Home > Film, Idols, Martial Arts, Reviews > DVD Review: Ninja Battle – A Film By Seiji Chiba Starring Actress/Idol Aki Ito

DVD Review: Ninja Battle – A Film By Seiji Chiba Starring Actress/Idol Aki Ito

More ninja action from cult director Seiji Chiba!

In 1581, the Iga province of Japan was annihilated by Oda Nobunaga and the Koga allied forces with many blaming the Iga’s downfall on the treachery of the Iga shinobi Shimoyama Kai. Prior to these events, a team of ninja agents were dispatched on a covert mission to prevent Oda and the Koga from gaining the upper hand. This is their story…

When a small group of Iga ninjas find their comrade Yoshimori lying dead in a cave next to a bound a gagged girl, they immediately suspect her of somehow being involved in his murder. The girl, Sawa, is revealed to be a low-ranking Koga ninja from the distant Kashiwagi village and claims she was forced by Yoshimori to work for him as a traitor against her own clan. Sawa is believed to be in possession of a secret document containing information that could lead to the Iga’s successful resistance in the conflict with the Koga. But all is not as it appears.

As the Iga ninjas start to unravel the mystery surrounding Yoshimori’s death and continue their search for the missing vital document, Sawa proves that even tightly bound and at the mercy of her captors, she is still capable of being a deadly assassin. Meanwhile, during the interrogation of the girl, the ninjas begin to reveal their own true colours as bluffs, double bluffs, lies and betrayals come to the fore and threaten to compromise the mission.

(Courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

If you’ve seen any of Chiba’s other films, then you may feel cheated and a little hard-done-by after sitting through this one.  As harsh as it may sound, Chiba’s films tend to play out like an amateur stage play reusing the same wardrobe and set pieces over and over again – the forest and the cave. This would work fine if the actual plot was gripping enough. But that said, the storyline is a little stronger than his other films and it does have quite a nice little twist at the end. But even so, Shakespeare it is not – not that it’s trying to be of course.

One of the most absurd things about this film, or at least as far as its UK DVD release is concerned, is its title.  You think you’re going to be treated to a major scrap between ninja clans, but alas, there’s very little in the way of action at all.  So why call the film Ninja Battle; [Almost] Nil Battle would be a better choice. But in Chiba’s defense, this is not the original title.  That is Sengoku: Iga no ran (other wise known as The Rebel Ninja).

(Courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

Sadly, Ninja Battle lacks any real flare. It doesn’t even have the saving grace of a rubber-suit alien (Alien vs Ninja) or a relatively known leading actress like Rina Takeda (Ninja Girl) or Mika Hijii (Rouge Ninja, Alien vs Ninja). With a running time of 70 minutes (a very short film indeed), there’s very little time for character development either. Although saying that, with so few fight scenes, there would have been plenty of time to build on that, for sure.

Yet, there are some good things to be said about this film. Actress and idol, Aki Ito (Ultraman Mebius And Ultra Brothers; Bakuryuu Sentai Abaranger), gives a competent performance as the low-ranking ninja central to the story, and there’s also the display of a few nifty ninja tricks involving a piece of paper. The film’s biggest problem, however, is that it’s a little movie trying to be big.

(Courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

However, don’t be put off by this review, and don’t let it discourage you from watching his other films like Ninja Girl (aka Kunoichi) and the totally outrageous, but totally cool Alien vs Ninja.  If you’re already a fan of Chiba’s films, and like the format, as tame as it is, then you’ll probably get some pleasure out of watching Ninja Battle.

Perhaps this review is being a little too hard on the director. What the viewer must realise is that Ninja Battle actually pre-dates Ninja Girl, Rouge Ninja and Alien vs Ninja. It’s a shame it gets its release on DVD in the West after the aforementioned films have already hit the shelves. Obviously Chiba’s films have improved since the making of Ninja Battle, but by making it available after people have already seen the other films, may not be doing it any favours.

Lastly, take note: Don’t be too quick to press the stop button on your remote control as the closing credits roll (if you don’t get the urge to do this half way through the film that is), as there’s a little more to follow.

Label: MVM Entertainment

Release date: 6th Februsry 2012

Certificate: 15

Running time: 70 mins

Genre: Action, Asian epic, Martial arts, Historical drama

Director: Seiji Chiba

Stars: Aiko Ito, Shuji Kashiwabara, Daisuke Nagakura

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