Ninja Scroll: The Movie Review by Eugene Alejandro

Ninja Scroll: The Movie is a 1993 Japanese animated Samurai Cinema, and Period Drama movie that’s directed and written by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, and was made and released by Madhouse Studios (along with Toho, JVC, and Movic). I should also say that the movie is a homage and influenced by the novels of Futaro Yamada. I haven’t read of any of his novels at the time of this review, so I am very uncertain what elements from the novels were being used when making the movie (the movie even has an alternate title called Jubei The Wind Ninja).

The story of Ninja Scroll: The Movie is that a lone wanderer (Vagabond in the English Dub) named Jubei Kibagami, ends up getting involved with a plot by the Eight Devils of Kimon who were hired by The Shogun of The Dark to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate. In order to now stop the Eight Devils of Kimon, Jubei gets the help from a government spy named Dakuan, and a female ninja named Kagero (I really don’t wanna say anything else about the movie’s story. If you wanna know more, please watch the film).

When Ninja Scroll was first released back in 1993 (and brought over to the USA thanks to Manga Entertainment), it was met with strong critical acclaim and financial success, and also contributed in helping Japanese animation become very common among the USA (with other critical and financially successful Anime movies such as Akira, and Ghost In The Shell 1995 doing that as well). A TV show titled Ninja Scroll: The Series also aired in 2003.

As far as how I feel about the movie, I’ll go over each aspect of it in good amount of detail like I did with my reviews for Akira and Ghost In The Shell 1995 in order to get my overall opinion about the movie across. With that said, I will be saying a lot, but please enjoy.

-The Story and Writing: While there isn’t anything deep and/or compelling about Ninja Scroll’s story, what works very well is the overall element and feeling of fun the plot has. Ninja Scroll definitely has some very cool and memorable action scenes, but if I am going to nitpick a few things about the story, it is that it does at times like a lot more could’ve been included to the story regarding. An example is that The Shogun of The Dark is only mentioned in the film and never makes a full appearance at all in the film. Another nitpick is that there isn’t an explanation for how and why Jubei’s sword can create and wind slash powerful enough to cut through his enemies. The plot in the movie does at times really feel like it’s part of a much more larger story that didn’t happen, but that doesn’t really bother me as what is presented is still very solid, and works fine. So while I will way that the story/plot in Ninja Scroll: The Movie ain’t as strong, epic, and/or revolutionary as in Akira: The Movie, and Ghost In The Shell 1995, Ninja Scroll is still a very fun movie to watch because of what is presented story and script wise. I do gotta say that the film does indeed have gore and nudity, so please DO NOT have a child under the age of 18 watch this movie.

-The Animation: As expected from an Anime movie by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the animation in Ninja Scroll: The Movie is absolutely amazing (and even more so back in 1993) with all the character designs, movements, and backgrounds looking awesome. While I will admit that Ninja Scroll’s animation isn’t as groundbreaking as the animation in Akira, and Ghost In The Shell 1995, Ninja Scroll’s animation is still very impressive to look at and admire for what it is.

-The Music/Score/Soundtrack: The soundtrack for Ninja Scroll: The Movie was made by Kaoru Wada. In my honest opinion, the music isn’t as memorable and iconic as the music from Ghost In The Shell 1995, and Akira, but for what it is, Kaoru Wada’s score is works perfectly well with Ninja Scroll’s tone and setting. The best way that I can describe the music is that it really does belong in a film set in the genres of Period Drama and Samurai Cinema as the instruments used to make the score do have the feeling of a feudal setting. So just to recap, Kaoru Wada’s soundtrack in Ninja Scroll: The Movie is very fun to listen to (even if it doesn’t hold up to the epic scores from Akira, and Ghost In The Shell 1995).

