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Shadow Warriors

    Ian Jane

  • Shadow Warriors: The Complete First Season

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    Released by: BCI Eclipse/Ronin Entertainment
    Released on: 4/17/2007

    Director: Various
    Cast: Sonny Chiba, Junichi Haruta, Naomi Hase, Shohei Hino, Renji Ishibashi
    Year: 1980
    Purchase From Amazon
    The Series:

    The first of the four Shadow Warriors television series finally sees a home video release on DVD thanks to BCI Eclipse and Ronin Entertainment. Why do you care? Ninjas. And lots of them.

    The series is set after the death of the third Tokugawa Shogun and we soon learn that the person in line to replace him is only five years old. A clan of ninja warriors named the Igo Clan, lead by a man named Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba) were more or less forced into hiding by the late Shogun. With the political climate more or less beginning anew, it might seem like an opportune time for Hanzo and his crew to get back into the swing of things but Hanzo is conent for the time being with running his bath house and keeping his ninja related activities out of the public eye. He's been soured by the way his clan was treated in the past and is really none too keen on putting himself back into that type of position any time soon.

    Unfortunately, the Kouga clan of ninjas are not so peaceful. Their leader, the sinister Minaguchi Kisabuto, is intent on usurping as much power as he can for his clan and to completely take advantage of the current political disarray. At the behest of a poltician friend named Hoshina, Hanzo and his clan are pulled back into action to stop corrupt politicians and to keep the Kouga's at bay.

    With each of the twenty-seven episodes in this set clocking in at 45-50 minutes each, there's a lot of material to go through here. That said, once you start with the series odds are pretty good that you're not going to want to stop. Shadow Warriors is an insanely addictive series and every episode is an adrenaline rush of sorts. Those accustomed to American television of the early eighties may be taken aback by the amount of onscreen carnage and abundance of female nudity contained in the show. There's blood and boobs galore and the series was definitely aimed at an adult audience. The plots contain all manner of twists and Chiba carries the show with poise and style. Look for a cameo from the Sue Shimi (of Sister Streetfighter fame) and a few other bit part players who will look familiar to those well versed in the Chiba/Japan Action Club movies of the time.

    The series is full of fantastic action scenes, crazy ninja highjinks and plenty of top notch tough guy dialogue. The stunts and fight choreography are the highlights of the series but underneath the flash and chaos are some cleverly written and interesting characters. Politics obviously play a large roll in the series and as such it leaves plenty of room for backstabbing, underhanded dealings and general mischief. The writers take advantage of this and as such we see Hanzo having to deal with more cerebral difficulties in addition to having to bust out a few cans of whup-ass on those who get in his way. Hanzo, in turn, is given ample room to grow as the series develops. Unlike his film work, where Chiba is undoubtably tough and macho as macho can be but ultimately limited by time restraints, Hanzo's persona builds with a little more care. We learn about his background, his friendships and his life and because of this he's a as strong a character as any Chiba has ever played. Things get a little repetitive in spots but even in episodes where we feel like we've 'seen this before' Shadow Warriors is completely awesome.

    The twenty-seven episodes that make up the complete first series contained in this set are:

    Disc 1, Side 1:
    Tigers Sharpen Their Claws In A Storm
    A Female Leopard Hiding In The Dark

    Disc 1, Side 2:
    A Devil Called Ousha Highway
    The Spring of Kyoto: The Trick Of The Black Teeth

    Disc 2, Side 1:
    Soft Skin Sunk Into A Whirlpool
    The Woman Disappeared Into The Port On A Foggy Night

    Disc 2, Side 2:
    The Target Is A Mystery Woman
    Infiltration! The Ladies' Chambers Night And Day

    Disc 3, Side 1:
    The Female Ninja's May In Shadows
    The Black Hair Burned With The Grudge

    Disc 3, Side 2:
    A Bridge And A Murderous Fiend
    Kill Night Spiders Even if They Are Parents

    Disc 4, Side 1:
    Midnight Beauty
    The Shogun Disappeared! The Plot Of The Female Foxes

    Disc 4, Side 2:
    Mysterious Priest, Inviting Hell
    Don't Get Involved With Dangerous Women

    Disc 5, Side 1:
    The Living Shadow Shogun
    The Killer In The Eyes

    Disc 5, Side 2:
    Palace Of The Bloodsucking Woman!
    I'm Going To Be Killed

    Disc 6, Side 1:
    Hiding! The Hole Of Snakes
    The Dreadful Instigator

    Disc 6, Side 2:
    The Red Eyes Of A Snake Are A Death Sentence
    Shudder! Sacrifice Of The Virgin

    Disc 7, Side 1:
    The Trick Ceiling Of The Tragic Love
    The Ominous Place: The Cursed Flute

    Disc 7, Side 2:
    Intrusion! 24 Hours In The Woman's Bath


    Presented in its original fullframe aspect ratio, Shadow Warriors looks pretty good even if it is far from perfect. There's a bit of grain and some very minimal print damage but the image stays pretty clean for the most part. There aren't any issues with mpeg compression or heavy edge enhancement and while a few scenes are a bit on the soft side, there's not much to complain about here - more often than not the picture is very good.
    The episodes are all presented in Dolby Digital mono in their original Japanese language with optional English subtitles that are clean, clear, easy to read and free of any obvious typographical errors. Audio quality isn't perfect but for an older television series it doesn't sound bad. Dialogue remains clear and the effects and music are properly balanced. There are a few spots that sound a little flat but that's likely got more to do with the source material rather than the DVDs.
    The main extra feature in this set is a sixteen-minute video interview with the bad man from Japan himself, Sonny Chiba. The very jovial Chiba talks about his work on the series, the involvement of his own Japan Action Club, his appearance in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and more. He makes for a very pleasant interviewee and his responses are both interesting and entertaining.

    Aside from that, there's a handsome eight-page booklet inside the package that contains some informative liner notes courtesy of Patrick Macias which detail the history of the series and its star.

    The Final Word:

    Shadow Warriors kicks all kinds of ass. Go get it now.
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