Warning! Ninja Scroll is notoriously explicit, in case you didn’t know, so this review/rant will have mentions of violence and rape, because that’s what Ninja Scroll is all about.
I don’t really know why, but I love watching all those exploitative, gory horror OVAs from the 80s and 90s.
Well, let me specify: I love watching them, but I don’t actually like them.
Strangely (to me, anyways), a lot of anime like A-Kite or Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend are hailed as these cult masterpieces that people genuinely consider to be these genius works of art. I do not think they are genius works of art – I think they’re all hot garbage juice. I think these OVAs are generally overly violent, exploitative messes that are trying too hard to be ~mature~. And yet, though I do not particularly like them, I can’t stop watching them. They’re like anime train-wrecks that I can’t stop streaming.
When it comes to the realm of explicit OVAs, it seems that Ninja Scroll reigns king. I had been avoiding it on purpose, specifically because I knew it was well-loved, and it didn’t feel right to purposely hate-watch and unleash my anger on it.
…but, then my boyfriend wanted to watch it, so I was like, >:) okay let’s gooooo!
All that being said, there’s obviously going to be bias here. I’m not even trying to hide it. Please don’t yell at me for being biased. I know I am. And I know that people fucking love Ninja Scroll, but I…well, gee, guys, there’s a lot wrong here. I do love watching people get sliced in half and all that, but…
First of all, let’s talk about Kagero, the female ninja who is immune to poison because she herself constantly oozes poison. Actually, I only want to talk about Kagero, because Ninja Scroll really did her dirty, and she deserves to be in something that treats her better. A poisonous female ninja had so many opportunities for badassery, and yet…
Because this is a Super Edgy Anime, she gets raped a few times. Nothing says, “I’m a lazy writer who doesn’t know how to make female characters” than multiple rape scenes for your leading lady. But, she gets raped for ~plot reasons~, you see. Old man Dakuan explains that anyone who makes love to her will become poisoned and die shortly after.
Clearly, the only way this Poison Pussy Power can be showcased is through continuous sexual assault. That’s right, Ninja Scroll had the opportunity to do some really cool femme fatale shit here, but they chose to do a buncha rape instead.
I mean, think about it. Kagero could have weaponized that toxic coochie and purposely seduced enemies. It would have been awesome. I, for one, would have much rather seen her sidle up to a demon and use her charm, wits, and tits to poison them. We could have seen her be all badass and sexy, and then BAM – jokes on the bad guys, because now they’re vomiting blood. Ninja Scroll could have done something really interesting with this, but it went for the offensive, over-done, and not-as-interesting-as-it-thinks-it-is rape trope.
It’s especially aggravating because, even though Kagero is introduced as if she’s going to be this kickass ninja, the OVA immediately flips around and has her cowering in fear and getting assaulted. I mean, if you’re going to have a ninja be the sole survivor of a violent demon attack, I want that ninja to be the sole survivor because of their BADASS SKILL. We do see her fight back a little bit, but I want to see Kagero murdering people, dammit! But noooo, instead of seeing her kill a man with her bare hands or parry some blows from a formidable foe, I have to watch her get smooched and licked by a rock demon.
Actually, one of the most helpful things she does is poison the big ugly rock god in the beginning – if she hadn’t excreted poison into him and weakened him greatly, our hero Junbei would have gotten killed by the rock demon early on. …Of course, she poisoned him because he was raping her, so her assistance there was kind of an accident. The worst part about this is that Dakuan specifically says that it was a good thing she poisoned him in this way. Like, WHAT???? WE’RE THANKFUL SHE GOT RAPED RIGHT NOW?? THAT’S THE BIG MOVE THAT YOU GAVE YOUR POISON PUSSY NINJA????? This is atrocious! We barely even see her bust out fight moves on enemies, but we see her poison enemies twice after they rape her and then she blows some poppy seeds. Garbage!! I want to see her cut someone in half!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Okay, to be fair, Kagero did do something else useful. Since she excretes poison, she can also, like, cure poison. By Ninja Scroll logic, two poisons will just cancel each other out. Junbei is poisoned, so old man Dakuon tells him Kagero can cure him…by fucking him.
Oh, of course. Great. Excellent. Really good writing, guys. The only cure is more sex with the only female character, and it’s sex that still feels pretty rape-y.
Luckily, Junbei decides he won’t make her have sex with him to cure him. He is, Kagero says later, the first person who ever treated her like a real person and not just a poison vessel. …TOO BAD THE OVA ITSELF COULDN’T TREAT HER THE SAME WAY!
And here’s what really gets me: it’s not even like she HAS to have sex to poison someone. She says herself that she’s so poisonous that even a kiss from her can kill someone. So, we really didn’t need to see her strip naked and tremble in front of Junbei asking him to fuck her now, did we? She could have just planted a quick smooch on his lips and been done with it. In fact, I think when they kiss at the end, it does cure him? So what was the POINT!!!!!!!!?
“But, Jenn, what about everything else? Are you gonna write a real review?” Oh, FINE. Um. Art good. Animation good. It was cool when that guy melted in gold. Hmm…yeah. That’s all I got.
Jokes aside, I kiiiind of understand why this is held in such high regards. It does look great, but the story really doesn’t age well. And it’s not because I’m a prude who can’t handle gore or controversial topics, either – I mean, one of my favorite series is Revolutionary Girl Utena, which definitely had a ton of sexual assault in it! The difference is, with Utena, it’s there for real reasons – to comment on The Patriarchy and things like that. Rape isn’t just shoved into the story for some half-baked plot reasons just to be ~edgy~ and ~shocking~. I hope that, in 2018, we can fully ditch the whole, “here is female girl character who supposedly has skills but you’re mostly just gonna see her cry and be naked” thing.
I also hope that in 2018, an anime brings back the whole poison pussy thing but does it the way that I pitched it. Madhouse, if you’re reading this and are looking to make Ninja Scroll 3…