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Shadow Skill Vol. 1

Directed by John Swasey

Written by Megumu Okada

Starring a totally different set of people depending on the language track you select

Produced by ADV Films

Rated PG

100 minutes

**

I guess my name’s getting around somewhere.

Because recently, ADV Films started sending me stuff. Which, I guess, sort of works—ADV’s lineup is almost exclusively anime, and there are at least a few video stores that get it. It’s not like you’ll ever spot “Excel Saga” in theatres (much as I might wish you would. Any studio heads reading this, think about it. Just don’t screw it up.), so in its way, it really DOES kinda work.

But it puts me in an odd position.

See, most of this stuff comes broken down into episodes. From what I can tell, most anime releases are the practical equivalent of the “Arrested Development” box set (Oh Fox. Why? Why did you KILL THAT SHOW???).

Meaning, my whinging aside, that you never see the whole thing, and you’re going to spend the next one hundred minutes watching only part of a plotline.

Which means, what the hell do I do about this? Everything else I cover is reasonably complete (or at least self-contained, where sequels may be involved later), but right now, I’ve got to cover something like a third of the plot on this one DVD.

So, I figure I might as well just cover what’s put out in front of me as best I can.

Anyway, this is the apparently long story of a girl ninja with the preposterous title of “The 59th Sevalle.” Without going into a whole lot of commentary on the social organization of things, being a Sevalle is like being Knight Protector or somesuch. Basically the top warrior of the country, which is called Kuruda, in thoroughly Japanese fashion. To make a very, very long story short, our Sevalle (named Elle Ragu, in a move that got me hungry for spaghetti) is out training and getting better and paying off massive debt related to property damage and her time spent in bars.

Basically, whenever she’s not destroying property, she’s off getting liquored up or working one of an endless series of joe jobs in an effort to make money TO get liquored up.

It’s amazing that this raging alcoholic of a ninja manages to put her giri on in the morning let ALONE pound holy old hell out of monsters fully ten times her size on a regular basis.

And I hope that I remember the word “giri” right…

Let me sum all this up in a very simple fashion. This was not my kind of anime. I love insane, wildly comical anime like “Excel Saga” or “Ebichu Minds the House.” I’m fond of nonsequiturs and pointlessness in my anime.

But if you’re one of the whole bunch of people who shows up for Toonami every Saturday night to watch “Naruto” like it’s some kind of deranged religion, then hold on tight…you’re going to absolutely LOVE “Shadow Skill.”

Because I’ve seen “Naruto”, and I’ve seen “Shadow Skill,” I think there’s a basis for comparison here. Sure, both are about teenage ninjas—“Naruto” has a hyperactive moron, a hot chick, and a total prick for ninjas while “Shadow Skill” features a raging alcoholic, overly buff chick ninja and her idealistic little brother for ninjas. But there’s more than a few differences too—“Shadow Skill” is a lot deeper, and a bit darker, than “Naruto.” Plus, “Naruto” focuses a lot more on man-to-man (in the species sense) combat, while “Shadow Skill” leans more on ninja-versus-giant-monster with plenty of ninja on ninja action.

All in all, “Shadow Skill” is going to be the kind of thing that ninja fans, especially “Naruto” fans are gonna go bats over. The rest of us will find it serviceable and satisfactory, especially if “Excel Saga” is out.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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