Shinobi: Heart Under Blade will satisfy viewers looking for supernatural ninja action. However, fans of the anime and novel might disapprove of the story changes.
Shinobi: Heart Under Blade Synopsis
The Sengoku Period is over and Japan is newly united under the rule of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. To consolidate his rule, Tokugawa decides to destroy the mercenary ninja clans of Iga and Kouga, by ordering them to pit their five best warriors against each other in a death duel. Well aware of Tokugawa’s scheme, and having secretly met and fallen in love, the young leaders of the two clans do their utmost to prevent this conflict. However, as their comrades fall one after another in battle, they come to accept the impossibility of the situation. Both decide to commit the ultimate sacrifice to save their clans.
I watched Shinobi: Heart Under Blade while on a flight to Japan in 2005. As I was at that time completely unfamiliar with the novel it was based on, and I was mentally looking to prep myself for my holiday, the movie left quite the positive impression on me. Overall, I found it visually striking, with combat sequences slick and intense. It was also easy to empathise with the plight of the two leads, who both bore suffering with stately Japanese stoicism. If any, the only complaint I had about Shinobi: Heart Under Blade was that most of the supporting characters felt undeveloped, on top of dying too quickly. I later concluded this fault to be inevitable. It is the common flaw among all movies featuring a plethora of super-powered combat characters.
A few months later, I bought the DVD and had since re-watched the movie several times. I’m happy to say that with each viewing, my opinion remains largely unchanged. Yes, there are significant deviations from the source material. The movie could have also elaborated the perplexing animosity between the two clans better. But as a fantasy action movie, I think Shinobi: Heart Under Blade works. And it works quite well too because of the tragic romance at the heart of it. I would recommend this movie to any Japanophile. Or just about any viewer in love with stylised Eastern fantasy.
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