Ryotaro OkiayuNorio WakamotoninjaNinja Resurrection
Ninja Resurrection
Medium: OVA
Year: 1997
Director: Yasunori Urata
Original creator: Futaro Yamada
Studio: Ashi Productions, C.D.I., Hana Production, Production I.G, Production I.G. Niigata, Studio DEEN, Studio Live, Studio MOLA, White Line
Actor: Ryotaro Okiayu, Tessho Genda, Fumito Yamano, Kaneto Shiozawa, Kunihiko Yasui, Masuo Amada, Norio Wakamoto, Osamu Saka
Keywords: anime, historical, Yagyu Jubei, samurai, ninja
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: two 40-minute episodes
Url: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=186
Website category: Anime 1990s
Review date: 8 December 2009
I bought this at random. There was a "buy one get one cheap" offer and Ninja Resurrection was the only back-up choice that wasn't disc one of eight. An hour after placing the order, I did some research and learned that the world thinks it's crap. In the end it gave me twisted fun, but it's not hard to see why it's so hated.
I should start with a bit of background. Ninja Resurrection was based on a Futaro Yamada ninja novel called Makai Tensho, one of his Ninpocho series. Its hero is Yagyu Jubei Mitsuyoshi, who I've come across before. He was a real historical character (although a samurai rather than a ninja) and he crops up these days in all kinds of stuff, having even been played a couple of times by Sonny Chiba. Jubei's famous for only having one eye, although that might not be historically correct, and so here we see him lose it while still in training. (Sadly, unlike his counterpart in Jubei-Chan: Secret of the Lovely Eyepatch, his eyepatch isn't heart-shaped and pink.)
So far, so good. This was supposed to be a four-episode OVA, but unfortunately they only made two episodes due to a bizarre real-life Japanese murder case that seemed to be copying one of the anime's scenes. It probably also didn't help that it had expensive production values and luridly sensationalist content. However the scurrilous bit is that when selling it in North America, Ninja Resurrection was deliberately marketed to make it look like a sequel to Ninja Scroll, a famous anime movie that happens to have been based on the same Futaro Yamada novels. There's no connection between the two anime, needless to say. They're made by different studios and they don't even have the same lead character, with Ninja Scroll having changed its protagonist's first name from Yagyu to Kibagami (although he's still a Jubei) and letting him keep both eyes.
Lots of anime fans thus bought Ninja Resurrection and suffered a rude awakening. It sold quite well, but at the cost of being branded by fans one of the all-time worst anime, which is probably a bit harsh. It's not good, but at times I thought it was quite fun in its own incoherent, horrible way.
The beginning is a lead weight. In a two-episode OVA (albeit one with a total running time of eighty minutes), the first fifteen minutes are historical info-dumping. No story, just pure exposition. What the hell? It could be argued to add atmosphere and a sense of history, but personally I found it boring. Things liven up after that, though. There's outrageous bloody violence, weird fucked-up shit and some outstanding villains. A memorably evil bastard can almost be better than a good hero, which is a lesson this anime has taken on board. I was building up some real loathing for these guys as they committed deeds so shameless you'd think they were trying for some kind of record. This anime is appallingly written and has little sense of story structure, but I admire the crafting of its bad guys. You'll want to see them tortured to death and then hanged with their own intestines.
But then, in mid-flow, the OVA ends! As set-up for the never-produced episode three, it's great. However as a finale for what's being marketed as a self-contained story, not so much.. It's not even a case of "the bad guys won", but merely "very funny, where's disc two?" I'll give a quick plot summary. It's the Tokugawa era in Japan and the government is persecuting Christians. One well-defended city is holding out, but they storm it with an elite aerial squad led by Jubei and overthrow the Christian enemy. This lets a devil-worshipper to persuade a messiah that the government's troops are child-killers, so this holy man becomes a demon and tries to kill Jubei. The demon is defeated in this, so instead it has sex and becomes the father of Satan. Some of the most famous warriors in Japanese history are resurrected and Jubei's clearly got an epic fight coming when... hey, it's time for episode three!
No, I'm not kidding. By the way, did I mention the rape?
This is not a good way to end your story. However surely everyone who bought this DVD must have guessed that something must have happened, e.g. the money running out, because there's no way anyone would do this deliberately.. I'd been really getting into the story and looking forward to serious arse-kicking when the credits rolled. One's natural instinct will be to swear for a while and toss the DVD into the bin, but I practically laughed out loud. It's like the punchline of a shaggy dog story.
Believe it or not, I'd almost recommend this. Had it gone on to complete its story, I'd have been praising it. (Not without reservations, admittedly, but it's just the ticket if you want tastelessly fucked-up shit with truly evil bastards.) You'll have to be ready for the lack of an episode three, but it's not as if we don't all know what would have happened. The script's written in our heads already. So why not pretend that a conclusion is sitting on the shelf and just enjoy the first two episodes as the beginning of a saga that can continue any way we choose to imagine?
That was fun. Righty-ho, back to the shoujo.