The film begins relatively strongly and I enjoyed watching it for the most part. The setting is full of gratuitous violence, rape scenes (in the first 9 minutes of the film, no less), and the setting itself comprises of a fantasy samurai period in a similar manner in which Western writers depict settings of magical medieval Europe seen throughout most Fantasy novels and Western films. Samurai and ninja have magical abilities that make them stronger and able to commit otherwise impossible actions. There’s no bellowing of attack names as its just two different sides using powers to kill each other.
The general plot is this Ninja named Jubei getting manipulated by a government spy to fight against a group secretly working to reinstate a fallen Clan, take down the Tokugawa Shogunate (the main government in power), and re-establish their lost glory as an empire. The enemies that Jubei faces have interesting powers and its always engaging to see him and this Ninja working on behalf of another clan, Kagore, fight against these eight different powerful fighters and their unique powers. Its full of gore and nudity, but not without a reason. Even the horrible rape scene contains an important story element that surprised me. The unorthodox ways people use their powers and how many of them, in the context of the narrative, realistically do so because of how fast a person can lose their life in combat is always engaging for the audience. This film doesn’t disappoint in mindless action and violence and the narrative behind the reasons is solid. Each of the main cast has a believable motivation.
Unfortunately, the narrative starts to fall apart by the end. Jubei, while somewhat interesting, isn’t enough to carry the narrative to keep the audience’s attention. He’s okay, but not great. Kagore, the female ninja, is the only character to have any realistic character development, show any semblance of worry or doubt about her positions in society and her ability to accomplish her tasks, and it is genuinely fascinating watching her character as she navigates through a sexist culture where she follows the orders of a Lord as per her commitment as a ninja even when this Lord blatantly has sex with a woman in front of her with no respect given to Kagore or the woman he’s openly having sex with. He doesn’t care how unnerving or inappropriate it is to attempt to have a conversation about a military attack while having sex. Kagore seems to attempt to hold a strong demeanor in a man’s world with her feeling survivor’s guilt from surviving her team getting massacred, to her self-loathing at her own abilities in comparison to her desire to prove herself, and her personal revulsion at what she has to put her body through to kill her enemies due to her unique powers.
Sadly, this narrative and rather intriguing character almost totally falls apart near the end with a nonsensical love plot and the focus being on her wanting to be treated for her femininity and not a desire for equality which completely counters the entire narrative of the beginning all the way to near the end. It’s possible the person stating these things about her is completely lying, but I didn’t get that impression. The finale centers around Jubei and some guy we only vaguely know from his past who has an insane secret ability. The ending honestly felt like a standard hollywood script compared to the relatively interesting beginning to near the end of the film. Overall, I think it is worth a watch for anyone interested in it.