Author/illustrator Sanpei Shirato’s Ninja bugei-cho was a popular graphic novel serialized across Japan in the 1960s, well loved by students and leftist radicals for its tale of a young boy’s alliance with a band of ninja during a peasant uprising. Nagisa Oshima takes an experimental approach to adaptation; out of deep respect for Shirato’s artistry (and his usual cinematic prankishness), he films Shirato’s images as they appear on the page, like an anime version of Sans soleil, with the camera hovering and darting over each “scene” to provide movement and life. Adding voices, sound effects, and a narration that connects the plot’s myriad strands, Oshima intervenes in yet another unexpected genre to create a fascinating treatise on cinema, narrative, and action.
Director: Nagisa Oshima. AKA 忍者武芸帳 / Band of Ninja / Tales of the Ninja