5.0 out of 5 stars Exit Goemon, enter Saizo
One of the unique strengths of the “Shinobi no Mono” series is how the emphasis is put on the stars. The characters change even though the same actors are appearing. What this means, is that if a character’s story arc completes, the actors simply take on a different role in the next film. It is a not entirely unheard of practice in the West. Actor Bruce Spence appeared as the Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior, and then again in the sequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome as a different character entirely.
In the fourth entry in the “Shinobi no Mono” series, the ninja Goemon steps off the stage, having walked to the end of his path of vengeance, and actor Ichikawa Raizo steps into the new role of Kirigakure Saizo. Saizo is a ninja charged with spying on Tokugawa Ieyasu’s forces as Tokugawa lays siege to Osaka castle in 1614. Tokugawa has his own ninjas, and Saizo and the Tokugawa ninjas wage silent ninja warfare with each other in a deadly game of cat-and-cat. Saizo is assisted by the Lady Akane (Isomura Midori, Zatoichi Challenged), who is a love interest for Saizo as well. And for a ninja, love is never a good idea.
Ichikawa is joined in his new role by Wakayama Tomisaburo (Lone Wolf and Cub) who played the warlord Nobunaga Oda in the first three “Shinobi no Mono” films, but now returns as Saizo’s lord and mentor Yukimura Sanada. Saburo Date (Revenge of a Kabuki Actor), who played Hattori Hanzo in the previous films, returns as well in a new role, as do several other actors from the previous series.
Even with the new storyline, the feel of “Shinobi no Mono” is carried on, with the deep political intrigue punctuated by realistic ninja action. These are not your typical Hollywood ninjas, but the real deal with stunts designed by Masaaki Hatsumi, a Grandmaster of ninjutsu and one of the greatest authorities on historical ninja.
“Shinobi no Mono 4” is a typical Animeigo DVD, which means it blows away most normal DVD releases. There are history lessons, a clickable map detailing the locations in the film, still galleries and a whole bunch of other goodness. The black-and-white transfer is beautifully done.