Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Sword of the Stranger|
Actors: Yűki Chinen, Tomoya Nagase, Akio Ôtsuka, Kyle Rideout, Naoto Takenaka
Director: Masahiro Andô
Genres: Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Infinity Resources Inc Release Date: 06/16/2009 Run time: 102 minutes
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An Explosive Ending
Sniff Code | Somewhere out there | 04/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie made a one day appearance at the theaters and thanks to a killer trailer I made a point of not missing it. Despite the movie being relatively new, there's a strange nostalgia I felt while watching it. For one, most or all of the art is hand drawn. On the big screen, the line quality is very noticeable, especially since the past decade most animation has been exempt from any line quality at all en lieu of 3D. So seeing the hand of the artist in motion was a feeling I had missed from the old days of watching Charlie Brown :-) How I manage to put Charlie Brown and a Master Samurai in the same sentence...I don't know.
The other thing that grabbed me was that this movie actually spends time developing both story and its characters, and it does an incredible job at that. Granted, the plot itself is a bit cliche: The bad guys are after an immortality potion that requires a young boy, Kotaro, to be sacrificed in order for the potion to work. But the cliche is padded with a strong historical back drop that gives the story a surprising gritty realism. While so many movies chop away at a good story and evolving character elements, this one slows down just enough to make you actually care about the fate of the Nameless Samurai, Kotaro and even his dog.
The steady pacing was a good way to build up to an ending so loaded with tension that I could actually feel my muscles locked up. As the Nameless character does battle with his enemies, you can't help but to feel that he may be in way over his head. In a lot of way, the movie reminded me of "Ninja Scroll": there are a host of foes that the Nameless Saurai must confront and you'll have your doubts about his skills being matched to each one. Such doubts are the hallmark of a gripping story."
Animated Swordplay Action Bloody WELL-DONE!
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 06/18/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have always had a fondness for anime that explored the Bushido period; noteworthy hits such as the anime series "Basilisk" and the anime film "Ninja Scroll" have garnered a powerful following. Most recently the almost Okamoto/Kobayashi inspired "Shigurui Death Frenzy" has left me in awe. Director Masahiro Ando with screenplay by Fumihiko Takayama has adapted a tale from the original story by "Bones". "SWORD OF THE STRANGER" (aka. Sutorenjia Muko Hadan) is an animated film with fantastic action that uses the Sengoku period (a period of warring states) as its backdrop. It is a story of faith, ambition and survival.
The film was a nominee for Best animated Feature at the 81st Academy of film awards.
A young boy named Kotaro (voiced by Yuri Chinen) and his dog are wandering the lands of Japan; fleeing the Ming forces led by Lord Bai-Luan. They come across a nameless Ronin (Nanashi, voiced by Tomoya Nagase) who is haunted by the memories of his past and who has vowed to keep his blade sheathed. Chinese mercenaries are dispatched to claim the small boy for a twisted ritual for immortality. Seeing the remnants of his past within the boy, the nameless samurai chooses to act as his protector but does he have the necessary skills to keep him from the clutches of the Ming and their blood thirsty, gold-haired swordsman named Luo-Lang (Kouichi Yamadera)?
The film uses this chaotic period in feudal Japan; the Sengoku period or the era of the Warring States is a period after the decline of the second shogun. The film ponders the question: What makes a man good or evil? Is it the corruption of the amount of political power or the ambition to rise to such powers? Is it the skill of swordsmanship or the manner he serves his Lord? "Sword of the Stranger" does flesh out these questions in the spirit of its characters. Itadori is a general whose skills as a swordsman allowed him to rise above the ranks. He is ambitious and power hungry and he serves a corrupt feudal lord in the persona of Akaike; who in turn is driven by greed and lust for more power. Bai-Luan is an aide to the Emperor and seeks immortality to prolong his dwindling life. Luo-Lang is a warrior who serves the Ming Emperor but he is flawed in a way that he is longing for a worthy opponent. He is loyal, but only as that loyalty serves him. The nameless swordsman is a man exhausted, he has killed and served his Lord in the past--such actions have made his soul empty. He has tied a knot on his sword to keep him from drawing his blade, but his skills are good enough to fell highly trained opponents.
