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Shinobi Heart Under Blade

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    Ian Jane
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  • Shinobi Heart Under Blade

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    Released by: Funimation
    Released on: 2/6/2007
    Director: Ten Shimoyama
    Cast: Yukie Nakama
    Year: 2005
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Based on Futaro Yamad's Kouga Ninja Scrolls, Shinboi: Heart Under Glass is a fast paced and exciting story that blends some great martial arts, wacky super powers, a fun cast and a whole lot of nifty period costumes and sets into one completely enjoyable film.

    When the film begins, seventeenth century Japan (1614 to be precise) is at peace thanks to the efforts of the Tokugawa Shogun who has made it his priority to take care of any problems that the country had prior to his reign. Outside of the mainstream, every day life, however, the Iga and Kouga clans have been quietly breeding super powered ninjas adapt in various mystic and martial arts. The Iga's and the Kouga's are not at all fond of one another, but they are forbidden to engage each other in acts of war. What most of the clan members on either side are completely unaware of, however, is the fact that Gennosuke (the successor to the Kougas played by Jo Odagiri of Blood And Bones) and Oboro (the successor to the Igas played by the lovely Yuki Nakama of G@me and Ring 0) have fallen in love with one another. They obviously want to be with one another, but can't figure out a way to realistically make that happen without throwing the way of their respective clans into complete disarray.

    Meanwhile, the Shogun has requested that the current leaders of the two tribes come to his fortress/castle where they must present to him their best martial artist. The shogun is so impressed by what the respective clan champions can do that he decrees that each leader should pick five of his best warriors to square off against the other, with the winner to be awarded the succession to the Shogun's own thrown. Obviously the Kouga's want their leader to be the next Shogun and the Igas theirs, but by making their selections they unknowingly force Gennosuke and Oboro to fight one another to the death.

    Quite Shakespearian in tone, Shinobi: Heart Under Blade is an absolutely beautiful looking film from start to finish. The sets, the costumes, the fight choreography and the cinematography all add up to an extremely impressive visual experience made all the more satisfying by the fact that the movie actually has a really solid storyline to support all the visual fanciness. The story obviously borrows a little bit from Romeo And Juliet by focusing on two doomed lovers whose 'families' hate one another but it's all done with a uniquely Japanese twist. While it takes a little while to get going, once the plot is in full swing the movie spares no expense in bringing the conflict to very vivid (and violent!) life.

    While the two central characters could have been fleshed out a little more than they are, at the very least they're a likeable pair and it's hard not to feel for their collective plight. All they want is to be with one another but thanks to decisions made before they were even born, that just cannot be. It's a classic and romantic story that sets the stage for the tournament and war to follow very effectively and without tugging needlessly at the viewer's heart strings.

    Directed by Ten Shimoyama (the man who helmed Kane Kosugi's Muscle Heat and the creepy St. John's Wort) for Shochiku, the film works well as a hybrid of classical romance and flat out action with just the right amount of the fantastic thrown in for good measure.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Funimation presents Shinobi in an excellent 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that appears to be the original aspect ratio for the film. Colors look nice and vibrant save for a few scenes which have been intentionally muted just a bit. Print damage is never and issue and while some scenes show a fine coat of grain here and there, it's nothing to get upset over. Edge enhancement is never over bearing and there are no problems to report with compression artifacts. Detail is solid in both the foreground and the background and the picture remains strong and stable throughout playback.


    Audio options are available in both the film's original Japanese language and in an English dubbed track, both in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. In short, the audio on this disc rocks. There are plenty of nice directional effects used throughout the movie and the aggressive nature of the mix really helps bring the action scenes to life. The optional English subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read and are free of any typographical errors. Bass response is strong throughout and dialogue comes through with surprising clarity.

    Aside from a menu and chapter stops, the first disc in this two disc set is barebones aside from some trailers for other DVDs that will be released from Funimation down the road.

    The second disc, on the other hand, has a bunch of goodies that add a whole lot of insight into the history and the making of the film starting off with an excellent behind the scenes documentary that explores the use of visual effects in the movie. With much of the film relying on an effective blend of live action and computer generated images, it's interesting to see how the filmmakers went about ensuring that these two worlds would come together in as visually interesting a way as possible. The documentary does a fine job of drilling down into some of the details that fans might not take into account, such as wardrobe and hairstyles even, as well as the more obvious aspects of the production's appearance and this ends up being a very educational and interesting look at the application of the effects in the movie.

    A second featurette entitled The Sumpu Castle Fight compliments the first documentary nicely in that it narrows its focus in on that one particular fight scene by way of some on set interviews with some of the cast and crew members and some interesting on set behind the scenes footage. The Manjidani Mountain featurette contains yet more information, this time showing us how that specific set was designed and built and how the town that we see in the movie was created.

    From there we're treated to a wealth of smaller supplements, starting with a massive collection of storyboards. From there, a Weapons Introduction feature shows off each main character's special weapon and explains in some detail how they are used and why. A collection of trailers and television spots round out the second disc along with some stylish and easy to navigate menu screens.

    The Final Word:

    Shinobi: Heart Under Blade was a surprisingly enjoyable picture. It's well acted by an interesting cast, the action is intense and exciting and the movie has style to spare. Funimation has done a wonderful job on the DVD, providing the film in a very nice presentation and throwing in a considerable amount of supplemental material on top of that. This movie is a lot of fun, and action movie fans would do well to check it out.
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