Ninja Scroll is an award-winning 1993 anime film set during the Tokugawa period; as one of Manga Entertainment's first major releases during the mid-1990s anime boom, Ninja Scroll is fondly remembered by those who entered the anime fandom during this period.The main story begins when a dying peasant girl staggers into the village next to hers and claims a plague has wiped out her village before collapsing. The area is promptly evacuated and quarantined, but the leader of the local lord's ninja force receives reports of a group of strangers seen in the wilderness around the village just before the plague outbreak and asks for permission to investigate.As the ninja squad make their way towards Shimoda village, they're slaughtered by a giant of a man who can turn his skin into stone. The only survivor of the massacre is Kagero, the sole female ninja in the squad — and she survives only because the stone man (Tessai) wants to rape her. The empty temple he takes her to isn't quite empty, however, as wandering ronin Jubei — the film's protagonist — has stopped there. Jubei manages to wound Tessai in a brief fight and helps Kagero escape, but the duo parts ways afterward.Kagero returns to report about the death of her squad, and is promptly sent back to gather more information about the attackers. In the meantime, Jubei is attacked by Tessai and then by another strange member of the group of super ninja that Tessai is a part of: the Eight Devils of Kimon. Jubei is saved from one of these attacks by Dakuan, a crazy old man who works as a government agent tracking the Eight Devils. Dakuan asks Jubei to help him, but Jubei refuses until Dakuan traps Jubei in a Poison and Cure Gambit before revealing a startling piece of information: the leader of the Eight Devils is Himuro Genma, a man Jubei has some history with — and whom Jubei insists he killed years ago.Jubei's only chance of survival lies in defeating the Eight Devils of Kimon and retrieving the antidote he needs, and working together with Dakuan and Kagero (after they encounter each other again) appears to give him a greater chance of staying alive — but even for a Master Swordsman, taking on the rest of the Eight Devils and their schemes is a formidable challenge as the Devils turn all of their considerable power to wiping out the three protagonists. The Eight Devils are:
Shijima, an assassin who can disappear into shadows and wields a crazy spring-loaded claw/crossbow contraption. He also has a sort of mind control/puppet master ability that he uses to temporarily turn Kagero against Jubei.
There is also a minor subplot of the strange love rectangle between Yurimaru, Zakuro, Genma, and Benisato. Zakuro is hot for Yurimaru (who is gay and sleeping with Genma), while Genma is also sleeping with Benisato, much to the chagrin of Yurimaru. For these characters, Love Hurts.The movie was inspired by the semi-historical novel "The Kouga Ninja Scrolls" by Futaro Yamada, published in 1958, which is also the basis for Basilisk.A semi-related anime series was created years after the film's release. A cinematic sequel was announced in 2005, but it's been dangling in Development Hell ever since.
Accidental Hero: Utsuru Mujuro has Jubei dead to rights in their fight before Kagero tries to save Jubei by backstabbing Mujuro; the attack fails and leaves Kagero's blade stuck in a bamboo tree. When Mujuro later attempts a killing blow on Jubei, his sword hits against Kagero's blade (which he can no longer track by his hearing). Jubei doesn't waste the opportunity, and Mujuro dies wondering how Jubei blocked his sword and stabbed him simultaneously.
Acquired Poison Immunity: Kagero is immune to all types of poison, although it's implied she's a poison taster because of her immunity (instead of being immune because she's a poison taster).
Action Bomb: Zakuro's MO. She turns the leader of the Koga ninjas into one to attack Kagero and Jubei. She later becomes this herself, sinking the cargo ship in the process.
Badass Normal: Unlike the Devils, Jubei doesn't have any special powers, which means he must rely on his basic skills and his wits to come out ahead.
For a given value of "basic", anyway. Jubei has the ability to perform an iaijutsu draw, which can strike an enemy or object that is beyond the actual range of his blade. The visual effects used to convey this are fairly understated in the movie (and much less so in the series).
Boring Invincible Hero: Heavily subverted with Jubei. The Action Prologue and his first encounter with Tessai seem to point toward Jubei being this, and while he kills ninja mooks by the truckload, when he battles the Eight Devils of Kimon he only barely manages to defeat them and tends to get beat up pretty bad in the process. A few he manages to kill only by sheer luck.
Bee Bee Gun: The ugly hunchback Mushizo is a living hornets' nest. He communicates with and controls the insects, using them to gather information and as a weapon. The wasps' deadliness has some basis in reality.
Can't Have Sex, Ever: Kagero's body absorbs poisons instead of processing them; it makes her ideal for her job, but the numerous toxins have made her bodily fluids so poisonous that even kissing someone else would be deadly. Tessai finds out the hard way.
Carrying the Antidote: This trope is subverted; Jubei thinks Dakuan is doing this, so he attempts to Cut The Knot by hitting Dakuan with the poison too, but Dakuan had already thrown away the poisoned shuriken and replaced it with an ordinary one.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: Justified; Jubei blows through a group of mooks in the opening scene, but is forced to fight for his life against the Eight Devils of Kimon throughout the rest of the film.
