Film scores

Soundtrack review: Ninja Scroll (Kaoru Wada – 2015)

“Ninja scroll” Ninja Scroll is a 1993 Japanese animated action thriller film written and directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri. It’s a story set in feudal Japan involving demon ninjas and class fights. Looks pretty interesting. It was critically acclaimed and spawned an anime series and apparently a live action adaptation has been in the works for a few years. Milan Records just released the score written by Kaoru Wada, and Japanese anime scores are quite often ground for very interesting compositions.

As I was getting ready to enjoy this one, very hopeful because of my soft spot towards Japanese sounds I realized that there is one kind of Japanese related score I could have a harder time connecting with: one which would be mostly percussion based. The percussion without the Japanese flutes or strings is cold and strict and I can’t work well with music that lacks warmth of emotion.

The music doesn’t get warmer but I warm up to the score as I am beginning to hear it for what it is; the story is set in feudal Japan and the composer wanted to connect us to that period in time when things where simple, cold and unforgiving. At least that’s the world depicted in “Ninja Scroll” and those plucked strings that start making their presence felt in “Kagerou” bring me closer to the music. Emotions start coming there as well, as if brought by a distant and deceiving wind. This 8 minute long cue slowly relaxes me and could work very well in a massage parlor or a sauna. The music makes me think of nature and has nothing to do with the violence I was thinking about.

That relaxing cue was just an oasis inside this score though. As soon as it’s over the music gets back to being tense and nothing more. For me though tension in a film score works if it builds up to something, if it finds a place to explode at some point. The tension is varied but it just boils in vain with those plucked strings and constant background percussion. I need something else to enjoy a score. I imagine it words well in context and maybe the intensity of the anime images would make it feel better. As a standalone listen though for someone like me with no connection to the movie, it just didn’t work. I am left only with the echo of the percussion and an ominous general sound.

Cue rating:69 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 0 / 37

Album excellence: 0%

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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