Yotoden: Chronicle of the Warlord Period
Ayanosuke is the last of the Kasumi ninja clan. Vowing to avenge the destruction of her village by a rampaging three-headed monster, she journeys across sixteenth-century Japan, a Japan soon to be united by the ruthless Oda Nobunaga. Ayanosuke must find the two other Shadow Schools and unite all three into one before the approaching evil, and the ambition of Oda Nobunaga, engulfs all Japan in demonic chaos.
Yeah, we thought we had either another Dagger of Kamui or Ninja Resurrection on our hands when we saw the previews for this series. But, surprisingly, something happened on the road to mediocrity. Yotoden, at least the first part of it ... was ... actually good!
For one, the character of Ayame/Ayanosuke is a true rarity - a female character who does *not* have the typical "squeak-squeak" voice of your typical anime heroine. Not only that, but she can hold her own in battle, matching skills with those of the male leads toe-to-toe. And she is very much a -woman-, in voice, in behavior, and in appearance, without being being overly subservient or battle-axeish. Of course she's not going to be cheerful (not one of these characters really is, but then again, these are ninja, not Ninja Cadets), but she's a solid character.
Yotoden is a somewhat old series, and it shows. The backgrounds do seem dated, though well-drawn, and the animation isn't *quite* up to late 90s standards, but you don't expect that. The music is also hit-and-miss, with more traditional music spotlighting more poignant scenes well, but with the synthesized fight music sounding like something from some old Shinobi or Ninja Gaiden arcade game. The end song was also pretty cheesy 80s J-rock which did *not* match the ambience of the OAV series.
Despite those shortcomings, Yotoden does have a very authentic feel to it, with many a reference to the events of 1580s Japan, and though obviously adapted for show, the history is very well integrated into the fantasy plotline. If anything, you almost think that giant monsters and beasts of darkness really *could* have had effect on history, the way this OAV plays. Creepy, and very effective.
Did I mention the action? Ayame does like to jump quite a bit, but on the whole, the action in this series is actually pretty good, especially considering the somewhat dated animation. Of course, purists will cry foul when Ayame uses her short-sword as a beam weapon (nani?!?) but even that's forgivable given that this series is steeped in fantasy.
If you haven't seen Yotoden yet, and you are intrigued by the mystique of the ninja, give it a try. Don't let the bad previews fool you - this is a genuinely good anime.
A surprisingly solid ninja series that's genuinely entertaining. For now, I'm giving an average rating until I see how it continues. — Carlos/Giancarla Ross
Recommended Audience: The bloodshed is actually kept to a reasonable minimum, considering all the action in the flick. Most of the violence is of the swords-killing-monsters variety, and human deaths are mostly off-screen. There is a bit of gore, of course, but nothing worse than any Akira Kurosawa movie. Nudity has not yet shown up, though, and no real sexual innuendoes to speak of. Younger teens and up.
Version(s) Viewed: VHS, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Partial (1/3)
Yotoden: Chronicle of the Warlord Period © 1987 JVC
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