Corpse Land: Shimoda village is littered with diseased corpses. Then we find out they were poisoned...
Crapsack World: This is a Japan where the ninja aren't just skilled shadow fighters, they're legitimate supernatural monsters that come out of nowhere, resurrect from the dead, betray each other left and right, pop out of the shadows to molest you, disguise themselves as normal people to trap you with venomous snakes, poison whole villages, rape you or your corpse and display barely even practical concern when all their friends, lovers and family die in one evening because, by then, you've seen and done so much that the darkness of the loss and insanity of it all doesn't even faze you at that point. In this world, you literally have to break the laws of nature just to survive. No thank you.
Just to drive it home further, there is one, ONE moment in the entire movie that has happiness in it. It's the villager who cheerfully tells his neighbor that the storm made his wife go into labor and now he has a 9th child, and even this moment is cut short because a damn corpse wanders in under control of one of the devils to tell them that Shimoda village was wiped out due to plague.
Death Seeker: Kagero shows signs of this throughout the movie. In the dub, Jubei chastises Kagero several times over her willingness to throw her life away even in situations where she doesn't need to risk her life.
Intimate Healing: Dakuan tells Kagero she has to sleep with Jubei to cure his poison. Their kiss is implied to be enough to cure him.
Irony: The death of Utsutsu Mujuro is rather ironic: after saying Jubei's sight was a weakness, Mujuro is killed because he couldn't see a knife stuck in a bamboo tree (which deflected his attack and gave Jubei the chance to deliver the killing blow).
Jerkass: The chamberlain and Dakuan fall under this trope.
Juggle Fu: In Jubei's introduction andEstablishing Character Moment, he simply had to take care of three disgruntled assailants before he could finish his delicious rice-ball. So, he tosses said rice-ball straight into the air as two of his would-be murderers leap into him, blocks the first with his sheathed sword and knocks him silly with a headbutt, takes his spear and smashes the second incoming idiot unconscious with it, then cuts the pistol of the third in half and sheathes his sword in one fast motion so fast the audience couldn't see it, and then opens his hand and catches the rice ball, nonchalantly finishing his lunch afterwards. It's as Badass as it sounds.
Last Kiss: In a world where lust, violence, and greed have cheapened sex as an expression of love, Kagero's simple kiss for Jubei was an expression of love stronger than any other.
Yurimaru, while electrocuting Jubei, sees a rat wander into the room and collapse, displaying sutures on its belly. He connects the dots (floor covered with black powder + Zakuro's remote bomb = BOOM) when it's far too late.
Well, sort of. Some of the film's character designers also worked on Samurai Shodown and its sequels, and several characters' designs are based on characters from Ninja Scroll: Caffeine Nicotine (Dakuan); Tachibana Ukyo (Mujuro); Shiki (Benisato); Amakusa (Yurimaru); Basara (Shijima); Sieger (Genma).
In a more direct fashion: Kibagami Jubei's name comes from Kibagami Genjuro and Yagyu Jubei.
Mujuro is a blind swordsman in the vein of Zatoichi.
Suck Out the Poison: Jubei attempts to do this to Kagero's thigh after she's bitten by a snake, but he earns a swift kick for the effort (as she was trying to protect Jubei).
Summon to Hand: Jubei does this with his sword via a barely-visible string.
Taking You with Me: Tessai attempted this with Jubei, but failed. (Tessai left an impression of Jubei's face in stone so his comrades could avenge him, though.)
The Load: Despite traveling with talented comrades in the movie and TV show, Jubei pretty much ends up doing all the work and killing most everyone. It seems pretty pointless in the movie, when he's fighting Utsutsu, that he calls out "This one's mine!" when they've pretty much all been his. He kills 6 of the 8 Devils of Kimon, with the other 2 being lost to betrayal from their own brethren.
Kagero, at least, successfully helps Jubei in winning several fights indirectly, but despite her supposed talent in ninja martial arts, the only hits she ever makes that connect are, ironically enough, when she's hitting Jubei.
Trying Not to Cry: Yeah, Men Don't Cry in medieval Japan, but it still took ALL that Jubei had to do so until Kagero passed on in his arms, and even then a Single Tear that honored his manly heart was shed.
Tsundere: Kagero is a rare tragic example of this trope; she didn't learn to express her feelings until it was too late.
Use Your Head: During the climax, Jubei manages to knock Genma to the ground — despite having a broken arm — and repeatedly headbutts Genma hard enough to cave his face in. Genma gets back up seconds later, but still...
Villainous Rescue: Yurimaru has strung up Jubei with his wires and is torturing him by via electrocution — then Zakuro uses one of her "living bombs" to kill Yurimaru (Jubei manages to escape, although he is severely hurt).
Walking the Earth: Jubei starts the movie doing this. He ends the movie in the same way.
What Measure Is a Mook?: The Koga ninja clan is regarded as expendable; their lord regards their slaughter with irritation, since they didn't do their job properly.
When She Smiles: Kagero blushing like a real girl for the first time as Jubei tenderly held her was simply adorable.
Woman Scorned: Zakuro doesn't take Yurimaru rejecting her well at all.