To Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger's great disappointment, Ninja Resurrection is not another sequel to Enter the Ninja, which is long overdue.
To kill with sword and with hunger, and with death…
Through its title, cover art, character names, and themes, Ninja Resurrection aligned itself with the hugely popular gore fest Ninja Scroll. Although it is never stated outright, the marketing strongly implies that Ninja Resurrection is a sequel to that hallowed (if gruesome) work. A cursory examination of the Internet Movie Database comments for this anime reveals mass consternation at the deception.
I wish I could say that this outrage clouds acceptance of an anime that is worthy in its own right, but Ninja Resurrection is clearly inferior to Ninja Scroll. The animation is static and dull, the characters are indecipherable and dull, the plot is uninvolving and dull…you see the common thread here.
The basic gist of the plot is that renowned Japanese swordsman Jubei must confront a scion of God named Shiro, a mortal with vast powers who will become either the Christ or Satan. Look at the cover and take one guess which side of the fence Shiro lands on.
Ninja Resurrection doesn't bungle every detail. There are a handful of tense moments when a bloody conflict escalates, to Shiro's great anger. We feel empathy for Jubei, an honorable man who is bound to follow the Shogunate's mandate to quell the Christian uprising. Occasional poetic shots echo the ghost of Kurosawa as the two sides square off. These moments are archetypal anime, with two good/bad people with hazy moral obligations engaging each other.
The balance of Ninja Resurrection, however, is an inexplicable mishmash of Japanese history, twisted Christian symbology, weird blue lights, and a lot of blood. Children lose their heads, women lose their virtue, men are corrupted and eviscerated, and it is all handled with stupefying detachment. We are never given an inlet. The events transpire with biblical wrath, but the viewer is lost in a sea of blood, doom, and confusion. The simple existence of awesome, blood-splattered demons does not make us feel awe. Likewise, the simple existence of naked flesh does not give us an erotic charge. Some meaningful connection must power an emotional response, or it is just an empty spectacle.
The video and audio quality are passable. There is a good bit of twitter when fine lines pan downward, but otherwise the picture is stable. The animation is the real problem: It simply isn't inspired. The lengthy opening scenes are particularly unimpressive, with mostly still shots of poorly rendered tapestries. Sound effects are suitable, even involving, but the voice acting is not (particularly the English track). The characters act as dry as the plot would suggest. There are no extras.
Anime is a cerebral experience that relies on processing strange and often abstract imagery to glean meaning. Even the best anime can put you in a paradoxical "interested stupor." When we have no anchor to make us care, that interested stupor becomes a plain old stupor. Ninja Resurrection did have interesting religious and political themes along with a handful of gory action scenes, but the rest is overblown.
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