Film: Ninja Battle
UK Release date: 6th February 2012
Director: Seiji Chiba
Starring: Mika Hijii, Kentaro Shimazu, Kenji Matsuda, Ben Hiura
Running time: 66 mins
Genre: Martial Arts/Action/Adventure
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Read all about it! Seiji Chiba in ninja movie shocker! Before we start, I want to remind you of the last time I wrote about a Seiji Chiba movie. The film was called Rogue Ninja and the review went a little something like this. “For a film that clocks in at just over an hour, there’s a lot of exposition to wade through. The characters in Rogue Ninja sure like to talk, conspiring, deliberating, or just plain standing around putting the world to rights - you sometimes get the feeling that the world of Rogue Ninja is set inside a giant girl’s bathroom.” You wouldn’t believe how tempted I was to just copy and paste the review over. Then again, isn’t that kind of what I’m doing now? Wait, there’s more…
“The battle scenes are tightly choreographed - fast, fluid and energetic - but it’s fair to expect that of Seiji Chiba by now, if he still hasn’t got the hang of ninja action then all hope is lost. With a final battle that takes place in, what looks like, the same cave as Alien vs. Ninja, Chiba could be accused of making the same film again - without the rubber costumes and the comedy. Rogue Ninja has very little going for it beyond attractive leads and entertaining fight choreography. As for me, I kind of miss the alien.” To be fair to Ninja Battle, the final battle doesn’t take place in, what looks like, the same cave as Rogue Ninja and Alien vs. Ninja. That would be a ridiculous notion. The truth is, pretty much the entire movie is shot in, what looks like, the same cave as Alien vs. Ninja!
In the year 1851, The Iga province was annihilated by Oda Nobunala and the Koga allied forces, it’s said that the cause of the Iga’s downfall was Shimoyama Kai’s treason. Ninja Battle is the story of the ninja agents who were given secret orders for the sake of the Iga’s restoration right before the Iga’s downfall. What follows (you’d hope) is a blood-soaked, ninja-powered action fest from cult director Seiji Chiba (Alien vs. Ninja) and a cast that includes Ben Hiura (Zatoichi) and Kentaro Shimazu (Tokyo Gore Police).
Sawa is a low ranking Koga ninja from Kashiwagi village, and when we first meet her she is bound and gagged in a familiar looking cave setting. She is discovered by Iga ninjas, who have got to be thinking it’s their lucky day, Sawa is kind of hot and the whole bound and gagged thing is a real turn on. Maybe that’s just me though. There’s another problem however, the person they’re actually looking for is lying beside her, and its not like he’s getting up anytime soon. It turns out - after much discussion - that the Iga leaders are having a meeting and our three ninja leads are to deliver a secret document to them. That is of course, if they ever find their way out the damn dirty cave.
Ninja Battle really does suffer the same fate as its siblings. It’s way too talky, it clocks in at just over sixty minutes (probably a good thing), and the action sequences are few and far between. In fact, there’s less fighting in this one than there was in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Remind me again what the name of the movie is? Ninja Battle has to be one of the most inappropriate film titles of the year. The action choreography when it does come is tight, but there’s nothing that we haven’t seen before. What’s more, the DVD transfer is truly terrifying. Chiba’s films are always low budget affairs, but this latest addition (it actually predates Alien vs. Ninja) looks like something you might find on YouTube.
With competent performances and plenty of twists to keep you guessing, Ninja Battle is actually a big improvement on Rogue Ninja. The story unfolds like a stage play and as a result, you might not surrender to boredom quite so easily. I said might not. The problem being of course that watching a ninja movie without ninja action is like watching a Harry Potter film without wizards – it just doesn’t cast the right kind of spell. I’m pretty sure this wont be the last we hear of Seiji Chiba, he’s probably filming his latest masterpiece as we speak. After all, it can’t be too long before Ninja Cave Girl appears on a DVD shelf near you.