Based on a comic by Sanpei Shirato, Watari is a movie that's seen success both internationally and in its native Japan.
430 years ago in the ninja village of Iga, faction lead by Sandayu Momochi (Asao Uchida) and faction lead by Nagato Fujibayashi (Tetsuro Sagawa) were vying for superior position. Lower level ninjas called Genin were treated very poorly during this time, ruled by ninja "law" that no one knows its content. During this time a boy named Watari (Yoshinobu Kaneko), and his father Shikanme (Tokichi Maki) appeared in Momochi's camp. He becomes friends with Kazura (Toshitaka Kato) who runs training camp for genin. Watari requests Kazura to stop running the camp because he believed the reason for genin being treated poorly was because there were abundant supply of them being trained in this camp. Watari also recognized that behind this training camp was the ninja's "law". Momochi's vice leader Otowa no Jyoto (Ryutaro Ootomo) orders his men to go to Takeda's fortress Samidare. But it was a trap set for them, and they all perish in the attempt. In order to investigate the plot behind the killing, Watari sneaks into Fujibayashi's fortress. He battles Tateoka no Dojun (Toshi Amazu) with his "oboro no Jyutsu" a ninpo that projects multiple images of himself, and succeeds in escape. Kazura has a sister named Tsuyuki (Chiyoko Honma). She was in love with Shindo no Kojiro (Kunio Murai), but they felt that the only way to wed is to flee from Iga and become nukenin - an escapee ninja. Momochi who discovered them tells them if they can infiltrate fort Samidare and assassinate its lord, he will grant them their marriage. But this was also a trap to kill them both. What was waiting for them are six ninjas, and both Tsuyuki and Kojiro is killed by them. Kazura who found out about Tsuyuki's mission goes after her to fort Samidare, but gets caught. Watari also follows Kazura and kills two of the six ninjas Shijima (Akio Wakinaka) and Yosame (Daisuke Awaji) and rescues Kazura, but is met by Toriko (Kensaku Hara) and is nearly defeated. Shikanme shows up and together they defeat Toriko. They also defeat Tsubuki (Chiyo Okada) and Kugutsume (Masaru Ooshiro), and eradicates all six ninjas at fort Samidare. Kazura in order to avenge his sister's death sneaks into Fujibayashi's fortress, and blows it up along with himself. Kojiro who was thought to have died was rescued by Shikanme. He figures That Dojun and Otowa no Jyoto are one and the same person. Dojun together with Momochi intended to split Iga clan in half so it would be easier for them to rule the clan.
The movie was based on a then popular manga (Japanese comic) for boys, but as the synopsis of the story shows, the story is complicated for a children's movie.
Yoshinobu Kaneko who played the main character of the movie was a big fan of the comic, and went to Toei's staff to hire him into the movie in a supporting role. But he was eventually hired as the main character.
The author of this comic Sanpei Shirato upon seeing the movie was infuriated at the fact that it didn't portray his true intent of the story which was actually about inequality of class in society, and refused to cooperate further with Toei. Toei had plans to make a TV series out of this movie, but because of refusal by Shirato, they changed the plan to create a new series with author Mitsuteru Yokoyama (same Yokoyama that created Gigantor) who was also authoring a popular ninja comic at the time called Iga no Kagemaru. The new series became Kamen no ninja Akakage where Yoshinobu Kanako played the role of Aokage.
The movie saw road show in Taiwan four years after it was released in Japan, where it became a smash hit. Taiwanese producers invited Kaneko to Taiwan to make two more movies starring Kaneko. But the stories are not related to this one. Kamen no ninja Akakage was also shown in Taiwan, only with Kaneko's character Aokage as the main character, and renamed Watari.
So there are some confusion about this movie and its sequels. This is the only one Toei made, and others are either Kamen no ninja Akakage renamed to Watari or a Taiwanese production not related to Watari but starring Yoshinobu Kaneko.
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