Ninja vs Shark (2023) Review
With a title like Ninja vs Shark you might think this is another Mark Polonia film along the lines of Sharkula or Shark Encounters of the Third Kind. Or maybe one of the more bizarre Chinese kaiju films such as Land Shark. But you’d be wrong, it’s actually a Japanese film written by Junichiro Ashiki (Ultraman New Generation Stars, Ultra Fight Victory) and directed by Kôichi Sakamoto (Power Rangers Time Force, Girl’s Blood).
During Japan’s Edo Period, Sayo (Julia Nagano, Sexy Tanaka-san, Savage Mice), a pearl diver from the village of Okitsu, swims back to shore only to find the remains of one her fellow divers washed up on the beach. This has been happening a lot since Lord Koshiro Mizuchi (Yuichi Nakamura, Kamen Rider #4, The Secret of the Black Dahlia) of the Crimson Devil Clan demanded the villagers hand over their pearls to him. When they refused he used sorcery to turn the sharks into living weapons.
With no other option, the mayor hires Kotaro Shiozaki (Kohshu Kirano, Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga, Hitchihaiku) to deal with them. This is not without its own risk as we’ve just seen Kotaro has dealt with a slow paying client by raping his wife and killing him and his friends when they objected.
That’s something of a running theme in Ninja vs Shark because Kotaro gets to the village just as Shinsuke (Shun Nishime, Kamen Rider Ghost, Orphan Black) is fighting off a trio of villagers who are trying to force themselves on Sayo. The mayor justifies tolerating this saying that she’s cursed, which he says makes it alright,
I hear you asking, what about the shark? This film is called Ninja vs Shark, so where is the shark? Before we get to the shark, there’s a female ninja by the name of Kikuma (Kanon Miyahara, Black Fox: Age of the Ninja, Blood-Club Dolls 1) who wants to kill Kotaro, and there are even a few zombies.
The shark? I’m getting to that. It makes a brief appearance around the forty minute mark, but it’s not until the last fifteen minutes that we get any ninja vs shark action. That’s not to say it’s dull, because it isn’t. There is plenty of human on human violence, with severed limbs, heads and fountains of blood, some CGI, some practical, spraying everywhere. It becomes excessive to the point the digital blood stops being a negative because the scenes are so unrealistic it sort of fits in.
The sharks are another matter unlike the digital blood there’s nothing redeeming about their appearance, especially when they’re in the water. The huge boss monster one is slightly better rendered but still never entirely convincing.
Sakamoto has worked as a stuntman on both sides of the Pacific, working on films like Scanner Cop and Stuart Gordon’s King of the Ants as well as several Power Rangers films and series. He also has a long list of credits directing various Tokusatsu, including various titles in the Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and Power Ranger franchises. So you know that the various fights are going to be well staged and fast paced.
Where Ninja vs Shark runs into trouble is the character of Kotoro. His introduction resembles the introduction of Terry, Sonny Chiba’s amoral badass in The Street Fighter and it establishes him as a similar character. Unlike Terry though we’re meant to eventually warm up to him, something that isn’t easy when the first thing we learn about him is that he’s a rapist. As a result, even with his redemption arc, the character becomes heroic, just less bad.
Ultimately how much you’ll enjoy Ninja vs Shark depends on how much the lack of shark matters. In that regard it’s like a lot of low budget creature features, but at least this one gives the viewer plenty of action instead of talk while they’re waiting for it to show up.
Ninja vs Shark is available free with ads on a couple of YouTube channels as well as on a Blu-ray from Media Blasters