Ninja Scroll (獣兵衛忍風帖 Jūbē Ninpūchō, lit. "Jubei the Wind Ninja") is a 1993 Japanese animated chanbara-jidaigeki film written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, starring the voices of Kōichi Yamadera, Emi Shinohara, Takeshi Aono, Daisuke Gōri, Toshihiko Seki and Shūichirō Moriyama. The film was a co-production between JVC, Toho, Movic and Animate, with Madhouse serving as the animation studio. Ninja Scroll was theatrically released in Japan on June 5, 1993, and received an English-dubbed release in Western countries through Manga Entertainment in 1995.
The film takes place in feudal Japan and follows Jubei Kibagami, a mercenary swordsman who battles the Eight Devils of Kimon, a team of ninjas with supernatural powers who are intent on overthrowing the Tokugawa shogunate. During his quest, he is aided by Dakuan, an elderly but crafty government spy, and Kagero, a Koga kunoichi whose body is infused with poisonous toxins. Ninja Scroll's story and style was influenced by the works of novelist Futaro Yamada and Western spy fiction, with Jubei's character being loosely inspired by the historical figure Yagyū Jūbei Mitsuyoshi.
Widely praised for its animation and action scenes, Ninja Scroll is frequently regarded as one of the most influential anime films ever made; alongside Akira and Ghost in the Shell, it was responsible for increasing the popularity of adult-oriented anime outside of Japan. The film has been cited by The Wachowskis as an influence on The Matrix franchise, and resulted in Kawajiri later contributing to two segments of the anthology film The Animatrix.
A televised stand-alone sequel, Ninja Scroll: The Series, was aired in Japan in 2003.
In Edo period-Japan, the Yamashiro clan mines gold in secret, and sends a shipment to the Toyotomi Shogun of the Dark as payment for his protection. The Shogun of the Dark intends to use the gold to buy advanced Spanish weaponry and overthrow the current government, the Tokugawa Shogunate. The ship runs aground onto Mochizuki territory in a storm, and the Eight Devils of Kimon, a ninja team with supernatural powers in the employ of the Yamashiro, kill the people of the nearby village of Shimoda to keep the gold shipment a secret.
While investigating the deaths, a Mochizuki Koga ninja team is massacred by the Devils. The sole survivor, Kagero, is captured by a Devil, Tessai, who molests her. She is rescued by Jubei Kibagami, a mercenary ex-Yamashiro ninja, who fights and eventually kills Tessai. Dakuan, a Tokugawa spy, blackmails Jubei into helping him kill the remaining Devils. To ensure his compliance, Dakuan stabs Jubei with a poisoned shuriken, and promises to give him an antidote once the mission is complete. Jubei learns from Dakuan that the leader of the Devils is Himuro Gemma, the former Yamashiro ninja leader, who had ordered his team’s members to kill each other to cover up the location of the goldmine five years earlier. Jubei, who had been forced to kill his comrades to survive, decapitated Gemma in revenge; Gemma survived due to his immortality. Jubei is attacked by another Devil, Benisato, but he is saved by Kagero; before she can be questioned, Benisato is killed from afar by Yumimaru, Gemma's right-hand man, for failing her mission. Kagero agrees to work alongside Jubei and Dakuan, who informs Jubei that her body is infused with such deadly toxins that anyone who kisses or sleeps with her dies, which was why Jubei could kill Tessai.
The trio arrive in Shimoda, where they discover that the villagers died due to their water supply being poisoned, making it appear that they were killed by a plague. Jubei and Kagero fend attacks from three of the Devils – Mushizo, Zakuro and Utsutsu Mujuro; Jubei succeeds in killing Mushizo and Utsutsu. After finding the beached ship, Kagero deduces that the gold has been taken to Kashima Harbour, where it will be transported to the Shogun of the Dark in another ship.
Jubei, Kagero and Dakuan arrive at Kashima, which has been evacuated due to the townspeople’s fear of the plague. While Jubei battles another Devil, Shijima, Kagero sends a message to Sakaki Hyobu, the Mochizuki chamberlain, to bring his army to the harbour. She also learns from Dakuan that Jubei’s poisoning will only be cured if he copulates with her – the poisons in her body will counteract his. Kagero is captured by Shijima, and Jubei kills him, rescuing her once more. Kagero asks Jubei to sleep with her to cure himself. He considers doing so, but upon the arrival of the Shogun of the Dark's envoy in a ship, he leaves to prevent the gold reaching its destination.a
Kagero arrives to meet Sakaki, but he stabs her, revealing himself to be Gemma in disguise. Enraged, Jubei fights through waves of ninjas, but is nearly killed by Yumimaru. A gunpowder-rigged rat, left as a trap by Zakuro for Yumimaru for rejecting her advances, kills him, allowing Jubei to escape. He finds Kagero; mortally wounded, she admits her love for him and they kiss, curing Jubei’s poisoning. Before dying, Kagero gives Jubei her headband. Jubei and Dakuan board the departing ship. On-board, Gemma reveals his true intentions to the Shogun of the Dark’s envoy (who he kills) – he intends to use the gold to raise a ninja army to terrorize Japan, rather than serve as an ally to the Toyotomi. During an altercation with Zakuro, Jubei and Dakuan set the ship ablaze. As Jubei and Gemma engage in a brutal fight, the gold becomes molten and engulfs Gemma, who sinks to the bottom of the sea. Afterwards, Dakuan thanks Jubei, and expresses admiration for his and Kagero’s humanity. Deducing Dakuan’s intentions to kill him, the disgusted Jubei resumes his vagabond lifestyle, with Kagero’s headband tied around his sword’s hilt.