When you need to generate a little cash, what better way to do it than to bring out a title with the word “Ninja” in the title?
Ninja Resurrection makes out pretty well on the audio front in this release as we get the original Japanese stereo mix at 192kbps as well as the English 5.1 mix at 448kbps. With the English 5.1 remix, the two episodes here make out a fairly well with the upgrade, though it takes awhile for it to be noticeable since such a chunk of the opening is exposition. The forward soundstage benefits the most with a clearer and more distinct elements track while the music itself comes out well but not too much better over the stereo mix. Dialogue was nice and clear throughout on both tracks and we had no problems during regular playback.
This 2008 edition of Ninja Resurrection is the same as the Anime Essentials edition from 2004 which is a good thing. That release took advantage of better encoding tools than were available during the shows first release a few years prior and it does provide a decent bump in comparison. The opening sequence is still the worst part in general with the pixilation inherent in the source material with all the tightly drawn pieces showcasing the old text artwork, but the main show itself looks very good with the darks being the main plus as they're very solid among the varying shades presented throughout the show. Cross coloration is visible in the show but it is very minimal as is aliasing.
Watching the various ways this series has been packaged over the years has been interesting to see. This edition is keeping some elements from the original, mainly in how it has Jubei with his sword raised in front of him. For this one it’s done with that as the central focus with a very dark background to it, giving it a much more interesting look and one that isn’t anywhere near as busy as the previous editions. This one actually looks fairly dark and dangerous. Even more interesting is that it looks current with the vibrancy that the colors have. The back cover is pretty dark as well with the flames over the city being the main background piece while some character artwork is along the right side that’s brighter and more colorful. The summary is a bit difficult to read at times since it’s white text on red and black, but nothing that’s too terribly bad. The production credits and disc’s technical information rounds out the bottom in a clean and easy to read fashion. No inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu layout is identical to the original releases with a close-up shot of Jubei while music plays alongside the otherwise static menu. Selections are made quickly and are accessed without any trouble. Submenus load quickly for what little you’ll use them and the disc correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly. The design is nicely done overall and very appealing.
The original release of the show way back in the days was one that caused a bit of controversy because it was marketed as something of a successor of sorts to Ninja Scroll. That was corrected with the Essential Anime release back in 2004 and is still true here thankfully. The release doesn't avoid the main problem however of being incomplete with a cliffhanger at the end of the second volume. Chances of it being continued? Beyond nil at this point of course, but for those that enjoyed the show, it’s worth dreaming about. Taking in these two episodes once more, I found myself enjoying the show a lot for both its visuals and for the way it plays out in the time period, particularly as I keep learning more and more about this era from non-fiction books I'm reading. Ninja Resurrection has had a divisive effect on fans since its initial release for a variety of reasons, but it's a show that I still find engaging since it doesn't avoid religion and provides a different take on things that normally isn't done in anime.
Ninja Resurrection is admittedly something of a mess to watch, but it’s one that I like simply because of its visuals. The series does come across as rather tame now after all these years as it deals in the early 1600’s where the Tokugawa Shogunate has consolidated its power some years after the battle of Sekigahara. It’s not enforcing its laws about the practice of Christianity in the land and has a zero tolerance approach to it, destroying idols wherever they’re found and killing off those who worship. Everything goes down bad when Jubei Yagyu is sent in to deal with one stronghold in Shimabara and is used by the man behind Amakusa to push him over the edge. Jubei’s actually innocent of the crime being displayed but Amakusa is driven by rage and revenge which causes him to turn the entire situation into a strange supernatural event that shocks Jubei.
Enough so that some years later, he’s spending his time idly and without much in the way of actual action. He’s still keeping tabs on everything, which is good since the power behind Amakusa has decided to make his move within the Tokugawa Shogunate and it’s starting to become more apparent when wagonloads of young women between the age of fifteen and twenty-two are being taken to a nearby Lord for some unknown reason. That invariably draws in a pair of girls that Jubei is fond of and he finds himself embroiled in the situation where the real mystery is firmly in the supernatural and it drives him to action once again.
With the years having gone by, the violence here does come across as relatively tame as the bodies go flying every which way. It was interesting to watch this the day after watching Afro Samurai and realizing just how different everything is from ten years ago. Nothing is held back really here in terms of the violence, but the context of when it was made is important because at the time it was part of a genre of “ultraviolence” that was prevalent in a lot of OVAs coming out of Japan. Like anything that pushes boundaries however, it’s eventually going to become the norm and then tame and that has sadly happened here. The visuals still hold up relatively well, but with the loss of its violence and the ties to a chaotic and disparate storyline, Ninja Resurrection ends up coming across as more of a jumbled mess than anything else. Certainly worth checking out for fans of the genre though since it is an interesting look at a show that was strangely popular but couldn’t be completed.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.