Anime Journey #1: Ninja Scroll

I GREW UP IN THE 80s and 90s. My go to shows were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sonic the Hedgehog, Denver the Last Dinosaur, Beetlejuice, Darkwing Duck, Rescue Rangers, the Gummy Bears, DuckTales, and Tailspin, just to name a few. I’d never heard or even seen animation outside of the U.S. Till I was in middle school. Unless, of course, you count Voltron and Transformers.

I CAN’T REMEMBER how old I was exactly, but I just remember stepping into a Blockbuster Video with my brother and cousins. We were browsing for video games, like we did every weekend. There was a new section added to the north wall. It had strange looking characters with tiny noses, large eyes, colorful hair, and squished heads. We were only able to choose one video from the bunch. So, we decided to try an interesting-looking ninja movie. That movie was called Ninja Scroll, and it would be my first taste of anime, and would begin a life long obsession.

WE HAD NO IDEA what we were about to watch. Up until then, the most violent cartoon we’d ever witnessed were probably Thunder cats, Loony Tunes, or Ninja Turtles. We had no idea that there were higher forms of violence, especially in animated form. This movie was so vivid, so detailed, more so than any cartoon we’d ever seen before. Everything was fast paced, with camera angles and shots that could rival any movie we’d seen in the theaters. This wasn’t any cartoon we were use to.

WE WATCHED THE MOVIE out loud, in my cousin’s living room, while my aunt, uncle, and grandma were in the kitchen making dinner. Did I mention that the kitchen is directly behind the living room, in full view of the TV? Yeah. Anyways, we were shocked as a large, rocky figure tossed a blade through the trees, followed by blood gushing from ninjas. Then, this massive figure proceeded to tear the arms off one of the ninjas and drank the stream of blood pouring from the severed limb. Holy crap.

THEN THE UNTHINKABLE HAPPENED. This one moment changed our lives forever. The screen went black and the body of the ninja girl was thrown into a room. The rock monster/guy/dude walked over, tore open her shirt, and I saw two things jiggle out that I’ve never seen jiggle in a cartoon. Whoa, WHOA! No, what? Why! Never. Ever. In my life. Holy crap, what was I watching?

YES, THE ADULTS stopped us for a moment and were like, “What is this?!”  I was freaking out!  What do you do in that situation? The movie continued to play in the background.  We all turned to face the adults, unsure what to say. I don’t remember them turning it off? Or maybe they did. In any case, that night is kind of a blur, but we finished Ninja Scroll.  When the ending music started, and the credits began to roll, we were hooked. We wanted to watch more movies from this specific section of the video store. We didn’t know what it was called, then, but this new found obsession would later be known to us as Anime. It was an over the top, brutally sexualized introduction to the medium, and it left a lasting impression. What was the first show/video/movie that introduced you Anime?

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