With this release coming in two different flavors we ended up watching it in both language formats. On the movie version disc, the show is done in bilingual format using the dub that we got back in the late 90’s. Like its Japanese counterpart on this disc, it’s fairly basic and a full sounding mix with hardly any real directionality to it. It’s not bad but it does obviously sound lacking in comparison to today’s titles of a similar nature. On the OVA version disc, no dub was made for it so it’s presented in just its Japanese language version which sounds essentially the same as the movie version for obvious reasons. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 1987 as a three part OVA series and 1989 as a movie, both the movie version and the OVA version are presented here in their original full frame aspect ratio. This show is certainly showing its age these days as well as the fact that it’s using probably the same masters that we saw back in the 1999 release. While the menus may be new I wouldn’t be surprised if it is using the same video file that was used in the original release but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that this is a new encode that’s more streamlined and cleaned up a few compression errors found in the original. It still has some noticeable problems though such as plenty of video noise and a bit of aliasing and cross coloration here and there. This is one of those traditionally animated shows that did not make out too well in the shift to digital media as we can see the shortcuts and the problems inherent in what is likely a composite source. The OVA disc is essentially the same but with the credit breakdowns where they belong, the excised footage and the footage in the right place. Just comparing the first ten minutes of each disc shows how different yet the same they are and you wonder why it was done like it was.
The newly updated packaging for this is rather nice and works well in trying to make the older character designs look appealing and up to date as it mixes them in with some good vibrant coloring and a flashy red and black background with lots of lightning. Add in a new stylized logo and slap on that Collector’s Series logo at the top and it’s a fairly attractive looking piece. The back cover extols some of the virtues of the show, such as having both on DVD at long last and the credits of some of the folks behind it. There’s a good piece of artwork of Kasumi here which is mixed in with the summary and the discs features while the bottom is the general randomness of the production and technical information. With a 225 minute run time you’d think they’d highlight it more instead of seemingly hiding it. The reverse side of the clear keepcase is standard CPM layout as the left has the black and white full image of Kasumi from the front cover while the right side lists the chapter stops for each of the releases and provides only the English language cast. There is mention that there is no information available regarding the Japanese cast
The menu layout on each disc is nicely done as it uses some good design elements to give it a traditional feeling with the trees, scrolls and other themes. All of this is wrapped around a video section that’s playing clips from the show itself. It’s all very nicely in theme but unfortunately, some of the video shows off some heavy jaggies right from the start and that doesn’t put you in a good frame of mind for the show. Access times are nice and fast though and it’s easy to navigate, though unfortunately, it did not properly read our players’ language presets, instead default to English language with no subtitles.
The extras are pretty minimal but unsurprising as we get an art gallery of scenes from the show as well as some historical and cultural notes to put things in the proper context.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Yotoden, better known as Wrath of the Ninja in the US, is one of the older shows in CPM’s catalog that got a very early release on DVD back in 1999. With the movie having been dubbed at that time, it was easy to put that out instead of the OVA series since the entire attraction of DVD was to promote the bilingual nature of things. A number of OVAs have been sitting around ever since more of them lost to expiring licenses than anything else I’m sure, but CPM has corrected that problem with Yotoden by releasing this two-disc collection.
Looking back on it, and in watching the show again now some years later, it’s easy to see how kind I was in thinking about it. Within the context of the time though, with only seven other releases out during the same month, pickings were slim. If it wasn’t Yotoden, it was… Odin! And after Odin, what didn’t look like a piece of genius? My knowledge of the show at the time was pretty slim and the differences between the OVA and movie were lost on me, but since the movie was done by the Japanese I didn’t have much issue with it. Seeing the scenes rearranged here and other changes between the two versions, it’s hard to say which I prefer since I come away from the show not really preferring the show at all. There have been a lot of shows in a similar manner done in the years since and I don’t think this one has aged well and much of the confusion that I felt during the initial run is here as well. In some ways, I look at it and wonder just what it is they’re really trying to say.
Its plot is fairly thin but not unexpected considering the subject matter, as it follows a young ninja woman named Kasumi who has lost her husband and village after a devastating attack by the disturbing creatures controlled by Nobunaga. She managed to escape with one of the weapons from the village that it turns out may be a key item in taking down the devil that caused so much destruction and will let her exact her vengeance. Along the way, she ends up coming across other warriors and survivors from other attacks that Nobunaga has caused across the land and they have to deal with the twisted creatures that come to destroy everything so Nobunaga can rule over the country.
In a way, the problem I have with a lot of this is the same that I have with the much newer show Basilisk. If it wasn’t for the possessed and the undead creatures running around, I think I would have been far more interested. Nobunaga is presented as such a boogeyman these days in so many forms, be it Samurai Deeper Kyo, Mirage of Blaze or this that I’m far more interested in the real thing and what true evils he perpetrated upon the land and its people. But we don’t really get that here and instead, it follows the usual clichés and storyline as Kasumi seems her revenge. For its time though, it is very nicely executed and there are some really good looking fight scenes here and there but it’s a very hard sell with today’s audiences. Old school fans will want to get it though since it brings out material as it should have been seen and hasn’t been available on DVD before and for that, I’m thankful it came out, even if it doesn’t appeal to me.
Wrath of the Ninja is something I’m not quite sure earns a Collector’s Series status but it’s not often that OVA series were made into movies in Japan in order to expand the popularity of the show so it probably has more of a history to it than I’m aware of. That said, it’s not one I’m particularly interested in either since the intervening years since the movie’s release there have been countless shows just like it. Whatever originality it may have once had doesn’t ring true today and I don’t have the nostalgia value to it to really get all that interested. For those who have waited years to get the uncut OVAs though, this is a solid release for the most part providing you go into it understanding that there are no new masters being used here. But when your options are either this or nothing, this looks really good.
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: August 8th, 2006
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.