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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 9/5/03

Yes, Virginia... there is a Todd Doogan

First off, I'd like to thank Jahnke for putting my name in print. It's so hard for me to do that myself these days.

Next I want to ensure everyone out there that I do in fact exist. It may not thrill all of you out there, but it's true. I am a real person and not just Bill's bad boy persona.

I think what Jahnke said about our work and our place doing it speaks better than anything I have to say this week, so I'm just going to review a DVD that came out this week that I think is worth owning.

And, Jahnke... if we ever meet, I'm going to show you just how real I am. Sailor.

Oh, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is in stores now, in case you want to inject pure evil into your collection.

Instead, I give you...

Ninja Scroll: The Series, Volume One - Dragon Stone

Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!

Ninja Scroll: The Series, Volume One - Dragon Stone
2003 (2003) - Urban Vision Entertainment

It's no secret, my all-time favorite anime is Ninja Scroll. I love it more than any other anime I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of anime. I don't find it as "important" as Akira or as epic as Neon Genesis Evagelion or even as fun as Gunsmith Cats or Cutey Honey -- but in terms of sheer cinematic wallop, Ninja Scroll is the best there is in my book.

So it shouldn't be a surprise to know that I was incredibly excited when I found out a TV series was being made by the original creator Yoshiaki Kawajiri. I was thrilled, and couldn't wait for the subsequent DVD. This week, that wait is one-third over.

The story starts years after the events occurring in the original Ninja Scroll film, our hero Jubei Kibagami, skilled ninja and sword-for-hire finds himself standing smack dab in the center of two warring ninja clans. One, the Hiruko Clan, is forever doomed to live in darkness -- never to know the light. They are the protectors of a mystical treasure known as "the Dragon Stone". Their enemy, The Kimon Clan (who fans of the original film should already know of, thanks to Jubei's previous run-in), is hell-bent on taking the Dragon Stone and unleashing the power within. So when Jubei is asked by a dying Hiruko to protect the stone and see that it finds its way to a unwitting girl named Shigure, he does so knowing a hard road is ahead of him, but Jubei knows that he must find the one known as The Light Maiden, and ensure that the power within her and the stone never fall into the wrong hands.

The Ninja Scroll TV series is 13 episodes long and debuted on WOWOW in Japan in April of this year. Although conceived by Kawajiri and supervised in hands on fashion, the series was actually written by Toshiki Inoue and directed by Tatsuo Sato. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because all was done at the original's animation studio Mad House. But even with that, fans of the original should expect some tonal changes. The style is a bit different, the pacing isn't the same and, even though each of the little over 20-minute episodes plays out like a mini version of the original film, the raw sex and violence are understandably down-played. None of these things are meant to be negative, just something to consider coming in through the front door.

The things that are the same are Jubei and his skill, the great demon ninja enemies and of course, Dakuan makes his return. Dakuan, in case you forgot is the mysterious agent of the Tokugawa shogunate. Think Yoda.

Volume one contains four volumes. They are: Episode 1 - Tragedy in the Hidden Village, Episode 2 - Departure, Episode 3 - Forbidden Love, and Episode 4 - Broken Stone. Mostly this disc sets up the tale, but it's far from boring. The action scenes are fast, the demons badass and the characters well developed. The true coolness factor is yet to rear it's head, but the potential is huge.

Video is presented in a crisp and clear full frame transfer, which represents the original aspect ratio well. It's actually a very nice transfer, with no blemishes, solid colors and good definition and detail. Sound is presented in Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 and English 5.1 and 2.0. All three sound fields are well rendered and provide excellent voice acting, which is a huge plus for those you want to listen to the English dub.

Although not a full-blown special edition, Ninja Scroll has on board a few extras to tide you over. There's a gallery of character sheets in various costume choices, a promo trailers for this and other Urban Vision titles, a cool storyboard to film comparison you can angle through, interviews with the composers Kitaro and Peter "Peas" McEvilley as well as a cute cover art creation video showcasing the making of the cool cover you see above. All in all, not a bad start to a pretty cool TV anime.

Ninja Scroll, always the fan-favorite, gets new life here in this TV series. Though not as "cool" as the original movie, it's still "cool enough" to be worth your time and money. Give it a spin.

I'll be back sooner than later. Until then, see you in the funny papers.

Todd Doogan

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