To certain schlock anime fans of the early '90s, Ninja Scroll is the quintessential go-to classic for violent, gory ninja cinema. Along with Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Wicked City, Ninja Scroll is a classic staple of retro anime titles with a cult status — perfect for those midnight movie nights.
The film follows the samurai mercenary Kibagami Jubei as he bumps into a female ninja named Kagero. They find themselves entangled with the Eight Devils of Kimon, a group of fighters with supernatural abilities working with the Dark Shogun to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate. In order to survive and stop their plans, Jubei teams up with Kagero and an old spy named Dakuan.
Ninja Scroll is admirably unabashed when it comes to showcasing bloody guts, gore, and weird creepy crawly things. These moments aren't just for shock value, but rather an integral part of the action and story. Like, for instance, the scene where a villain rips apart a guy’s arms, or the lady with the moving snake tattoo. Or the scene where a guy gets stung to death by his own army of bees.
There's one scene, however, involving the main character Jubei, the final boss Himuro Genma, and a burning river of molten gold. These two have a history together, with Jubei supposedly killing him in the past. Now with a newly resurrected body, they clash in an all-out spectacle for the ages.
Their battle takes place on a departing ship. Genma has betrayed his boss and plans to use the gold bars on his ship to fund an army capable of terrorizing Japan. He’s practically immortal, gaining an ability to regenerate body cuts and shapeshift into whomever he pleases. Not to mention he has a glorious chiseled chin, a rocking mullet, and a metal arm.
It’s not going to be easy for Jubei to defeat him, yet he persists in doing so. The clash comes to a climax as the ship bursts into flames. Genma lays a fistful of beatdowns on Jubei, before he retaliates by bashing Genma’s head to a pulp. To Genma’s credit, he survives having his arm chopped off, being impaled with a wooden stake, and getting sliced in half with a sword. A resilient villain is best suited for an equally resilient hero.
So how do you kill someone who can’t die? Well, that’s where the gold comes in. If you can’t kill Genma, burning him alive and encasing him in molten gold might do the trick. After all, can you really save someone whose plans are literally going down with the sinking ship? If there’s anything this WTF Moment can teach us, it’s that power and greed come at an ironic cost.
The gold bars on the ship have all melted due to the fire on the ship. As it pours in like a river of lava, the music changes dramatically as Gemma is swept in and shouts in pain. Jubei reaches higher ground, but the awfully persistent Genma tries grabbing his leg. With a loud yell and one final stroke of the sword, Jubei sends Genma falling to the depths of a hot river of gold.
Genma wanted to be the most powerful figure in Japan, and his most powerful asset ends up consuming him. One of the last images of the film is his hardened golden body sinking into the depths of the sea, along with the other gold bars. It’ll be difficult to resurface considering how tough gold is and how long it lasts. Not to mention he’s trapped in the bottom of the sea, making it difficult to swim back up because of the ocean pressure. So it’s safe to say Jubei has exiled him for all eternity.
Considering how much Genma has toyed with Jubei’s head and killing his love interest, it’s safe to say he deserves everything that comes his way. The commendable Jubei settles the matter in his own way, and it results in a cathartic end for a tyrant. Final bosses are responsible for every action his minions undertake, and Genma has paid the ultimate price.
In his case, all that is gold doesn't glitter: it burns instead.