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Out of favor, Jubei the ninja roams Japan alone. He believes that a new, dark menace is lurking, waiting to enter the world of men. The great swordsman Musashi, now retired to a monastery, senses the same evil. The Tokugawa shogunate has banned the Western fad of Christianity and is slaughtering its followers. The survivors believe that a new Messiah will be born among them, but the prophecy has a dark side-the Savior could turn bad and become Satan himself. Charismatic Christian leader Shiro Amakusa isn't all he seems, and the believers inside his stronghold are in as much danger from the evil forces within as from the Shogun's armies. Jubei and his associates are sent to infiltrate the Christian citadel of Shimabara, where they find that the peaceful messiah Amakusa has turned to devilry.
Inspired by the same popular novels that informed Ninja Scroll but misleadingly advertised abroad as a sequel, NR is a ninja film for the post-Evangelion generation, with cruciform explosions in the streets, aliens invading the minds of Japanese citizens, and the use of alien weaponry to fight an alien threat. The eerie, unworldly sight of samurai raising Christian banners and working their foreign magic is truly chilling in this context. Shiro Amakusa's ambiguous position as gentle messiah and tormented devil brings echoes of the Urotsukidoji saga-a parallel aided by beautiful music from Masamichi Amano.
NR boasts some classy moments, but the running time is simply too small to contain such multitudes. The mix of fact and fiction is something that really warrants liner notes, and the intense compression of Futaro Yamada's story results in a messy rush of incidental characters. After a promising, portentous beginning with samurai huddling in a Kurosawa rainstorm and turning foreign guns on their convert countrymen, the film rushes headlong into a final battle with no time for a middle act. A completely unnecessary sex scene adds to the collapse of the latter half into substandard anime hackery-described by one of its own producers as "horrendous." The U.S. edition follows the Japanese pattern, with two separate releases, TROJ being followed by a second tape, Hell's Spawn. In the U.K., both were condensed onto one 80-minute tape. LNV