-The Voice Acting: I will talk about both the Japanese Language, and English Dub that was done for Ninja Scroll: The Movie. The Japanese voice acting is very solid as all the voice actors do a great job sounding their parts very well. The English Dub that was done by Manga Entertainment is also very good, but if their was one thing I have to nitpick about the English Dub is the voice actor who voices Jubei (Dean Elliot). While he does a solid job with his voice acting, the accent that he provides for the character doesn’t fit with the setting the film takes place in. But like I said, it’s just a nitpick because the overall English Dub for Ninja Scroll is fine.

-The Subtitles: The English subtitles that I saw when watching Ninja Scroll: The Movie are colored Yellow, and are easy to read and stay on the screen for a good amount of time for the viewer to see them. I do gotta say however that the subtitles seem to be worded differently depending on what version you see. To clarify, I noticed how the words in the subtitles differ from the DVD I own, to the version that I watched on HULU (where is how I first saw Ninja Scroll to begin with). The best example of what I’m talking about is when in the DVD that I own, The Shogun of The Dark is subtitled “The Dark Shogun”, the subtitles on HULU just say “Shogun of The Dark”. But regardless, that really isn’t a massive flaw with the movie itself. It’s just something I wanted to bring up. So if you want to watch Ninja Scroll: The Movie in English subtitles, just expect the subtitles to be worded differently depending on what home video release, and where you watch it from.

So that’s really all I gotta say about Ninja Scroll: The Movie. While it may not be as legendary as Akira, and Ghost In The Shell 1995, Ninja Scroll: The Movie did achieved a good amount of critical and financial success when it was first released, and did contribute greatly to the Anime rise that was starting in the 1990’s (meaning that it helped people in the USA get into Anime). So if you wanna watch a very fun, and well-animated Samurai flick, please give Ninja Scroll: The Movie a watch.

I give Ninja Scroll 5/5 Stars, and Two Thumbs Up.

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Ghost In The Shell (1995) Movie Review by Eugene Alejandro

Disclaimer: The version of the movie that I’m reviewing is NOT the 2.0 version. This is a review of the normal version of the film which I own on DVD. With that said, please enjoy the review.

The 1995 Ghost In The Shell movie is a Japanese animated science fiction and cyberpunk film directed by Mamoru Oshii, made and released by Bandai Visual and Production I.G, released into English by Manga Entertainment, and is adapted from the Manga series of the same name by Masamune Shirow (the movie even has an alternative titled called Mobile Armored Riot Police: Ghost In The Shell).

The plot of the film is about an intelligence department named Public Security Section 9 who is on the task of hunting down a massive ghost hacker called The Puppet Master. The world of Ghost In The Shell is that there exists a special technology that allows the consciousness of a human being to enter an enhanced cybernetic body (hence the title of the movie), and for there to be someone who can hack into the cybernetic bodies is a very big problem. The movie mostly centers on the main character for the film; Motoko Kusanagi, who while going along with the mission in trying to capture the Puppet Master, ends up wanting to know more about the hacker (which ends up leading up to a pretty clever and surprising plot twist that I won’t spoil in this review).

In the same vain of other Anime movies such as Akira, and Ninja Scroll, Ghost In The Shell helped introduce Japanese animation into the USA, and was the huge critical and financial success when it first came out back in the year 1995 (the movie also served as inspiration for The Matrix franchise). Does the movie hold up and aged well from it’s grand reputation though? Yes it does. Similar to what I did in my review for the Akira movie, I will talk about each aspect of Ghost In The Shell (1995) in good amount of detail, and then say my overall final thoughts on the movie.

-The Story and Writing: In a very good way, the story in Ghost In The Shell 1995 is very deep and complex, and moves at a great pace thanks to how the script is written. If there one small thing about the story (and how it’s written) that I should mention however, is that because of the complexity of the plot, the story can sometimes be hard to follow, so I would strongly recommend watching this movie multiple times in case you are unable to fully understand the story from just one viewing. As far as the character development is concerned in the story and writing for Ghost In The Shell 1995, while there aren’t any flashbacks that show each of the characters origins in great amount of detail, the characters that are mostly presented in the film do at least have solid motivations for what they are doing, and serve a good purpose in the film. So as far as Ghost In The Shell 1995’s plot and writing goes, it’s excellent. I should also mention before I forget that the movie does have a very good way of foreshadowing things that happen. I won’t go into the specifics about if for this review, but it is something I wanted to bring up about the film’s writing and plot.

