Shinobi: Heart Under Blade Review

I finally got around to seeing Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, after many years of almost seeing it but getting distracted by other things. I just re-joined Netflix, and am using it to catch up on movies that I haven’t seen for one reason or another but want to, such as this one.

In short, I found it pretty dissappointing.

The premise is interesting enough- the Warring States period has come to an end and the Tokugawa Shogunate decides that these superpowered ninja it’s been using as weapons are now a liability which could be used against the Shogun. Since there are two clans, Kouga and Iga, they tell each clan to have their best people try to kill each other as a “contest”, which is simply a way of getting rid of the strong so the Shogunate can then wipe out the rest of the clan members with minimal resistance.

All in all, a good premise to stage a bunch of ninja fights around, and this might be why the novel version called The Kouga Ninja Scrolls has been made into a manga and anime as well.

To add to the drama, the core story is about the second-in-commands of the two clans who have fallen in love with each other in a Romeo and Juliet situation and now have to lead the two ninja squads trying to kill each other.

Again, a well-used premise with built-in emotional conflict that should make for a strong story.

So, with this in mind, why didn’t I like it?

There are a couple reasons. First, this film version is actually pretty dull. The fights would be neat if I hadn’t actually watched Naruto, but having seen Naruto (which the film seems to be trying hard to present itself in the style of), I’m more interested in the story and characters. This is a problem, since the film is trying too hard to be deep and artsy and really skimps on the characters and keeps the story dead simple to the point of being actually dull. Most of the film is pretty images and our two lead moping around because they know they’ll have to kill each other eventually. (Oh, my life sucks…So sad….)

Second, the ending just kinda sucks. The leads do stupid things for stupid reasons, and then it sorta works out by chance although there is no logical reason it should have. The director also plays very fast and loose with the concept of simultaneous action in a way which I didn’t like and find slightly dishonest. (Or at least illogical.)

Third, and this is just a personal thing, it seemed to be trying to go out of its way to present several of my favorite historical characters Yagyu Munenori, Yagyu Jubei and Hattori Hanzo as complete dicks. I suspect this is on purpose, since these men are all presented in romanticised historical fiction as being heavily connected with the Ninja clans they’re trying to kill in this story. I think the author was trying to put a different spin on them, which is reasonable, but as these are some of my favorite historical people, I also have a right not to like it. (Imagine if someone did a pirate movie that had someone playing Captain Jack Sparrow in it, except now he’s a cruel drunken rapist who acts nothing like Captain Jack Sparrow from the other films. How you’d feel about that is about how I feel about this portrayal of those characters.)

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, I tried reading the manga adaptation called Basilisk a few years back and didn’t care for that much either. (It was a messy collection of weird sex and violence scenes.) Still, it’s another film off my list that I wanted to check out. Here’s hoping the next one’s better!


Wolf Children Official Trailer (English subtitles) – YouTube

Well this looks beautiful. 🙂

Wolf Children Official Trailer (English subtitles) – YouTube.

A Neat Trick for Finding and Getting Rid of Passive Verbs in MS Word

I was hunting for a good site today to give advice on Passive vs. Active verbs to another writer and came across this little nugget. The article it’s from is good, but this part is gold! Serious kudos to the author!

“MS-Word has a great and quick method to finding those “to Be” verbs.

The “Reading Highlight” feature is one of the most useful tools in the MS-Word arsenal, but the RH is an especially neat way to check your writing for passive voice use.

What Reading Highlight does is perform a search, but instead of taking you to the next instance of your search terms, it highlights all instances throughout the text.

To use Reading Highlight,

  1. –select a highlight color from the “Home” tab, then hit CTRL-F to bring up a search window.
  2. –Enter your search term or phrase, click the “Reading Highlight” drop-down, and select “Highlight All”.
  3. –Click “Close” and watch your highlights appear.
  4. –To remove the highlighting, re-open the search box, click the “Reading Highlight” drop-down, and select “Clear Highlighting”.
  5. –Again, click “Close” and the highlighting will be gone.

How do you use this to find passive sentences and those “Here is”, “There are”, and “It is” beginning phrases?

Well, we know most passive statements use the verb “to be” in some form or another. So we want to search for “be” in all its variants: is, was, are, am, were, etc.

