Region 4 Winners and Losers

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Explanatory Notes
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Ninja Scroll: 10th Aniversary EditionR4

This film has been released before in both Region 1 and Region 4, and now is being released in 10th anniversary editions in both regions. I only have three of the four versions to hand, so I'll forget about the original R1, if that's OK with you?

The original Region 4 disc came to us via the UK, and that's a bad thing. It meant that the UK censors got to it, and clipped out pieces of a number of scenes (see the censorship notes). Apart from that vandalism, the disc wasn't too bad it had a reasonable transfer for the time, albeit too soft, possibly due to it being compressed onto a single layer. It offers English sound in Dolby Digital 5.1, and Japanese in Dolby Digital 2.0. It included the character profiles, the theatrical trailer, and some Manga Entertainment advertising. Not a bad disc, but there's no compelling reason to buy it any more.

The new Region 1 disc has the longest list of features, and comes on a DVD-18: a double-sided, dual-layer disc, for a total of four layers. It offers almost exactly the same features as the Region 4 disc on one side, and almost the same on the other side. The difference between the two sides is simple: one is full-screen, and one is wide-screen. When I first saw this, I was excited I had only ever seen Ninja Scroll in full-screen, and I looked forward to seeing it in wide-screen (I'm a big fan of wide-screen). However, it turns out that this wide-screen presentation was something of a stunt they have chopped the top and bottom off the full-screen version, doing something like a vertical pan-and-scan conversion. The result looks OK a lot of the time, but feels a touch cramped at other times. To make things worse, this trimming means that the image is enlarged when displayed on a wide display; this means that the black lines outlining the characters get quite wide, which looks ugly. If you really want this kind of "wide-screen", and your display supports it, you can get the same effect by zooming the image (then, when you've decided you don't really want it, you can un-zoom it). The other thing that I don't like about the Region 1 disc is that the sound behind the main menu is rather loud, and the animation behind the menu is distracting.

A word about packaging: the old Region 4 disc was in a simple keep-case. The new Region 4 is still in a keep-case (a good quality transparent Amaray), but it's scored a cardboard slipcase, too a nice effort. The Region 1 packaging is a bit fancier: a slipcase holding a cardboard folder than opens twice to expose the disc (in a clear plastic holder glued to the cardboard) it's pretty, but a bit flimsier than the Amaray.

The Region 4 disc is missing:

  • "wide-screen" transfer
  • a mini-poster
  • a postcard
  • Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks (in addition to the 5.1 Dolby EX and 6.1 dts es) in both English and Japanese
  • Manga extras
    • 12 trailers, one after another
    • DVD catalogue (26 one-page descriptions)
    • web links
  • Palm Pictures trailers
  • original Ninja Scroll trailers

The Region 1 disc is missing:

  • the convenience of a single-sided disc
  • Madman Propaganda

The video transfer on the Region 1 discs is similar to the Region 4, but noticeably darker some details get lost in the darkness, making the R1 a less attractive option. Both transfers show a fair bit of aliasing, and neither has a wonderful layer change (the R1 full-screen side has the layer change at 69:12, making a pause too long). The interviews with the director and English-language voice actors still offer poor quality audio and video, but that's the source material.

I recommend the new Region 4 as the best on offer, unless you yearn for a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It's a single-sided disc, which makes it easier to handle. It offers a good transfer of the digitally restored film. And it's uncut.