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SHINOBI NO MONO 2: VENGEANCE (1963)
Published by David Carter on 2008/11/25 (3015 reads)
Directed by Satsuo Yamamoto
Review by David Carter
Released by AnimEigo
Running Time: 93 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Color format: B&W
Audio/Subtitles: 2.0 Stereo Japanese/English Subtitles
Region Code: 1, NTSC
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
16:9 Enhanced: No
Special Features: Commentary, Program notes, Interactive map of 16th Century Japan
Trailer Online: No
Short Version: More of the epic ninja revenge story
Having survived the purge of the Iga Ninja in SHINOBI NO MONO, Goemon lives a quiet life as a farmer with his wife and son. He doesn’t care that Nobunaga is still rising in power and crushing all that oppose him, especially the few remaining ninjas. His wife’s concern for their safety grows as reports of Nobunaga’s tactics spread but before Goemon is able to act on her fears they are realized: Nobunaga’s goons attack their home and kill his son. He vows revenge and joins up with the Ikko Sect, one of the few groups that have resisted Nobunaga’s conquest of Japan. They are a peaceful and patient Buddhist sect, though, and advise Goemon against rashly attacking Nobunaga on his own.
An opportunity soon presents itself whereby Nobunaga could be brought down from the inside. His harsh treatment of Mitsuhide, his most loyal general, has caused the man to begin to resent Nobunaga, who still relies heavily on Mitsuhide for his military might. Goemon disguises himself as a poor farmer and infiltrates Mitsuhide’s camp, sowing the seeds of dissent all the while. Mitsuhide is eventually pushed to the brink and launches a surprise raid on Nobunaga, giving Goemon the opportunity to take his revenge. The power vacuum left after Nobunaga’s death turns out to be more dangerous that Goemon expected and the vicious Hideyoshi threatens to take far more from him than Nobunaga ever had.
SHINOBI NO MONO 2 picks up right where the first one left off, with Nobunaga ravaging the surviving ninjas with brutal torture. Newcomers are given a brief recap but may find getting up to speed a bit difficult at first. Thankfully, the carryover from the first film is minimal; there’s enough to keep those who saw it interested, but SHINOBI NO MONO 2 emerges as a self-contained story. The characterization of Goemon is strikingly different in this film as well. In the original, Goemon and the ninja were antiheroes; self-centered rebels who often only acted in their own best interests. The sequel finds them again as rebels but heroic ones this time out. Goemon’s actions are completely selfless even when seeking vengeance, showing that he has matured and mellowed since becoming a family man. It’s nice to see character growth, especially considering that many Japanese action franchises trade on the main character remaining the same throughout.
Historically accurate political intrigue is a staple of the samurai/ninja film, and SHINOBI NO MONO 2 presents far more of it than its predecessor. Originally focusing solely on the Iga Ninja, this film sees the story expand to the whole of Japan, though hinging on many of the events touched on in the first film. While it increases the dramatic content significantly, it does so at the expense of action. We only get to see Goemon use his ninja skills once or twice; a bit of a disappointment. Ultimately the dramatic elements make up for the lack of action, but it is still conspicuous by its absence.
As always, the excellent presentation from AnimEigo helps matters. The company is still the only one offering detailed subtitles and historical notes during the film, as well as optional white or yellow text for the titles. In case you don’t learn enough during the movie, they’ve included their standard program and historical notes and added an interactive map this time out. SHINOBI NO MONO 2 doesn’t provide as much action as I would have hoped but far surpasses the original film in terms of plot. There are a wider variety of things to like about this film, just not as much of the one you were likely expecting.
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