Nov 212012

I was watching Ninja Scroll with a couple of friends a few weeks back. I’ve seen the movie numerous times over the years. One buddy of mine has seen it quite a few times as well, but his memory was a little shaky. He was telling our other friend, who is new to anime and has never seen Ninja Scroll, about the amounts of badassitutde possessed by Jubei.

I told him that isn’t the case. Jubei’s a cool character and all, but look at what he actually does in this movie. Is he really a man of action, or is he just a victim of circumstance who sort of stumbles through the movie through chance? My friend didn’t believe me at first, but as we watched the movie he realized that, yeah, Jubei’s main “technique” is fucking luck.

We were keeping a running tally of how many of the Demons Jubei kills. He got 1 point for an out-and-out kill– Jubei fights the dude all on his own and delivers an unassisted killing blow– and 1/2 point for delivering the killing blow to the dude with the aid of Kagero or some other outside element.

Jubei ended the movie with 3 points.

He gets 1/2 point for killing the rock dude. Jubei wouldn’t be able to touch the dude, outside of a blow to his eye that’s more inconvenience than damage, if it weren’t for the fact that the rock dude doomed himself by raping Kagero and fatally poisoning himself in the process. So yeah, Jubei finishes him off, but only due to the poison coursing through his system. Total Score: 1/2

Jubei would have died against snake chick if it weren’t for the aid of the old government monk dude. That guy saved Jubei from her hypnosis, then snake chick bites it at the hands of lightning dude when she starts to talk about their plans. Total Score: 1/2

Bee dude doesn’t even really get killed by Jubei. The guy dies because he jumps into the river after Jubei and all of the bees in his back skewer him in an attempt to escape. We were kind and gave Jubei 1/2 point for this, since his “hide in the water to not get stung” tactic led to bee dude’s death. Total Score: 1

Jubei has a cool sword duel with blind dude, but he’s clearly outmatched due to blind dude’s Daredevil senses. The only reason why Jubei wins is because blind dude can’t hear the location of Kagero’s blade, which happens to be stuck in some bamboo. Jubei fall underneath the blade and lucks into blind dude hitting it instead of him, allowing Jubei to win. There’s another 1/2 point. Total Score: 1 1/2

Shadow dude bites it for the same reasons as rock dude. The mind control trick he uses to manipulate Kagero involves another instance of sexual assault, so he’s poisoned as well during his fight with Jubei. No way in hell Jubei just tosses his blade into the shadows and kills that dude unless he’s weakened by Kagero’s poison, so there’s another 1/2 point. Total Score: 2

Bomb chick offs lightning dude in a bout of unrequited love. Bomb chick gets offed by old monk dude. Jubei nearly got killed by lightning dude in the first instance and wasn’t even present for the second. He’s lucky he doesn’t get penalized for these two bits. Total Score: 2

The only time Jubei gets a straight-up fight with anyone in this movie is his final encounter with Gemma. While Gemma’s immortality is overcome due to a convenient bath of molten gold that just happens to be sinking to the bottom of the ocean, this fight is all Jubei. He kicks Gemma’s ass with his new technique of “dead girlfriend rage,” as he headbutts Gemma to death repeatedly with the stone from Kagero’s headband.

Jubei ends with a Total Score of 3 out of 7. He gets one clean confrontation and several where his survival is due more to happenstance than badassness.

This is one of the reasons why I love this movie. Jubei is cut from the same action hero cloth as the likes of John McClane. He’s a roguish fighter type, but he isn’t some superheroic, unstoppable type. He gets his ass kicked. He needs to be saved. He needs luck and he gets it when he most needs it. He doesn’t really want to be wrapped up in this mess. He just wants to be left alone so he can go around eating his riceballs and doing jack shit. Yeah, he cuts down a swarm of faceless ninja drones, but any main character in these sorts of things can do that shit. That isn’t special, its basic coursework.

And I love the rest of the movie as well. It’s so damn nasty. It’s bad people doing bad things to worse people who do worse things. It’s probably the best piece of anime exploitation ever made. Not sure if that buddy of mine who had never seen it got into it as much as my other friend and I did. We saw it pretty early on, right after it came out on VHS in the 90s. This other guy’s still pretty new to it, but he’s also weened himself on the likes of Fullmetal Alchemist and other similar shows.

Don’t think he’s quite ready for something this mean-spirited or something this “old.”

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