Today’s Random Tokusatsu: Ninja Wars (1982)

Today’s selection: Ninja Wars (1982, dir. Kosei Saito)

Subgenre: Historical fantasy, ninja

Available from: Adness

There’s a saying that as an actor, if you’re playing your own twin, you’ve gone too far. Clearly whoever said this would not like movies about ninja magic shenanigans, where the leading actress winds up playing four different characters because of twins, body swapping, and shapeshifting. That’s the type of movie Ninja Wars is. While the movie is part of Adness’s Sonny Chiba collection, it’s really Hiroyuki Sanada’s show as Jotaro, a young ninja whose girlfriend is kidnapped by a gang of five evil ninja, each with particular and bizarre abilities, who are out to harvest the maiden’s virgin tears for a mind-control potion (yep). Rather than rescue her, as would proceed in any normal movie, he’s reunited with her just in time to see her get killed, so he vows to protect his slain lover’s twin sister from the villains’ clutches next.

This is exactly the type of exploitative film that could never get made today: it has high production values and boobs, deadpan dramatic gravitas and geysers of blood after each decapitation. I can’t help but wonder if this movie specifically had any influence on the Ninja Scroll anime that came a decade later. I wonder how the film was received at release, and at the gradual evolution of the sexy, violent period piece from a big-budget cinematic affair into the unwatchable DTV franchise (looking at you, Lady Ninja).

Trailer is a little NSFW.

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