A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ninja Scroll is a classic anime (Japanese animation), made in 1993. It's one of the best-known titles among fans in the United States. If your child is a fan of the genre, he or she will eventually come upon this movie. It contains severe, extreme fantasy violence, with fighting, gushing and raining blood, slicing-and-dicing, pummeling, and death. It also contains a brutal rape sequence in which a monster forces itself upon a naked girl, and there is a very vivid man-on-woman sex scene as well. Language is much stronger if viewers choose the Japanese language track and the English subtitles. The English-dubbed track tends to soften curse words. It's beautifully made, with some incredible action and artwork, and the male and female heroes have some admirable qualities, but parents should exercise strong caution in showing this to kids under 17.
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What's the story?
Jubei is a wandering samurai-for-hire, with deadly sword-fighting skills. During his travels, he happens upon a village that appears to have been wiped out by a plague, but in reality, eight powerful, evil creatures, the Devils of Kimon, have done the damage in order to retrieve some lost gold. Jubei rescues a girl ninja, Kagero, but finds himself the Devils' new target; they will continue to attack him one by one. Worse, it turns out that Jubei's old enemy Gemma has been reincarnated and is behind all the violence. With the help of an elderly little spy, Jubei must survive this onslaught of deadly attacks, and -- possibly more difficult -- resist falling in love with the mysterious Kagero.
Is it any good?
The movie features some truly dazzling action sequences and some tense fight scenes. Characters zip through the trees and move quick as a flash; there's a real sense of speed and weight to these scenes. It also does a wonderful job setting up a rich atmosphere and the time period of feudal Japan with excellent artwork and character designs. The "devils" are appropriately scary, and the movie manages a constant sense of mystery and dread. It should be noted, however, that the violence is very, very strong here, including sequences of explicit sex (and even rape). This is definitely not for kids.
Along with titles like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll is considered one of the classics of anime in the West. Like many others of its genre, the plot is very complex and relies heavily on "backstory" events that occur well before the movie begins. Eventually it becomes clear that we get three heroes: a good guy, a tough, pretty girl, and a wise old man. Everyone else in the story is a bad guy, and everything clicks into place.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's extreme violence. What effect did it have on you? How did it make you feel? Did you feel tense, or excited? Or disturbed?
As a ninja, is Kagero a strong female hero, or is she a stereotype?
What makes Jubei change from a wandering samurai-for-hire into a real hero who believes in his cause? Is it revenge? Or is there something more?
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