Yōtōden (戦国奇譚妖刀伝, Sengoku Kitan Yōtōden?, "A Warring States Legend of the Demon Blades") is a Japanese historical fantasy novel by Takeshi Narumi. In 1987 the novel was adapted into a 3-episode original video animation by J.C.Staff. In 1989, … see full wiki
In the year 1580 during Japan's Sengoku period, Lord Oda Nobunaga seeks to unify Japan with the aid of his warriors the Seven Oboro Ninja. His armies are destroying entire clans, but one of his goals is to wipe out the descendants of the Three Shadow Schools. One descendant, a female ninja named Ayanosuke, barely escapes the total annihilation of her people and village. Before her escape, she is given a short sword with a legend. The legend states that the sword will eliminate evil and bring peace. During her travels, she encounters two other ninjas with weapons that carry the exact same legend. -summary
Released in 1989, Wrath of the Ninja is the 87 minute, condensed version of the original three episode OVA Wrath of the Ninja: The Yotoden Saga, which ran for 138 minutes. Unlike other anime films that have been sliced and diced from series into movie format, Wrath of the Ninja is one of the better titles out there, as it still manages to tell a coherent story, and really doesn't feel as rushed as some claim it to be. The anime does manage to tie up its major plot elements leaving nothing left open. Surprisingly, the film is a lot better to me after re-watching it again after so long. In all honesty though, someone who has never seen the original OVA probably won't even notice much of a difference.
Wrath of the Ninja is an action packed fantasy with horror elements, that not only features battles between man, but also against grotesque demons that will be seen feasting on human corpses. To include, one character raises the dead which is made up of headless and torn up bodies to do battle. The anime pulls very little punches with its violence and dark tone. I really enjoyed the dark atmosphere in several segments. It's also a plus that the anime does not at all contain comedic moments to lighten up the mood. This one element actually harms many titles, and sometimes can make it difficult for me to take serious what I'm watching.
Wrath of the Ninja has a pretty straight forward story and plot utilizing the good vs. evil theme, along with old legends bringing together a small group fighting for peace or revenge. The anime does kind of lack in character development though. The three main characters Ayanosuke, Sakon, and Ryoma are well developed for the most part, and I also enjoy how some of the character development isn't completely spoon-fed. I don't prefer my stories or characters motives to be spelled out for me at every turn. However, the villains seem to suffer from the same issues the villains in Ninja Scroll suffer from, which is the complete lack of diversity. They're all completely one dimensional stock bad guys. The secondary cast are very poorly done, and several of them die dramatic deaths. I can't imagine any viewer truly growing a liking to any of them, much less caring about their fates. Believe it or not, despite the longer run length, the OVA makes this exact same mistake.
The animation is pretty good and doesn't have much of a dated feel. The backgrounds are well lit when called for, such as during the burning of towns and villages, and the darkness seemed to fit comfortably when necessary. The action scenes can also be pretty good with a few hand to hand and sword exchanges. There's a real good amount of gore and graphic deaths, such as characters being shot to death with muskets, and heads exploding in very graphic detail. However, there were numerous shortcuts taken with reused cels and stills on static backgrounds. I can kind of forgive this when taking under consideration the age of the title.
I thought the artwork was well done with nice traditional character designs, along with the freakish designs for some of the monsters. There's also a small bit of nudity that is actually within reason. Although I can't say it was great or memorable, the soundtrack did its job by enhancing the viewing experience for me.
The voice acting is a mixed bag here. Normally, I prefer to watch dubs but the English version has several annoying voice actors, and this goes for the villains especially. Although the voices did fit very well with the characters overall appearance. I felt some of them went a little over board trying to be evil and the performances felt too forced. The sub doesn't make this mistake, and the Japanese seiyuu felt a lot more natural, with some of the villains having a menacing feel to them. When compared to the three episode OVA, the story really isn't as engrossing, because it feels too by the numbers. The OVA takes a lot more time actually telling a story, and it utilizes a narration covering moments of the war, and the viewer can have a better understanding of at least one of the ninja clans dire situation.
Overall, Wrath of the Ninja is a solid movie, but I only recommend picking up the two disk version. The movie on its own is not something I would consider to be a must see, in fact, I don't consider the OVA to be a must see either, especially for the casual anime fan. I would only recommend this to the most serious otakus.
Pros: -Action, good Japanese cast
Cons: -Secondary characters, movie is not as strong as OVA
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