The film captures certain interpretations of the evils that men would do, for ambition, greed and loyalty. Kotaro represents the innocence and purity of youth, and as such he is the key to the Xian drug, believed to be the key to immortality. Kotaro's dog, Tobimaru also plays a significant role in the film, as he proves to be the catalyst for Nanashi and Kotaro's allegiance. The film has some touching and humorous moments, as we see the dog practice generosity and sacrifice. After all, if an animal can learn compassion, why can't us human beings? The nameless swordsman's past in shown in the form of dreams and flashbacks. (Also, there is a short film in the DVD's features that further develops his character)
It is easy to ignore the film's subtle meanings, as the film does have amazing action sequences that rival Ryuhei Kitamura's "AZUMI". The action scenes contain a good amount of gore and loads of blood. But not too bloody that the film should be rated `R'. I loved the way Nanashi defends himself without even drawing his sword, it is a true testament to his skills which provokes Luo-Lang's obsession in facing him in single combat. The fights are long, stylish and brutally violent at times. Chinese Wuxia meets Japanese swordsmanship in the encounters. I liked the manner in which Luo-Lang and Nanashi were developed through their separate fights, it allows them to be further developed and allows for build-up in the inevitable final encounter. One flaw the film has is that Kotaro's past wasn't fully fleshed out and the reasons for him being special weren't really fully explored.
The action is well animated and the moves are fluid and soft. The set designs have that minor touch of CGI, and the backgrounds almost look very photo-realistic. The mood is cleverly expressed through its effects in the form of blowing wind, ominous snowfall and the darkening of clouds. The character designs may look simple and may not be as elaborate as other anime films of this kind, but it was still pretty good. The music track perfectly complements the film's mood and attitude; I found the music quite rousing in its own right.
"Sword of the Stranger" is one good piece of animated feature. I am still rather impressed how the Japanese can keep adult themes in the form of animation, whereas here in the U.S. animation is often associated with "kiddie-flicks". The film is full of very cool action, violence that pushes the PG-13 envelope with a strong humanity that can let the film stand on its own. The viewer has to look beyond the action otherwise; he may lose some of the subtle details and may make him think the plot is a little contrived. It may not approach the classic status of other acclaimed anime hits but it is entertaining enough to keep the experienced anime fan enthralled and to attract those unfamiliar with Japanimation.
Highly Recommended! [4- Stars]
Video/Audio: 1.78 ratio anamorphic widescreen. Nice, clean transfer with some muted colors on some scenes. The 5.1 Japanese Language track is powerful and clear with excellent Subtitles. There is also the option of an English Language 5.1 track.
Extras: Pretty bare bones, there are trailers and commercials but the pilot film called "Muko Hadan" is worth a look. There are also character interviews.
T-PAIN | Sacramento, CA USA | 03/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can't speak for the special features, since I haven't checked them out just yet.
PLOT (no spoilers):
Pretty standard fare. A nameless swordsman must protect an innocent boy against the hostile battlefield of two warring factions. The main antagonist group consists of an elite bunch of highly-skilled Chinese warriors who feel no pain, at the head of which is a mysterious blonde swordsman ailing at his inability to find a worthy adversary. Lacking somewhat in the originality department, the story nonetheless draws you in by the sheer charisma of its characters. The characters themselves convey their archetypes well, without being overly obvious. The cliche factor is evident, but luckily it doesn't detract from your enjoyment of the film.
Though at times inconsistent (read: some of the battle clips appear noticably choppy, while others are smooth as silk), this feature is still head and shoulders over many of its contemporary counterparts. The characters' movements are believably natural, and their facial subtext succeeds in making you actually care about what they're thinking. At times, CGI is used for set pieces and background work, but it's so well-integrated that it complements without distracting, and is often unnoticable. Most memorable of all is the climactic battle between the swordsmen No-Name and Luo Lang: this is far and away the single most visually arresting swordfight I have ever seen in an animated feature. Ever. It invokes a tangible feeling of suspense and wonder, the choreography is brilliant, the scope is incredible, the pacing is thrilling, and their movements are positively GORGEOUS. It'll make the hairs on your neck stand up, mark my words.
I usually prefer subtitled anime over dubbed, as English voice-overs can be spotty, and often omit certain important nuances. However, Sword of the Stranger's English voice actors are all very talented, and they mesh perfectly with the setting and their respective characters. The sound effects are particularly well-done; at the moment when No-Name strikes the killing blow against his first Chinese opponent, the explosive crack of wood beams shattering and the brutal gnashing of bone pound straight through to your core. It gives every action scene a very visceral and immersive feel.
Sword of the Stranger simply must not be missed. It's certainly not the most original thing out there, but its tried-and-true story formula can be appreciated by most anyone, and the action is definitely top-tier material. This isn't a film you can watch only once.
Great action scenes
Megatron | 04/11/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fantastic anime feature film. Beautiful, smooth, animation and excellent fight scenes. It has a compelling story and the english dubs are great. Highly recommend to people that like historically themed anime and everyone else."