-The Animation: One of the truly most memorable things about Ghost In The Shell 1995 is its animation. The movie was (at least to my best of knowledge) the first Japanese animated feature film to use an animation making process called DGA (Digitally Generated Animation). This is the result of combining cel animation, and computer graphics together. As far as how that process of making the animation for Ghost In The Shell 1995 went back then, it was done incredibly well as the backgrounds have such strong amount of detail put into them, the character movements are very strong and help the character feel real, and even the animation regarding character facial movements also does a good job at helping the characters feel alive. The use of computer generated graphics for this movie also help make the animation even better as the visuals are groundbreaking for the year that the movie came out. So without rambling on and on, the animation in Ghost In The Shell 1995 is amazing and holds up very well to this day.

-The Music/Score/Soundtrack: Another memorable part of Ghost In The Shell 1995 is the outstanding soundtrack for it that was created by Kenji Kawai. What’s very fascinating about the music is that a majority of it is actually created using the ancient Japanese language; Yamato. The overall score by Kenji Kawai in the film is beautifully haunting, and helps fit with the movie’s very deep and complex tone. There are moments however when the movie is devoid from the soundtrack, but that at times is actually a good thing because the silent moments in the film actually work with how the overall movie is made. I honestly got nothing else to say about the movie’s score, so let me just say that overall, the soundtrack in Ghost In The Shell 1995 is fantastic.

-The Voice Acting: Both the Japanese language, and English Dub voice acting for Ghost In The Shell 1995 are really good. I do have to say however that because of me watching this movie mostly in the English Dub, I will say that I strongly recommend watching the movie in the English Dub of Ghost In The Shell as all the voice actors in it do the great job with their roles as each voice actor matches the character they are voicing very well. As far as the Japanese voice acting is concerned, it’s done very well, but not as memorable as the English Dub in my opinion. So in a strange way, I will have to say to mostly stick with the English Dub of Ghost In The Shell 1995.

-The Subtitles: The DVD that I own of Ghost In The Shell 1995 includes subtitles that are colored white. The subtitles that I saw when watching the movie in the Japanese language are done very well as all the words are very easy to look at, and they stay on the screen for a good amount of time for the watcher to read them. So if you want to watch Ghost In The Shell 1995 in Japanese with English Subtitles on, be glad to know that the subtitles (at least in the DVD copy that I own) are well made.

With all that I could say about Ghost In The Shell 1995, I’ll finish up this review of it by saying that the movie truly does deserve the strong reputation that it has gotten since it first came out thanks to its deep and complex story, themes, and tones, groundbreaking animation, and breath taking music. To anyone who is a fan of Anime, Sci Fi, CyberPunk, etc, should really give Ghost In The Shell 1995 a watch.

I give Ghost In The Shell 1995 Two Thumbs Up, and 5/5 Stars.

Akira: The Movie Review by Eugene Alejandro

Akira is a post apocalyptic, science fiction, and Japanese animated feature film directed and written by Katsuhiro Otomo, made by TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsa), and originally released theatrically in Japan in the year 1988. The movie is also adapted from Katsuhiro Otomo’s own manga series of the same name.

The setting of Akira is that it is the year 2019, and Japan (more specifically, Neo Tokyo) is going through a massive economic crisis due to them trying to recover from the aftermath of World War 3, and spending most of their money for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Sports Olympics (the reason for why World War 3 happened in the movie is explained, but no spoiler about that will be said in this review). The movie’s basic plot is about a boy named Kaneda Shotaro who gets worried for one of his best friends named Tetsuo Shima after Tetsuo is taken by the Japanese military after an incident in which the biker gang that Kandea and Tetsuo are members of were fighting another biker gang (to clarify, this isn’t the very start of the movie. This only happens during the beginning of it).

