Sword of the Stranger is Bones’ first attempt at an original movie (as in not based on an already existing series). Masahiro Ando, who had no prior experience with directing an entire anime and instead seems to specialize in animation and character-designs, was given the director’s seat and the screenplay was done by the director of the third Patlabor Movie. That’s not really the best cast you’d expect from Bones’ repertoire, but still, Sword of the Stranger is a worthy movie.
Don’t expect too much from the story, though. It features an uberpowerful ex-samurai with a sad past who got tired of killing who meets up with a young boy with an equally sad past. The main villain is another uberpowerful guy who’s looking for a challenge that only this ex-samurai can give him. Yawn, yawn, nothing we haven’t seen before. The reasons why you want to watch this movie is because of the animation, the cultural reference, and most importantly the bond that develops between said ex-samurai and boy.
Most of the time in this movie is not actually spent on the fights, but on showing how these two, with totally different personalities come to understand each other amidst their arguing. The two of them are dynamic and a joy to watch throughout the movie. The plot basically only serves to get and keep the two of them together, and even though it’s nothing special, it knows how to not get in the way of the development of these two for a large part of the movie.
I think that the big problem with this movie is that it would have made a great family-movie if it wasn’t for the huge amounts of gore in it. Gore can be a tricky thing. It’s great to intensify your scenes (Shigurui, anyone?), but at the same time you do alienate those who can’t stand it. I can really imagine that kids would have loved the innocent moments of this series, if it weren’t for the umpth guy who got an arrow blown through his entire face, with all the graphic details of a movie-budget.
Still, if you don’t mind the gore, I can’t really think of a reason not to watch this movie. It’s the genuine moments that really were the most enjoyable, plus some pretty impressive sword-fights. Bones could have done a lot worse (just take a look at Gonzo’s first attempt at a movie). The music is also really solid. You wouldn’t guess that it comes from the same composer who did Eureka7 and Heroic Age, and yet it complements the movie perfectly.