The great-grandfather of Naruto
In 2007, Ang Lee made a stir in the cinema industry with Lust, Caution. It was a film that was sexually frank and uncompromising, showing visceral scenes of sex and sadomasochism between Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Tang Wei. The exposure was not merely for art’s sake, however, as it illustrated how the couple’s relationship evolved through the film. It was basically an espionage film: a girl was to infiltrate a Japanese collaborator’s hideout (this was situated in China), make him fall in love with her, and then entrap him so that the rebels could kill him. The rebels did not take the heart of the girl into consideration, and she had slowly, yet inexorably, fallen in love with the collaborator. It was a simple film that was more evocative than intellectual, but it made waves with both the critics and its perceptive viewers. I myself enjoyed the spectacle: pundits in fact were quite certain it would have won Best Foreign Film in the Oscars had there been consistency with the film crew.
Thirty years before this film, however, was Nagisa Oshima‘s In the Realm of the Senses, which was practically a re-enactment of a real life incident in Japan known as the Sada Abe incident: a prostitute had erotically asphyxiated her lover in the act of sex, and it was a notable film because aside from the sexual frankness (even more shocking at that time) it had unsimulated sexual activity. This means that the girl actually performed unsimulated felllatio on the male protagonist. The film itself is part of the Criterion Collection, a compendium of a significant amount of critically acclaimed movies from all parts of the world.
Ten years before this experimental and seminal film, however, Nagisa Oshima offered his own version of a Japanese anime. It was the 60s, where Astro Boy was the first animated series to appear on television, and when anime was not yet as developed as it was today. Oshima made Band of Ninja, a film that is technically anime because it is composed of moving pictures, but is actually the slideshow Bakemonogatari was assumed to be: it is, quite literally, just thousands of pictures spread across a two-hour period, with added sound and dialogue.
The result is a film that seems to be Naruto’s predecessor: there are ninjas with mystical powers, violent confrontations everywhere, and a decent amount of mutilations. Sadly, the subtitles of the film are lacking, and the animation techniques obsolete. As a testament of its time, however, Band of Ninja is, at the very least, interesting to watch.
You can download the torrent here [the film is unlicensed]. I am seeding for at least a week.