The reason why Tetsuo was taken by the military is because when he got injured in the incident, he ended up getting physic powers (I recommend watching the movie for more details as to how and why he got the powers). Because of these powers he’s gotten, Tetsuo falls into madness, and is determined into re-awaking a character named Akira (who he keeps hearing about in his head) even if it means destroying the world just to do so (and yes, the movie is actually named after that character). Later on in the story, Kaneda finds out about Tetsuo’s powers and goal, and is determined into stopping one of his best friends in order to save the world.

When Akira was released in 1988, not only was it met with high critical praise and financial success, it also served as a landmark in Japanese animation (or Anime to say it more simply), and is also one of many animated products from Japan that helped introduce Anime into the West (with the others being the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie, and Ninja Scroll from 1993). So with all that info about Akira said, does the movie live up to all of that recognition? Indeed it does, and I’m going to try talk about all the aspects of the film so that you can know why I think it is a spectacular movie (also, there will be NO spoilers in what I’m going to say, so you don’t have to worry about that).

-The Story and Writing: While the story of Akira (for the most part) ain’t anything new (even for the time that it was originally released), the story is greatly supported by a strong script that contains solid pacing, excellent character development, and just overall all the aspects good film writing needs. All the important characters are each well-written, and entire movie in general just has an epic feel to it thanks to how the script was written into allowing that. I must also include that the movie also has a satisfying ending to it (and ending I won’t go into detail about for the sake of this review). Earlier in this review, I did mention that Akira is a movie adaption of a manga of the same name by same person who directed and written the movie adaption of it (Katsuhiro Otomo). I bring this up because to anyone who’s read the manga, would know very well that there are a lot of changes made for the film adaptation in regards to some of the characters and the ending of the story (stuff I will not spoil). For how the movie adaptation of Akira was made, the changes work very well, and help the movie maintain its legendary status without alienating people who read the manga. Before I forget now I’ve just remembered, while the story and writing in Akira are very good, the film is (at times) a very dark plot that contains a lot of scenes of violence, so I certainly CAN’T recommend watching this movie if you are under 18 years of age (trust me. The movie is rated R for a reason).

-The Animation: For a animated theatrical released movie from Japan that came out in 1988, It felt more like a movie that came out in 1998. The animation in this movie truly is revolutionary as for the time, this film utilized backgrounds and character designs with strong amounts of detail put into them. All the characters have excellent facial expressions for whenever they are happy, mad, sad, etc. This a good for the animation because it helps the characters feel alive. The animation regarding the movements is also very impressive, and helps make the animation in the entire film work. I should also talk about this movie’s use of colors as I’m sure that even the colors used in the animation for this film were also revolutionary. I say this because there is just so much detail put into this movie’s colors that helped make the animation look even better.

-The Music/Score/Soundtrack: The soundtrack in Akira was made and provided by Geino Yamashirogumi, and Tsutomu Ohashi. This movie’s music is without a doubt one of the greatest movie scores of all time thanks to all the instruments, notes, and how it fits the tone of the film very well. The music is also another novelty as (at least to my knowledge anyways) I don’t think any other Anime film at the time of its release (or possibly even before that time) had music this epic. So overall, Akira’s music is great, and definitely worth listening to.

-The Voice Acting: I must state that for this review that I am going to talk about both the original Japanese language and English Dub. While I myself don’t speak Japanese, I have watched numerous movies made in Japan to the point that I am able to notice how the performances are. With that said, the Japanese voice acting in Akira is great with each voice actor and actress fitting the character they are voicing very well. The English Dub by Pioneer/Geneon is also excellent with each voice actor to voice their characters in English fitting the roles perfectly without a single one standing out. In conclusion, the voice acting in general in Akira is good.

