Starring: Hiroyuki “Henry” Sanada, Sonny Chiba, Sue Shiomi
Action Director: Sonny Chiba
Director: Noribumi Suzuki
1980 | 112 Minutes | Rated R
“The Momochi clan will rise again!” – Takamaru Momochi
I first watched Ninja Wars and now I’m watching the movie it was paired with on my DVD copy, which is Shogun’s Ninja, also starring Sonny Chiba and Hiroyuki Sanada. My hopes are actually pretty low following my viewing of Ninja Wars but we’ll see how this goes.
The bitter rivalry between two ninja clans has left countless dead over their decades of fighting. During a critical point in their war with each other, one of the kings sends Shogun (Sonny Chiba), his commander, in search of two mystical daggers which are guarded by Takamaru Momochi (Hiroyuki Sanada).
The soundtrack of Shogun’s Ninja seems to be one of the biggest sticking points for most people so I will just get it out of the way first. It’s not good. It’s comprised of really cheesy, jazzy disco that makes every battle feel like a comedy act if it weren’t for the large amounts of blood spilling out of the faces of the ninjas on the losing end of a katana strike.
Despite the horrible music the fight choreography is surprisingly good for the time, though there are times that the camera work lets the hard work of the martial artists down as it is at times too easy to see a kick completely miss its target.
Shogun’s Ninja has far too many characters for its own good. You have Takamaru, the main good guy, and Shogun, the main bad guy and then you have the girl, the three stooges, the twins, white beard guy, the camouflage ninja leader plus the multitude of nameless samurai and ninjas that are scattered throughout. It’s all just a little more than this movie could handle.
Because of the many, many characters and the at times lagging pace the overarching story can be a bit hard to follow. I find this to be true of many of these wuxia type movies that I watch. I don’t know if it is because I don’t understand the style of filmmaking or if it’s because of the dubbing or maybe, just maybe, these guys cared more about showing crazy ninja stuff than telling a legitimate story. I don’t know.
And in case you missed it above… camoflage ninjas!!! How awesome is that!?! How is every ninja not a camouflage ninja? It seems so practical. These guys have claw things on their palms which allow them to climb up and down trees like cats and to scratch the faces of their enemies like… well… cats. It really is awesome!
Shogun’s Ninja was much more entertaining than Ninja Wars though it did have many of the same pitfalls. It did have just enough of Sanada, Chiba and Shiomi to pull it out of the gutter. Those three stars are the only things that make Shogun’s Ninja worth watching. And the camouflage ninjas!