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Shinobi: Heart Under Blade – Review April 20, 2009

Posted by Cello in Movie Reviews.

I’d like to direct your attention to FUNimation’s Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, a live-action, anime-influenced extravaganza! In Japan in 1614, Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa has finally brought peace to the land. Only one major loose end remains: a pair of powerful, arch-rival ninja clans based out of hidden villages, ones with warriors of such strength that they could be a threat in this new era of peace. After witnessing their power, he concocts a scheme to deal with the Koga and Iga clans: nullify a 400-year-old nonaggression pact between them and get the five top warriors on each side to fight each other under another pretense, hopefully eliminating both sides and thus his problem.

The characters in this picture are severely underdeveloped. There is minimal backstory on Gennosuke and Oboro and the history revealed in the voiceover narration is unnecessary and can be figured out elsewhere in the movie. Not only are the stories of the two lead characters sorely neglected, the supporting characters are little more than glorified extras. As a result, the warriors who die early in the tale aren’t given any room to breathe, and their demise doesn’t have the same impact that it would had their characters been properly developed. Since the main characters of this movie are ninjas with magical powers, it is easy to draw the conclusion that this movie would have a great deal of action. The fight scenes in this movie are gripping and exciting, unfortunately, they are also too few and far between.


Shinobi is one of the few live-action films I’ve seen that have nailed the style, pacing, and tone of Japanese anime. The film is saturated with epic melodrama and poetic dialogue and leaps into motion when blades are drawn and battles are fought. Enough blood and serious violence is present to merit an R rating, but there are certainly more graphic martial arts movies out there.

Because of this film’s more blockbuster feel, the entertainment value is rather high and definitely warrants multiple viewings. It is available on blu-ray, so all the high-def buffs out there, prepare to open your wallets because this movie is definetely worth a purchase. Thankfully, Shinobi features a notable 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that leaves its muddy standard-def DVD cousin in the dust. I love the weighty action, the over-the-top fights, and the quiet character beats enough to suggest that any fan of anime or Asian cinema give it a try. Recommended.



1. Heather - April 20, 2009

A friend of mine has been recommending this to me as well, and had very similar comments as your review. I’m just going to have to break down and have a Japan Influenced Movie day over here. My movie to-see list is getting out of control. Loved this review Cello.

Oh btw. I finally saw Oldboy. Will have my review soon too.

🙂 – Heather

2. Phear - April 21, 2009

I thought this movie was really good (which is why I suggested it to you) and am glad you liked it. 🙂

cello85 - April 21, 2009

totally, I stay true to my requests, if you got any other picks, drop em on me and ill view ’em. Thanks man!

3. Heather - April 23, 2009

I just got a new computer so I can watch videos without the world freezing and went through the reviews that had seemed compelling to catch the trailers. This one looks amazing. I have to see it.

cello85 - April 23, 2009

Heather, thank you so much. I’ve noticed some the the youtube trailers go unactive after a few weeks, i already caught 3 that i had to update (for some reason I am running into this problem mostly with anime). So if any of them are down please be patient with me. Let me know how you like the film once you watch it 🙂

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