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DVD Review



Starring: Yuki Nakama, Joe Odagiri, Kippei Shiina, Tomoka Kurotani and Erika Sawajiri
Optimum Asia
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 11 February 2008

For hundreds of years the warriors of the hidden villages have been renowned for their abilities in battle and their interclan wars. Now, under a unified Japan, even these old enemies have been force to stop fighting, but the new Shogun does not trust such powerful tribes and hatches a plot to destroy them. The clans Manjidani Koga and Tsubagakure Iga hold another secret, one that even they are unaware of, as Gennosuke and Oboro have fallen in love, a love that is forbidden by their clans. With war on all fronts the love of Gennosuke and Oboro may yet hold out a chance of a different way of life, if they survive...

Shinobi (2005, 98 min) was directed by Ten Shimoyama from a script by Kenya Hirata.

Now, like most, I like a good martial arts film, nothing quite like watching a combination of ballet and blood. The uses of this description for Shinobi would be to do this film a grave injustice. Certainly there is fighting in the film, but not as much as you would think, because at the heart this is a love story.

One of the things which are immediately obvious about the film is just how gorgeous it is to look at and listen to. Every, well framed, second is full of sumptuous colour and it is a crying shame that, although the lead actors both won two awards apiece, that there has been no recognition of the work of either the director, the cinematographer, the art department, editing or music department - all of which come together to make an almost perfect audio/visual experience. It looks so good on DVD I can’t wait until it turns up on Blu-ray, with the added definition this film would be a little short of mind blowing to watch.

If it wasn’t enough that it looks great, the seamless use of CGI pushes the wow factor almost to the limit. The effects are as good, and in many instances better, as any other blockbuster film from an American studio. That is not to say that the film is a slave to its effects, when they happen they exist to push the plot forward or are presented as a natural part of this slightly mythical world.

The plot is very much akin to Romeo and Juliet, after all this is more of a love story than it is a martial arts film. Much of the film is supported by the convincing acting of Joe Odagiri (Gennosuke) and Yukie Nakama (Oboro) whose performances well deserved the awards they both won.

The set of features really do the film justice. You get a visual FX featurette (41 min 16 sec), a visual FX explanation (4 min 41 sec), a piece on the weapons (8 min 54 sec), a piece on set design and construction (8 min 47 sec), storyboards, character and stills gallery and the original trailers.

The film's 2.35:1 print is pristine with no evidence of damage or artifacts; audio is Dolby digital 5.1 Japanese with optional subtitles.

What more can I say? Great film, well acted with an embarrassment of extras. Go forth and buy this one - you will not be disappointed.


Charles Packer

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