Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sword of the Stranger (2007)

SWORD OF THE STRANGER
DIRECTED BY: MASAHIRO ANDO
WRITTEN BY: FUMIHIKO TAKAYAMA
OVERALL SCORE: 7.00/10


On the run from Ming swordsmen, young orphan Kotaro (Yuuri Chinen) and his protective dog Tobimaru, encounter a nameless ronin. In desperate need of a guide and protector, Kotaro hires the ronin, and the two set off, both about to get in for more than they bargained for.

A staple of samurai anime shows and movies, it seems to me, is the feature character with no name, and a mysterious past. Applying that same motif, Sword of the Stranger throws a new spin on the staple figures, and tries to throw a combination of humanity and narrative nature on the character. All the while maintaining a high level of violence, and even higher level of blood splattering. I'm not against violence in anime, or films in general, and as much as I love the movies Yojimbo and Kill Bill Vol.1, the insane blood gushing can be a bit off putting. Though in the case of Sword of the Stranger I have to say for each blood explosion (if you will) there's a counter acting moment of humanity and amazing visuals that kept me hooked.

The voice acting is absolutely on queue, and the animators (from the ever increasingly popular studio Bones) really take the time to harness their emotional moments. There are a few wide shots I do remember that seem less finely detailed, but overall there's little to complain about from an animation point of view (especially in the finally). As for the story itself: it's simple, a bit far fetched, and cliche, but filled with enough heart, pacing, and determination, it carries the movie quite nicely. It works because they never question their own storyline. They allow it to evolve, and the characters to unveil their personal issues, all the while never forcing the viewer to accept more than they're willing to.

I can see why the movie has gained such beloved status (JapanCinema.net named it his best anime of the 2000's & Film Forager gave it 4.5/5). The movie has some amazing fight sequences, very creative stuff, and that typical aura of mystery the seems to attract anime lovers. It manages to explain the events without the need for spelling everything out. This can be both a strength and a weakness, and here it can be a bit of both. It takes a while for the story to develop, leaving us with a bunch of disconnected events, and fight sequences. As well as two traveling characters we know nothing about, except they're the protagonists. It's interesting to see how it develops, and still leaves a few questions out there, but it's still a very enjoyable and moving experience.

While it has plenty of anime cliches, and a few narrative flaws, Sword of the Stranger is carried by amazing visuals, a lot of heart, and a solid story to carry you threw.

3 better thoughts:

Alex said...

Hey, thanks for the shout-out, and I'm glad you enjoyed the film! It's true there are some narrative mishaps and cliches, but I'm able to look past them because I liked everything else so much!

TheAnswerMVP2001 said...

AH! Two anime reviews in one day, is this the start of the Apocalypse!?!

Univarn said...

@Alex I liked it a bit less than I figured, but overall it was pretty good :).

@MVP Meh. Most likely from now own Wednesdays, the day I get the least views anyways, will be dedicated for anime shows/movies since I'm going to do it regardless, might as well set aside a day for it.

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