Tag Archives: shinobi

Ga-Rei Zero: Enticing!

If you like the following movies:  Kill Bill, Resident Evil, Shinobi, and The Lord of the Rings, and you want to see a good mixture of elements from these movies in a 12-episode anime, then watch Ga-Rei Zero!  Ga-Rei Zero involves two close friends, Yomi and Kagura, who consider each other a sister, but are not blood-related.

Yomi and Kagura

Yomi is older than Kagura, and mentors her in being a warrior against supernatural evil beings.  Calling themselves exorcists, Yomi and Kagura work for the Supernatural Disaster Countermeasures Division (SDCD) of the Ministry of the Environment.  They are experts in eliminating supernatural zombies and monsters through some very fancy samurai swordmanship.  While the younger Kagura becomes better and better throughout the series, we are left in suspense throughout the entire series wondering how Yomi started on the good side then went rogue and became an agent of evil.

SDCD members, Noriyuki, Nobu twins, Kazuki, and Kagura

Kazuki with machine-gun suitcases. Remember Desperado?

Mariachi's from Desperado. Remember the machine gun guitar cases and the rocket launcher?

The series reminds me of Kill Bill because of the swordsmanship and schoolgirl fetishism:  similar to Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill, the schoolgirl-dressed henchwoman at Lucy Liu’s side, both Yomi and Kagura are dressed in their school uniforms throughout the entire series.

Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill

Ga-Rei Zero reminds me of Resident Evil because of the zombies and nasty monsters that SDCD fights against.  There are many gory scenes throughout the series, and fortunately, most scenes are shown in Hitchcock style:  you see the blood spatter, but you don’t see the point of contact.

Mei reminds me of the characters in Shinobi:  Heart Under Blade.  Mei is dressed in long cloth, has pink hair, and carries a big blade.  She also is shown beautifully against the moon in the background, similar to Kouga Gennosuke’s flying into the air at night with the moon in the background.

Mei, with the moon in the background

Finally, Ga Rei Zero reminds me of the ring in The Lord of the Rings:  just like the Ring magnifies a person’s evil emotions, the death stones that the evil boy Kazuhiro keeps bring out the worst of the dark sides of two characters (you’ll have to watch the series to find out who).

Kazuhiro, keeper of the death stones to rule them all?

For the two characters who are affected by the death stones, would they have done the same things had they not been affected by the stones?

Movie review: “Shinobi: Heart Under Blade”

Although “Shinobi:  Heart Under Blade” was released in 2005 in Japan, I haven’t seen it until now.  I was actually in Japan shortly after the movie was released, and saw movie poster ads everywhere.  What caught my attention about the poster was that it showed a good-looking couple.  But what really stood out about the couple were their eyes.  Their eyes were gleaming, like people nowadays who wear contact lenses to change the color of their eyes.


Why do their eyes gleam of a different color than the normal dark brown?  The answer is that their eyes have something to do with their special powers, which I won’t give away.  In this review, I’ll talk about the plot, the characters, themes, and the cinematography.  Overall, I definitely recommend this movie if you like movies about ninjas and fanciful fighting.

Set in the year 1614, Shinobi is about two opposing ninja tribes, who have been at war for over 400 years, but are under a truce from the command of the reigning shogunate, Lord Hattori Hanzou.  Wait, where have I heard that name?  Remember “Kill Bill”, when Uma Thurman’s character seeks out a samurai sword made by Hattori Hanzou?  Anyway, the emperor fears any rebellion that may enlist the help of either ninja tribe, and commands Lord Hattori Hanzou to lift the truce and have each tribe pick five of their best ninjas to battle the other tribe’s best five warriors.  The surviving tribe will determine a particular lord to serve under the emperor.  So the ninja tribes are just used by the emperor, as tools of destruction!

It’s under this plotline that our two main characters, Gennesuke (the guy) and Oboro live in.  They happen to meet one day, and fall in love at first sight.  However, they’re from opposing tribes!  So what we really have here is a Romeo and Juliet story.  The movie’s subtitle, “Heart Under Blade” describes that Gennesuke and Oboro’s feelings for each other are under pressure from their duties to their tribes.

Although the fight sequences are really cool to watch, what I really appreciated about this movie is the underlying theme of leadership.  The two existing tribe leaders choose Gennesuke and Oboro to assume leadership of each tribe.  When a leader chooses a successor, the successor must have some special talents that others respect.  Gennesuke and Oboro’s talents are  their special powers.  When you watch the movie, do you think that these characters have a power that is so much better than anyone else’s?  A second leadership theme is that followers will question a leader’s judgment, and you’ll see a few instances of this happening in this movie.

Another theme I enjoyed was a parallel with the ninja’s purpose of life and the Zentraedi’s purpose of life.  In Robotech/Macross, the Zentraedi were created as fighting machines.  In the TV series, when Zentraedi try to live in peace, some of them can’t do it, and just want to go back to fighting.  In Shinobi, some of the ninjas can’t imagine a life of peace; all they want to do is fight because fighting has been their way of life.

The cinematography is brilliant.  The movie uses slow motion where appropriate. Many scenes are breathtaking in terms of use of color and lighting.  The musical score is very fitting, and the end-credit song “Heaven” by Ayumi Hamasaki is a moving piece.

The Blu-ray DVD was released on May 13, 2008, and Amazon has it:

“Heaven” is available on iTunes!

Go see the movie!