Open the search dialog (CTRL-F),

  1. –type “be” as your search term, and click the “More” button.
  2. –Put a check in the box next to “Find all word forms”, click the “Reading Highlight” button and select “Highlight All”, and click “Close”.
  3. –Now, every permutation of “to be” will be highlighted.
  4. –Not all of them are going to be passive — or too passive, anyway — but many will.
  5. –Rewrite all those sentences to have more active verbs.

Using “to Be” verbs for anything other than linking verbs or helping verbs is a bad habit.

Any habit learned can be unlearned.”

via To Be, or Not To Be: Getting Rid of those Pesky “to Be” Verbs | Recipes for Writing.

I tried it myself on the work I’m editing. I had it hunt for “be” and “have” verbs (which also tend to be passive) and highlight each type it found. In a 91,000 word document I found roughly 2000 BE verbs and 1000 HAVE verbs. Not all of them are full words, though, and for the length of the document that isn’t bad.

Still, it’s a new tool in my editor’s toolbox I intend to make great use of!


Choudenshi Bioman- The First English Dubbed Sentai Series

Contrary to popular belief, the first Sentai completely dubbed into English wasn’t Zyuranger (Power Rangers Season 1, in 1993), it was 1984’s Bioman! A Filipino TV network dubbed the whole series in English in 1987, and released it to some success on the local TV stations.

Episode One Dubbed in English here on

Bioman is the story of 5 young people (isn’t it always?) who become the agents of the Biorobo and are given superpowers to fight against the evil Doctor Man and his minions.

It was a big hit in it’s time in Japan, The Philipines, and France (where it was a megahit dubbed in French) and if you watch it, it’s not hard to understand why. It did many things differently than the Sentai series that would come before it and the ones that would come after it as well. It is unique, and just plain fun to watch.

A few examples of what made it different-

  • The Biomen’s mentor was also the mecha they piloted into battle, but it didn’t directly communicate with them, that was all done through Peebo, a C-3PO type robot that was clearly the inspiration for Alpha 5 in Power Rangers. (In fact, the first unaired version of what would become Power Rangers was in fact Bioman dubbed in English by Haim Saban! However the FOX execs wanted American actors, not Asian ones on the screen, so he came up with the Power Rangers we know today.)
  • The Biorobo was limited by the ability of it’s human pilots/partners, and as they got stronger so did it. There are actually training episodes of them trying to get stronger so that they can handle the mecha’s more high-performance abilities.
  • The mecha fights themselves are shot so that the mecha have a weight to them and seem big, unlike most shows where the mecha are shot like the guys in suits they are.
  • Doctor Man (I love that name!) had just a few lieutenants, and a few Beastnoids (monsters), and couldn’t make more. So the same bad guys kept coming back, and they had a chance to become characters in their own right.
  • Instead of a new monster each week, there was a new giant robot instead, piloted by one of the bad guy lieutenants.
  • The plots were generally fun and interesting, and rarely boring. They really tried to mix the stories up, and not just go for the same old thing.
  • The English dub is in Phillipino English, and done in a straight but playful way with odd dialect-isms that really add to it’s entertainment value. (They were dubbing it for kids, but not stupid kids.) My personal favorite is the bad guy’s “FOR THE MAN!” salute, which brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. (For those who were born after 1990, “The Man” was 1970’s street slang to refer to white authority figures.)

I actually get bored of Sentai series really quick (they’re too damn repetitive), yet for some reason I can watch Bioman with a big smile, even though it wasn’t part of my childhood. It’s just pure entertainment on a level which isn’t stupid or condescending, but pitched just right for any audience.

For the Man!



Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Writing Fast

Dean Wesley Smith wrote a good piece on his blog about writing speed, quality, and productivity. I definitely recommend reading it if you have the time.

Writing Slow Equals Writing Better is a complete myth, a nasty sacred cow of publishing that hurts and stops writers who believe it.

— The truth is that no two writers work the same and no book is the same as the previous book or the next book.

— The truth is that writing fast is nothing more than spending more time every day writing.

— The truth is that there should be no rule about speed relating to quality.

— The truth is there should be no rule that lumps all writers into one big class. There should only be your way of writing.

via Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Writing Fast |.