Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

Shinobi: Heart Under BladeI’ve slowly started to increase my watching of live-action Japanese titles, especially if I hear good things about them. Such was the case with Shinobi: Heart Under Blade.

Mild SPOILER Summary:

Kouga Gennosuke is the grandson of Kouga Danjo, leader of the Kouga clan of shinobi. He has fallen in love with Oboro, granddaughter of Ogen, leader of the Iga clan of shinobi. Oboro is also in love with Gennosuke and the two meet at the border of their clan’s territory where they marry in secret, witnessed by (his?) hawk.

Shinobi: Heart Under BladeMeanwhile, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun and ruler of Japan, sees the shinobi as a threat to his rule. As such, he summons the leaders of the two shinobi clans — Danjo from the Kouga clan (older male) and Ogen from the Iga clan (older female) to his castle and seat of power at Sunpu. After witnessing a performance from representatives of both clans, Ieyasu decrees the truce between the two clans is now revoked and that they are to dispatch five of their best shinobi, who will battle each other. Only one will survive.

Shinobi: Heart Under BladeThe two leaders return to their villages to relay the news and to reveal the shinobi chosen for the fight. On the Kouga side, Gennosuke is chosen (gifted with the ability to manipulate move at incredible speeds and can apparently redirect some attacks at him back at the attacker) as well as Muroga Hyoma (male; seer; gifted sword user), Chikuma Koshiro (male; gifted with the use of shuriken and a pair of kunai), Kagero (female; able to breath poison and has a poison kiss), and Kisaragi Saemon (male; teleporter; shape shifter). On the Iga side, Oboro is chosen (has the ability to use her eyes to severely damage folks internally and kill them), Yakushiji Tenzen (male; 300-years old; gifted in the use of a sword and chakrams), Yashamaru (male; uses garrote wires made of women’s hair woven together), Mino Nenki (male; beast-like; uses modified, expendable iron claws), and Hotarubi (female; can uses some kind of mist, and summon mass swarms of butterflies).

Shinobi: Heart Under BladeDanjo and Ogen meet and kill each other, leaving Gennosuke and Oboro in charge of their respective clans. Gennosuke decides to head to Sunpu to find out from Ieyasu why their clans must fight as he is not willing to go back to the warring ways of their clans and longs to be openly married to Oboro. Oboro decides to follow him. As a result, the various shinobi end up facing off and killing each other. Eventually, Gennosuke meets with Tenzen, who reveals that the time of the shinobi is over. As such, he’s betrayed the location of both villages to the shogun, who’s dispatched his army to level both villages. Gennosuke defeats Tenzen and eventually has to face his love, Oboro. In order to save their villages, he allows Oboro to kill him and tasks her with getting Ieyasu to stop the attacks. She comes to Sunpu, and after her plea to save the shinobi villages is rejected (the shogun knows of her abilities with her eyes), she stabs her eyes, thus making her a mostly normal human, howbeit blind. This touches Ieyasu, who recalls his troops and the shinobi are allowed to live.


I really liked this movie. I had wondered about the visual effects since this wasn’t produced in Hollywood. However, the Japanese do a pretty good job in pulling off the different moves that the shinobi make during the action sequences (while keeping it fairly low on the bloody content). The only moments that really looked CGI to me were the hair-string attacks by Yashamaru, which when wrapping around people looked fake. The same can be said for Koshiro’s kunai attacks where the chains look fake when initially wrapping around someone. That aside, it looked really good visually and the action scenes were enjoyable.

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

The story is fairly simple, but engaging nevertheless. Being a movie, the supporting characters don’t get the development they should. We know very little about them beyond their special abilities. The movie does drop little tidbits of information (such as Tenzen being 300-years old or how Kagero obtained her powers of poison), but then there’s not much time for character development when the characters are destined to fight and die. I would have loved to have known more about them though, because the various shinobi cried out to me that they had an interesting back story.

Shinobi: Heart Under Blade

FUNimation sprang for the whole package and have a 2nd disc full of extras. Those interested in special effects will be treated to a feature on the special effects used in the movie. However, it doesn’t stop there as a recorded lecture from the Visual Effects Supervisor is also shown, and he gets into the technical aspects of the work they had to do. A feature showing the filming of the fights at Sunpu Castle is included, which gives a look into the making of the film. Also included are the storyboard collection, the art, a feature on the weapons in the movie, and the TV spots and trailers in Japan. All are subtitled in English.

Also, while I only watched this in Japanese with subtitles (which are up to FUNimation’s standards, meaning the honorifics are included), the movie has also been dubbed into English. So those of you who hate to read subtitles can still watch the movie, though you are out of luck concerning the extras.


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3 Responses to “Shinobi: Heart Under Blade”

  1. Hughroe says:

    Ah, live action Kouga Ninja Scrolls with half the ninjas..:).

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Heh! Yeah, that’s what I hear. Now I’m sore tempted to look into getting “Basilisk.” However, I’m already so far behind on watching stuff, so I’m not sure. ^_^;;;

  3. […] for good performances. There’ve been a lot of crappy anime/manga/book adaptations, but I felt Shinobi: Blade Under Heart was a good (even if abbreviated) take on Kouga Ninja Scrolls (Basilisk as the anime was […]

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