Shinobi no Mono
by Ruben R. Rosario
Now available on DVD from AnimEigo.
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Shinobi no Mono is one of the most interesting chanbara, a genre of period films in Japan, ever created. Made in 1962 by Satsuo Yamamoto for Daiei Studios, Shinobi no Mono follows the exploits of the legendary folk hero, Goemon Ishikawa, his training as a ninja and putting those skills up against Oda Nobunaga in Japan’s 16th Century. With it’s realistic approach to ninjitsu, labyrinth plot and it’s great action, Shinobi no Mono is surely a standout title from AnimEigo and one of the best ninja movies ever.
Raizo Ichikawa plays the role of Goemon to perfection in Shinobi no Mono. His character is wide eyed and full of muster towards the beginning of the film, whilst fully confident in his ninja skills. After going through turmoil and tragedy, Ichikawa shapes Goemon into an introspective ninja that must fully reflect upon his past teachings and come to terms with everything he’s ever done. The greatest role in the film doesn’t come from the main ninja but his master, Sandayu Momochi, played by legendary character actor, Yunosuke Ito. Ito actually plays two roles (not gonna spoil the surprise) that very much contrast each other and fully show his range as an actor. Both actors do a wonderful job and compliment each other through the films progression.
Another interesting quality that the film conveys through technicality is it’s cinematography. There were moments where I kept thinking that the film was too underexposed. It wasn’t until later that the cinematography helps the subject of the ninja, their techniques and how they utilize the darkness as part of their craft. Yasukazu Takamura creates this wonderful veil of darkness, not to deceive the audience, but to immerse them fully into the world of Shinobi no Mono.
What separates Shinobi no Mono from it’s other chanbara brethren is it’s realistic approach. The film had Masaaki Hasumi as a ninja advisor and supposedly the last known living grandmaster of ninjitsu. This authenticity helps the film move along well with adding another layer to intriguing plot. Everything from the disguises, weapons and techniques used in the film, create a sense of wonder on how ninjas operated and carried out their dark deeds.
AnimEigo does a fine job presenting Shinobi no Mono on DVD as well. They provide colored subs for each of their characters. Great liner notes give the viewer a sense of who the characters are in Japanese folklore and their place in Japanese history. It’s one of the best things in AnimEigo’s catalog and one of the best ninja movies ever put to celluloid.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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