Shinobi: Heart Under Blade
"The fight scenes are brief and will disappoint those looking for actual fighting as superpowers go up against superpowers. In fact, it plays out more like an X-Men movie set in feudal Japan."
Shinobi: Heart Under Blade (2005)
Director: Ten Shimoyama
Writer: Kenya Hirata, Futaro Yamada (novel)
Cast: Yukie Nakama, Joe Odagiri, Tomoka Kurotani, Erika Sawajiri, Kippei Shiina
Running Time: 109 min.
Plot: A truce between two rival ninja clans is broken when the supreme shogun orders them to end their dispute with a battle. However, the representative fighters from each clan, one female and one male, wind up falling in love. How will this play out?
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
OWLMAN'S REVIEW: In my eyes, Shinobi has 3 good things going for it: superpowered ninjas, Yukie Nakama, and the gorgeous cinematography of Masasai Chikamori. Like any average sucker, I was sold on this movie by the amazing trailer that was available on the Apple Japan website. But unlike the previous experience with the amazing Casshern trailer and the underwhelming film that resulted, Shinobi was quite enjoyable.
Let's start with the ninjas. These are not the typical suited up stealth ninjas that we're used to seeing. No, rather than stealth, these ninja clans are all about unique superpowers. Led by Oboro (played by Nakama), the Iga clan has a guy with super-extendable hair, a young girl with pixie dust, a guy with superfast healing powers, and some feral looking guy with claws. As for the Koga clan, they're led by Gennosuke (played by Jo Odagiri) and they've got a guy who can change faces, a girl with poisonous breath, another guy who seems to draw out and throw darts from thin air, and somebody who looks a lot like Anthony Wong (and that's about the only superpower I could determine from him).
The superpowers are pretty cool when on display, particularly when the two lead characters, Oboro and Gennosukem, get to display them - the former with her Eye of Destruction (breaks every bone in your body with one glance) and the latter with his ability to slow down time and move quickly. However, they're only on display for very brief moments, save for a protracted battle between the Iga hair man and the Koga dart man.
Other than the superpower theatrics, the sight of Yukie Nakama is something to behold. She's gorgeous and although I found her a little wooden (especially during scenes that required her to show fury or heartbreak), I just couldn't get over her beautiful eyes. Man, she's something.
Finally, the cinematography was breathtaking. The opening scenes show mountain and forest backdrops - locales where the respective ninja clans have their villages. The movie is absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend that you watch it either on the big screen or on a big widescreen TV to appreciate the luscious colours and lighting.
However, with these 3 good things comes the balance of the Force. Like many other gorgeous looking martial arts based films from Asia these days, the story is rather shallow. While it's an interesting Romeo and Juliet storyline theme that underlines the movie, the romance is never explored in detail.
The fight scenes are brief and will disappoint those looking for actual fighting as superpowers go up against superpowers. In fact, it plays out more like an X-Men movie set in feudal Japan.
The secondary characters that make up the 4 out of the 5 warriors from each clan are also never fully explored. They show up, they fight, and they get dispatched quickly.
Finally, for those who are fans of the anime series Basilisk or Naruto, you will be disappointed in this movie. While it does use some of the same characters and seems to be based on the same storyline as Basilisk, prepare to be disappointed in the lack of screentime to some of your favourite characters.
Nevertheless, I still quite enjoyed Shinobi and look forward to seeing more movies with Yukie Nakama.
OWLMAN'S RATING: 7/10