The dvd of SHINOBI HEART UNDER BLADE U.S. version is almost an exact duplicate of the Region-3 Thai version. I have both the 3-disc Japanese region-2 copy and the Hong Kong Region-3 DTS-ES dvd. The japanese and Hk releases have the best transfers. If you have multi-region capability, buy the Japanese or Hong Kong versions. But whatever you do, do not miss this film.
The following review applies to the Hong Kong Region-3 release:
I just finished watching my dvd copy of this film and felt that I have to review this marvelously tragic but hopeful film. Mind you, this SHINOBI film does not follow any of the video-game inspired Shinobi titles, rather it is based on the JAPANESE FEUDAL LEGEND from which both the video game and the anime series "Basilisk" were based on.
In order for you to love this film, you have to have an idea of Japanese customs and their unrelenting loyalty to their emperor/leader. For them, their Emperor is like a living God-man. That is why when a new Shogunate has united feudal Japan, he fears that the wrath of the SHINOBI may upset the balance of power. SHINOBI is the elite NINJA clan, who has been trained since birth in the art of combat and warfare.
Two Ninja clans has had a truce for years that the new Lord of the shogunate has lifted this truce and has misled them into believing that each clan will help decide who will ascend to the role of shogun(in the future) should they have 5 of their greatest and most skilled warriors to battle each other in a contest to the death. Gennusuke and Oboro are the lovers caught in the middle because each have ascended to the role of chieftain in their respective clans. In truth, the Shogunate rulers wish to destroy their clans because they fear their powers/skills and that one day rise up against the Supreme Shogunate of Japan. They believe since their goal is peace and prosperity, war mongers should be extinct because they believe that without war, they have no purpose. Some members of the clans also believe this.
Each clan warrior has character and depth, with variable skills and abilities. One warrior is like a chameleon, one has simian-like agility, one has NEAR-immortality, a woman has poison that goes around her skin/breath, one is a blind psychic among others.
The film itself is very tragic and when Oboro makes the supreme sacrifice to save the children/families of both clans, even the shogunate had to believe that the SHINOBI can have more than one purpose in life.
The set designs were awesome and the characters were well designed. The special effects weren't all hokey and fit the movie's pace. As in most samurai films, the battles were quick and exciting, although not overly bloody.
The film is one of the best ASIAN fantasy-epic films I've seen thus far. The dvd I have was mastered in High-def widescreen(EXTREMELY SHARP transfer) with 5.1 (DTS)digital audio(I didn't get mind in AMAZON). I highly recommend this film, now I have to cry for a PREQUEL about the warring clans before! 4.5 stars all the way!!
ADDED: I managed to see the U.S. region-1 release by Funimation. It is less than 2 minutes shorter than the region-3 DTS-ES Hong Kong release. Nothing relevant was missing, except for an extended beginning and Oboro's encounter with one of the Kouga warriors. The video of the Asian release is a lot sharper/crisper than the Funimation transfer. As I thought, the Funimation transfer was derived from the Thai version.