-The Subtitles: Originally, I didn’t feel like talking about the subtitles for this movie that were included in the Pioner/Geneon DVD that I own, but to those who are reading this review, and are interested in watching this movie with the original Japanese speaking language with English subtitles, the good news about that is that the subtitles for this movie are solid. The subtitles for the DVD that I have are colored yellow, and the way that all the words are presented whenever a character is speaking look well enough for the watcher to easily see them. The words also stay on screen for a good amount of time for the watcher to see them without them having to pause the movie just to read the subtitles. So if you are looking for good English subtitles when watching Akira in Japanese, expect the subtitles to do their job just fine.

Now that I have said and pointed out all my reasons for why I believe Akira is a fantastic movie, I can certainly recommend giving it a watch as the film truly is a legendary groundbreaking work of cinematic art that has helped introduce Japanese animation to Western audiences thanks to its very strong story and writing, fabulous animation, and epic soundtrack.

I give Akira: The Movie 5/5 Stars, and Two Thumbs Up.

Why Go Nagai Has Inspired Me

Go Nagai is a man in the manga industry that has made a huge impact in my life. Without him, I wouldn’t even want to strive to be a talented individual in the comic book industry, as well as a online writer. For he has shown me that talent, passion, and ambition can lead not only to huge success, but also contribution.

Go Nagai’s work has made a huge impact so much that without him, anime and manga (and some other stuff outside of Japan) would not be what it is right now. Some examples of his work are Demon Lord Dante, Devilman, Cutie Honey, Mazinger Z, Violence Jack, Devil Lady, and Shameless School. Devilman, Cutie Honey, Shameless School, and Mazinger Z have contributed greatly to the culture of Japan.

Shameless School is the first manga to feature erotic (but not pornographic) content (which is a genre that’s now called Ecchi). Mazinger Z is the very first mecha story to have a pilot operate a giant mech from the inside (which would lead to other popular and successful mecha franchises such as Gundam, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Pacific Rim just to name a few).

Cutie Honey is the first manga in the Magical Girl genre that invented extended transformation sequences (which is the reason why Sailor Moon and Kill La Kill exist and why they are what they are), and It’s also the first shonen manga to have a female protagonist.

Devilman is a superhero horror manga that despite it’s shocking content at the time of it being published (gore, nudity, demons, apocalyptic scenario, and religious themes) it was a huge success that would go on to inspire other manga just like it (examples of this are Kentaro Miura’s Berserk, Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing, Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, and Kazushi Hagiwara’s Bastard).

Go Nagai collaborated with another manga creator named Ken Ishikawa to create a mecha series called Getter Robo. Just like Mazinger Z, Getter Robo contributed to the mecha genre as it’s the very first mecha series to have machines combine together to create a giant robot.

I’ll even go as far as to say that Getter Robo inspired Voltron, Power Rangers, and Transformers because of this.

Despite the fact that Go Nagai’s work has made a enormous contribution to Japanese culture, he has received controversy from the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) at the time. Since his work was made during the 1960’s-1970’s the PTA was mad at him for including graphic violence, sexual content, and other mature themes in his manga as during the 1960’s-1970’s, that kind of stuff was never featured in any other manga before. Which is the reason why the PTA was offended to see Go Nagai’s manga feature that material for the first time.

Despite the controversy, Go Nagai never gave up, and he continued to do what he loved despite the PTA’s complaints (he even made a manga called The Abashiri Family as a harsh response to the PTA as that manga featured a lot of inappropriate content in it).

Go Nagai’s other manga Demon Lord Dante is controversial because the story of it is that God is an alien invader that takes over the Earth, and destroys futuristic utopia depictions of Sodom and Gomorrah. It also portrays Satan, Satanists, and demons as being good, while God and his followers are portrayed as being evil.

