Shinobi: Heart Under Blade Review

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Whilst the dvd finally reached UK a fair while ago after much delay, I’ve finally got round to watching it last night and reviewing it. The story is based on the novel by Futaro Yamada called the Kouga Ninja Scrolls. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, two rival ninja clans, Kouga and Iga have been rivals for 400 years. Gennosuke (Joe Odagiri) is in love with Oboro (Yukie Nakama) but each of them are from the two different ninja clans and their love for each other is forbidden. Tokugawa Ieyasu becomes worried at the possibility that these ninjas proclaimed as instruments of war will pose a threat throughout the peace of Japan and thus calls both rivals to call up 5 of their best warriors to fight each other with only one clan to claim supremacy.

 Overall the visual and cinematography of the film is brilliant with a clean and pure look. The imagery in moments is simply stunning showing Japan’s gorgeous surroundings from forestry to sunset skies. The fight scenes were impressive with nice touches of choreography. There is good and careful use of wire-fu to enhance the ninjas’ attributes of agility and skill.  The use of special abilities the ninja’s possessed and raw fighting skills were used exceptionally and well balanced, with fantastic use of CGI. The CGI was added exceptionally well and it’s refreshing to see an action film not rely too much on the use of CGI but subtle additions to enhance actions scenes such as the glowing eyes of Oboro. By end of the film however, it left me thinking that there wasn’t really a long sequence and epic climactic duel or battle between any of the ninjas, which was rather disappointing. Had there been such a fight or battle, I think it could have blended perfectly to the overall premise of the film.

 The acting does its job well and overall is solid with each character fitting their personality well; however Joe Odagiri is outstanding with the best performance of the film by far. His character although devastated and tormented by the events occurring, still seems to have a peaceful and determined spirit and his acting style to accommodate this was simply brilliant.

Alright well there are a few other parts of the film which in fairness I was slightly disappointed in.  I didn’t particularly feel too attached to any of the ninjas emotionally, however I wish I was as each character looked very interesting in their own distinguished way with excellent character designs (especially the stunning female ninjas may I add…) . With the exception of Oboro and Gennosuke, the characterisation of the other 8 ninjas was not fully brought into the story, rather highlighted. The love between Oboro and Gennosuke although very apparent and affectionate, the story didn’t seem to blossom too much on this even though it was one of the main progressions of the plot. I guess however if the story focused more on the relationship between Oboro and Gennosuke that would mean fewer stories on the other characters soooo I guess if the film was longer, the depth of character and relationships between the ninjas could have been shown more. There was an equal balance in drama and action however I think if there was some emphasis on character and confrontations then it could have brought out more emotional impact.

Apart from its flaws, I highly recommend Shinobi, at the end of the movie even though I thought there were parts that could have been better, it was very good viewing with an end credits song by Ayumi Hamasaki that is fantastic and fits the atmosphere perfectly.