Sunday, August 12, 2012

ANI-MOVIES: Sword Of The Stranger

Probably the best samurai anime since Samurai Champloo, this recent movie won international awards across the board. Studio Bones, best known for Fullmetal Alchemist and Eureka Seven through together this epic clash of Japanese and Chinese fighting styles, but with Western gaijin taking the center stage.

Set in 19th Century Japan, a local lord is working with some representatives from the Chinese emperor who are looking for a young boy whose blood is supposed to grant immortality in a ceremony that can only be held once a year. The sacrifice in question is Kotoro, and is on the run from the Chinese agents with his dog Tobimaru(who is arguably the most talented dog in all of anime!). They come across a ronin called “No-Name” because he never gives his actual name to the boy, although its later revealed to be Nanashi. He defends Kotoro from some samurai, but Tobimaru gets hit with a poison dart. Kotoro hires No-Name to help cure the dog while protecting him from the Chinese hoods. Amoung the Chinese warriors is the proficient and very blonde Luo-Lang who is mainly only in this whole business to find worthy opponents to fight, so basically he’s this movie’s “Vegeta”. It’s later revealed that No-Name is also a honkey as he really has red hair, but keeps coloring it black, probably so he won’t be called a Ginger. No-Name delivers Kotoro and a healed Tobimaru to a monastery which is secretly controlled by the lord in league with the Chinese. Kotoro is taken to a large monument erected for the sole purpose of taking in his blood to give to the Emporer of China. No-Name shows up in time to save Kotoro, although he’s lucky as the Chinese agents and soldiers of the lord end up killing each other off, until all that’s left are No-Name and Luo-Lang. Aside from the fact that his a top notch swordsman, Luo-Lang like the other Chinese uses a special drug that supresses pain, but what he doesn’t know is that No-Name uses some of too in their duel. A bloody fight ensues where No-Name just leaves Luo-Lang dead in his tracks, although No-Name appears to be near-fatally wounded as Kotoro rides off with him as they plan to be pirates(sequal?).

Sword Of The Stranger seriously fills in the void that’s been forming for the last few years in anime as there hasn’t been much any real samurai stuff at all. The closest example would be Samurai 7 which is really more sci-fi, but there has been almost nothing in the field of a samurai anime movie since probably the Rurouni Kenshin movie. Anyway, Bones comes through with some awesome animation and their traditionally somewhat jarheaded character designs. All the characters are each given their own rich background, even the supporting ones. Plus, this probably has the best fight choregraphy I’ve ever seen in an anime movie, and its not afraid to pump up on the brutality, so Tanrentino fans are in for a real bloodbath with this bad mutha! I recommend that anyone that is a fan of action movies, epic adventure, and the true dark path of the samurai should check it out.

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