80s Historical Fantasy Anime Is A Hidden B-Movie Classic

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

The 1980s were a strange time for the anime industry as it was filled with wild experiments, from the sci-fi classic Akira to the comedy martial arts series Dragon Ball, but in between the studios pushing the industry forward were countless series that tread on well-worn ground. Wrath of the Ninja is one of these overlooked movies that can’t be compared to any of the icons of the era, but it’s far superior to what American audiences were getting at the time.


Released in 1989, Wrath of the Ninja combines the three-episode OVA (original video animation, which means it’s direct-to-video) series Sengoku Kitan Yotoden into a feature film. Mangling Japanese releases for the Western audience was common at the time, which is what happened to Robotech and Macross, and again, in this case, the Western release was significantly shorter, by 45 minutes, or another way to measure it, one entire episode of content.

Nobunaga Oda Is Japan’s Default Villain

Wrath of the Ninja is set during the Sengoku period in Japan, which means that, yes, Nobunaga Oda is the main villain, ravaging the countryside with a demonic army. Two survivors of the attacks on their villages join forces, Ayame and Sakon (voiced by Solid Snake, David Hayter), with the ninja Kogure, and each wields a demonic weapon capable of killing Nobunaga Oda. Honestly, the plot doesn’t matter; it’s as by the numbers as they come; the highlight of this anime is the fights

Gets Right To The Good Parts

The trio in Wrath of the Ninja goes up against Nobunaga’s demon officers, including a spider monster that blows up heads Scanners-style, and the very creepy, very terrifying Kagami, who brings the dead to life by crying. Every character has a signature weapon and fighting style, making them easily distinctive from one another and giving the feel that the heroes are clearing levels in a video game. It’s basic, it’s formulaic, but it’s also good old-fashioned fun, and for the most part, it works.

None of the characters are particularly deep, but they don’t have to be; you get a few snippets of personality, from “calm,” “rushes in,” to “emotional.” And that’s all you really need because, again, you’re here for the combat, which doesn’t hold up compared to modern battle Shonen like Bleach or Naruto, but it gets right to the good parts.

No Deep Thought Required

I watched Wrath of the Ninja recently after finding the highly stylized Golgo 13: The Professional, another 80s anime movie. The latter has a more distinct animation style, but the former is ideal for getting together with fellow anime nerds and shouting at the screen. There’s blood, betrayals, and less-than-shocking deaths, so it’s an 80s B-movie that happens to be animated.

A Part Of Anime History


At the end of the day, I can only recommend Wrath of the Ninja if you’re like me and want to fill in historical gaps in your anime knowledge or, ideally, if you have a group of people who want to shut off your brains and watch something that’s simple, but crowd-pleasing. If you want a ninja anime, Ninja Scroll came out a few years later and is far superior, while the recent modern anime, Ninja Kamui, is exceptional.

All that said, just as schlocky 80s action films have their place, so too does Wrath of the Ninja, which is available to watch through Video On Demand on Amazon Prime.