Each makimono will allow them to execute a ninjutsu spell in order to activate various effects, such as temporary invincibility, an area of effect attack, and the ability to use magical projectiles. Since times of old, the makimono served as manuscripts for ninjutsu, the ancient secret techniques that surpass mortal understanding.
By studying the makimono as a set of instructions, a skilled ninja can use it to create an effect with ki (気, qi/ki; natural energy); the cosmic energy that permeates through heaven, earth and living creatures. By using the correct incantations and kuji-In (in Japanese: 九字印; nine hand seals), the shinobi releases ki in the form of ninjutsu, and the effects of which range from defensive shielding spells to deadly offensive magic attacks.
- The hand scroll was originally designed in ancient China as a type of text document, and texts were written upon bamboo or wooden slips that were bound together. As their usage increased, the use of paper and silk as hand scrolls became more common. Eventually, the hand scroll became a standard format for mounting artwork, and new styles were developed over time.
- Hand scrolls can unroll vertically or horizontally, and often contain ink-and-brush paintings or calligraphy. Hand scrolls are generally viewed from the right end and towards each leftmost section as the scroll is unrolled. In this way, the format allows for the depiction of a continuous narrative or journey. The leftmost end is fitted with a roller around which the scroll is rolled. When rolled up, the scrolls are secured with a braided silk cord and can be safely carried, placed on shelves, or stored in a lacquerware box. Hand scrolls range in size, averaging 30 centimeters (1 ft.) in height and 9 to 12 meters (30 to 40 ft.) in length.
- Makimono also serve as some of the earliest and greatest examples of the otokoe (in Japanese: 男絵; men's pictures) and onnae (in Japanese: 女絵; women's pictures) styles of painting. There are many fine differences between the two styles, which appeal to the aesthetic preferences of the genders, though perhaps most noticeable are the differences in subject matter. Onnae, epitomized by the Tale of Genji hand scroll, typically deals with court life and romantic themes. Otokoe, on the other hand, often recorded historical events, particularly battles. The Siege of the Sanjō Palace (1160), depicted in the painting Night Attack on the Sanjō Palace is a famous example of this style.