn’t Ryoku’s jerk-off hand.

What helps this separate itself from the pack of overly stylized ninja pictures is its more grassroots focus on the nitty gritty of ninja work. From the secret compartmentalization utilized for travel and the methods of disposal (including a pretty great attempted poisoning sequence as well as an escape from a torture chamber), the viewpoint of this work is pretty low-key and made matter-of-factly without much in the way of camera movement, more reliant on placement of the camera and the strength of the action and performances on screen to carry the day. The performances are pretty uniformly well played, without much in the way of grandiose scenery chewing or pomp, keeping their performances honed into the more realistic and gritty depiction of the shinobi this film is aiming for.

We’ve replaced Satsuo-San’s regular coffee with Celestial Seasonings. Let’s see if he notices the difference..

The whole plot unfolds in a sort of soap-operaesque manner, and sets itself up for future stories down the road (although the fact that the main character will eventually be boiled alive leaves little room for a pleasant conclusion to the series) meaning there is more stories of ninja carnage to follow. While I can’t say that this lives up to the title, I do enjoy the stark and barebones look at how the ninja operated, and the soap opera dramatics and emotionally appropriate performances only help to complement the overall package, making for a ninja movie that quite likely to be nothing like what you’ve seen before, a fresh perspective on those who attack one at a time. It isn’t something that’s going to stick with you long after seeing it, but you’ll enjoy the black on blacksuit violence while it lasts. Recommended.

“You won’t like my subtitles when they’re angry.”

The Package

The cover art is a little bland, but it highlights the ninjocity contained within. The audio quality is a little spotty as compared to the video quality, which is nicely cleaned up. The extras are sparse, so the disc isn’t going to give you a quality retrospective on the context within which this film was received, but what you do get is reasonably nice. There are a handful of trailers for other films released by Animego, all of them except Shinobi contain no subtitles. The trailers aren’t particularly action-orientated either, which makes the exclusion all the more puzzling (except for the subtitles requiring money, and all). Beyond the trailers, the only other bonus is a large handful of production notes and an image gallery. Usually, these are some of the worst, most disposable special features that just recite filmographies and give you the most banal of information about the film you just watched. These notes, however, I rather enjoyed: they help contextualize the film in terms of its popularity and actually were a nice compliment to what I just watched. I’d prefer to not have to read twelve pages of screen-script (strangely enough, my eyes aren’t big on pain), but so long as it’s interesting I won’t complain. Still not a comprehensive or particularly pleasing spate of extras.

The newest internet viral phenomenon: Two Japanese, One Hollow Man.

6.5 out of 10