Fantasia 2015 Review: THE NINJA WAR OF TORAGAKE, Not What You Expect From Nishimura
Torakage is a retired ninja. Out of the profession for six years now he lives with his wife, also a former ninja, and son. He is forced back into action when two warring ninja clans are looking for a buried treasure. Torakage must steal a scroll from a warring clan to unlock the secret hiding place. Torakage must find his way through enemy agents and an equally ruthless warring clan leader to get the scroll and keep his family safe.
The Ninja War of Toragake opens with what you have come to expect from Nishimura's films. Fountains of blood coming out of the bodies of two ninjas paint the background of the scene in front of us. Okay. Fountains of blood. Typical Nishimura. Check. But then it settles down after that. What is absent here is the typical Nishimura gags. There is not as much blood and gore.
The only focal point of his creature creativity is an odd angel/demon like girl with wings made of hands and a head with multiple eye balls. Oh. And the warring clan's oracle. Her costume is made out of latex; the type of latex costume you see in those videos you never admit you watch when you are alone.
It simply feels odd to watch a restrained Nishimura film. This is not essentially a bad thing. It is simply that this shift in energy was unexpected is all. It is like you have told your child to stop fooling around and they are being good, for like a minute, and cannot help but make a fart joke and burst out in laughter. The most tastefully challenging part of the whole film are the times when Torakage is joking with his son about the size of his pooh. The sizes of pooh is the running gag of this entire film.
There are equal amounts of humor and action in the film. There is a fun scene midway involving riding tombstones down a stone path while having a sword fight. A fair amount of humor in the film is when it is narrated by a Portuguese dandy named Francisco - A Japanese man in costume with a handlebar mustache - who uses shadow puppets as visual aids. Francisco will often chime in and help the audience with any understanding they may need.
And by all accounts Ninja War looks as convincing as any other swordplay flicks of late. All the costumes are great. Eihi Shiina (Tokyo Gore Police) rejoins Nishimura as Gensai, the ninja clan leader who drags Torakage back into the action. She is equally evil and alluring. And the swordplay action is decent as well.
It simply is weird, coming out of Nishimura film that is not as polarizing as his regular output has been. You either love or hate his films based on your own tolerances for gore and the absurd. But when his trademarks are toned down some? Well, you just do not know how to feel about that.