Now with all the info about Go Nagai that I have said, your all probably wondering why he as inspired me. Go Nagai has inspired me because not only do I love his writing and artwork (I really want to be a good writer like he is in the future), but also his fascinating metaphors that some of his manga has, and that he is ambitious and never afraid to tell stories he wants to tell. Devilman is a metaphor as it’s a anti-war story. It’s an anti-war story because of the idea of demons merging with humans against their will is symbolic to when back then (and even now in some places in the world), some people were drafted into the army (meaning they were forced to be soldiers). And the part of the story were a supporting character dies was to show the end of peace. Go Nagai even explains that Devilman is a work of anti-war when he said “There is no justice in war, any war. Nor is there any justification for humans being killed by one another. Devilman carries a message of warning, as we step toward a bright future.

Much later in his career, Go Nagai made a manga that lasted all the way from 1997-2000 called Devilman Lady (or as I like to call it by it’s English title; Devil Lady) as that manga features beings called Devilbeasts which are humans that mutant into demonic looking animals. The reason why some people become Devilbeasts is because they want to satisfy their hunger, their desire for power, their lust, and many other things. The first volume of Devil Lady even gives a fascinating theory that because of this, the Devilbeasts are the next stage of human evolution. The reason why I find this fascinating is because I understood it as being a metaphor for what will become of humanity in the future as humans tend to have their own desires that will cause them to change in a bad way, and the Devilbeasts being wild hideous savage monsters that were once normal humans is a metaphor of humanity’s desires ruining itself. While Go Nagai himself has never claimed the Devilbeasts to be a metaphor for humanity’s change (at least to my knowledge), I was able to understand that it was. I’ve also come to theorize that some people turning into Devilbeasts in Devil Lady could also have been influenced by the legend behind the Wendigo in which that monster is the result of some humans having the desire to consume human flesh, or they just become too filled by their own greed and other evil actions.

Go Nagai was inspired by Playboy Magazine, Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the Venus de Milo statue, and the Lost World by Osamu Tezuka (the creator of Astro Boy).

Despite the popularity of Go Nagai (and his work), none of his manga have been officially translated and sold in English. The only way to read some of his manga in English is to go to scanalation sites that have some of his manga translated into English (which is what I did in order to read some of his manga). However, thanks to a company called Seven Seas Entertainment, that’s about to change for the best.

Go Nagai is to manga and anime, what Stan Lee, Todd Mcfarlane, Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Walter Simonson, Brian Michael Bendis, Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Joe Simon, Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Alan Moore, Alex Ross, George Perez, Neil Gaiman, Kevin Eastman, Jim Shooter, Michael Turner, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegel, Jack Kirby, Bob Layton, Dennis O’Neil, John Byrne, Joe Shuster, Marv Wolfman, Will Eisner, Mark Waid, and Howard Chaykin are to American comics because just like Go Nagai, all the other individuals that I just mentioned have made brilliant contributions to the comic book industry that will always be remembered and not forgotten.

I’ll go as far as to say that without Go Nagai, we wouldn’t have famous manga/anime franchises such as Dragon Ball, One Piece, Attack on Titan, Bleach, Naruto, Ghost in the Shell, The Seven Deadly Sins, Trigun, Soul Eater, Akira, Ninja Scroll, and Full Metal Alchemist. Your all probably wondering what is my favorite manga that Go Nagai has made. The answer to that question is none other than the 1972-1973 five volume manga series Devilman.

The reason why Devilman is my all time favorite manga from Go Nagai is because I said so. I’m just kidding. The reason why Devilman is my favorite Go Nagai manga is because I love it’s complex, metaphorical, and ambitious storytelling, it’s outstanding artwork, it’s perfect blend of dark, violent, light hearted, and depressing tones, it’s plot twists, and the amazing impact it made to the manga/anime industry.

To me, Devilman will always be remembered as one of (if not) the best example of literature that I have ever read in my life. And so for all that, Go Nagai (and his manga series Devilman) have truly inspired me to be just as talented, passionate, and ambitious as he is. Go Nagai, I thank you for inspiring me. Your work will never be forgotten. Instead, it will always be remembered by both me, and the whole world.