In many ways this is a less compelling echo of the film.
Same lead character of Jubei, similar quest feel with stumbling blocks presented by different monsters/adversaries to defeat, and there’s even some (toned down in comparison) sketchy content, but all without the production budget and schedule of a feature film.
Ninja Scroll: The Series (Jūbē Ninpūchō Ryūhōgyoku Hen) 2003
Naturally, there are going to be differences between the two forms – and I don’t always like to compare based on budget; as I should take the time to describe and evaluate a thing upon its own terms, right?
Still, I think at least some comparisons are worthwhile for this review – one of which being the MA vs R rating.
Another is the tone, far more comedic at times.
The Ninja Scroll series has significantly slower pacing too, as its straight-forward quest storyline is stretched to fit into the monster-of-the-week format (a format that I usually love).
Despite what probably sounds like a long list of grievances here, I enjoyed individual episodes enough to overlook the at-times stark differences between series and film, such as the Shelter from the Rain and A Dragon Within eps.
It was interesting also how bold this one is, with more exaggerated character design and the use of brighter colours; the series does ensure that it’s distinct from the film. However, in terms of storyline, in a way, the anime seems only generally concerned with the main quest its characters are on, and the supporting cast has limited impact on plot or theme, leaving the heavy-lifting to Jubei.
(Well, aside from Shigure, but she’s sort of ‘tagging along’ in her own story, sadly).
Further, while the design of a lot of the creatures and enemies were usually pretty interesting, during a lot of their scenes, I found myself keen get back to the main quest.
In that respect, the last two episodes were among my favs, since the team got to the lost shrine/city at last and kicked the magical aspect up a few notches at the same time. (There were also a few fun surprises toward the end, a nice escalation of stakes also).
However, I’m not sure I’d recommend Ninja Scroll to everyone, but if you love supernatural ninja stories there’s going to be at least a few elements you’ll enjoy. In addition, I liked the OP a lot!