Posted by psgels on 18 April 2008 with categories: Anime Reviews


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.

23 Responses

  1. Hunter-Wolf says:

    Well … nice to that hear the movie turned out to be good .. i was thrilled when i watched the trailer and knew it was made by Bones ^_^

    About the story … well it is a fact that it gets harder and harder everyday to create something that hasn’t been done before … people really have to understand that .. what really matters now is how well you execute the story and characters …. and from what i read they seems well executed ;)

    Thanks for the review

  2. aya says:

    It reminded me of Seirei no Moribito a lot. Same beautiful autmn nature. Same accent on relationship of an ex-samurai and a kid. Same excellent fights choreography, but here there’re more of them.

  3. Bodom says:

    I really enjoyed this movie! Ok, because of the gore it’s “only” for a mature target, but I’m not 13 years old anymore, and I loved the genuine moments as much as the violent ones. I agree about the music, it really complements the movie perfectly (and sometimes it reminds me of the LOTR soundtrack… XD). My score: 90/100

  4. Little One says:

    thank you for your review on this movie! i never heard of it & immediately downloaded it after i read your review! it was superb & i’m super grateful to u!!!

  5. Denizen says:

    I really enjoyed this movie. It’s definitely worth watching.

    Damn good.

  6. xiaohu says:

    Just finished watching the movie and it was well worth that 1hr48mins! Gore-concerns aside, the balance between the quiet and fight scenes was particularly good, and the music was pretty epic. My only 2 gripes would be not enough background story development for the 2 main characters, and the dodgy Jap-accented Chinese which was obviously phonetically memorised ^^ Overall, happily satisfied.

  7. leongsh says:

    … the dodgy Jap-accented Chinese which was obviously phonetically memorised ^^

    Yeah, it definitely is dodgy and in my opinion, more dodgy than hearing the usual Engrish.

    But we’re here to enjoy the movie and enjoy it I did – very much so. Rewatched it when I saw this blog entry put up. Beautiful art and wonderful animation with great action sequences, a stirring and evocative soundtrack, a straightforward story – the strengths of this movie.

  8. dowamaru says:

    You are right, the subject matter had been done and watched before. Still, I honestly watched it for the action and ended up liking the movie thanks to the bond between the protagonists. It was heart warming and quite an enjoyable movie. It didn’t take itself seriously (nor as gory) as Shigurui but nothing wrong with a change of pace when it comes to period pieces.
    Good story pace and well drawn out characters…What else can you ask Bones for?

    ~Shivers at Gonzo~

  9. Ganaesh D. says:

    Amazing. It was really freakin’ amazing. The detail of the animation is simply astounding, and the music is powerful. Amazing what taiko drums can do to a film score. Rock-solid action, and the crazy amount of gore was a welcome surprise, as I never expected this from Bones. Straight-forward no-nonsense actioner… and boy, could they do it!

    It was a pleasant surprise to watch Mukoh Hadan, to say the least. Makes me wonder what the hell Gonzo was thinking when they produced Agito.

  10. Archer says:

    i just watched this movie yesterday and i enjoyed every moment of it,true the plot is quite silly and i can’t say the characters have that much depth and yet it was very good

    the animation was beautiful,i know it is a movie but few anime are capable of bringing such a visually wonderful art at this moment(seirei no moribito is the last one i can remember) so such movies are always welcome and i had nothing against the gore,they did not exaggerate with it and in the end it turned into a very enjoyable movie

  11. adam says:

    Hey I loved this movie! Does anyone have any suggestions for anime movies I can watch like this?

  12. Will says:

    �the dodgy Jap-accented Chinese which was obviously phonetically memorised ^^

    Yeah, it definitely is dodgy and in my opinion, more dodgy than hearing the usual Engrish.

    the chinese ming soldiers were speaking perfect chinese. the western ming soldier and the japanese boy were, imo, purposely made to speak poor chinese.

  13. centzon totochtin says:

    I agree; Dodgy plot but the character interactions rang true, and the kid actually behaved like a kid and still wasn’t annoying, which is pretty rare. Beautiful looking too, grainy film-effects, muted colours, rain and mud and mountains and falling-down houses and snowy woods, great character designs with emotion obviously considered over prettiness, which is always good to see. I loved it. Bit confused as to how this is licensed but the similar but much more accessible-to-all-ages Seirei No Moribito isn’t, also confused as to what was so special about his blood to start with, but meh :).

    For people bored by prettiness, it was worth it just for the fights in my opinion :) they are getting so damn good at animating the things these days… it is a massive pity the violence will stop young kids from getting to watch it, but any toning-down of these set pieces would have been a crime, plus half of the comedy moments wouldve been lost.. I also liked how they didnt make it clear at the end whether the main character was going to live or die.

    but yep, even I who do not speak either japanese or chinese could tell the chinese was bad :D the guy who suggested it was intentional could well be right, but it just looked like bad acting, and ruined the blond guys character every time he spoke chinese :)

  14. tobumaru says:

    actually that was a different dialect spoken in china…there is no language called ‘chinese’ they have different languages there and none of them is called ‘chinese’. The dialect they spoke is an old one I think cuz I’ve heard it in some chinese movies before…so it wasn’t ‘bad chinese’.

  15. Danny Chen says:

    I just watch the movie and it was great! Excellent plot and pacing, good character development, stupendous fight scenes… yeah its a little gory but its campy gory… reminds me of a lot of old samurai movies where blood shoots out of everyone! :) After all, people nowadays are fed on a diet of Saw and Hostel…

    I must agree that the mandarin spoken was quite accurate actually… just right for each character… actual chinese spoke fluent mandarin while the foreigners spoke accented mandarin.

    Moreover, its hard to find anime that has no fantasy/sci-fi/horror/psycho/environmental themes in it… well there was the elixir of life thing but even that was handled in a down-to-earth manner.

    Oh yeah, one more thing… do you think the movie ends with possibilities of a sequel or series in it.

  16. Gabe from Indiana says:

    What interested me was that it was an anime where hair color and eye color other than the ethnic norm for Japanese was treated as a scary and freakish thing. The percentage of anime with all Japanese charachteristics is less than one percent acording to a study conducted last year by TV Asahi.

    Also interesting was the play on cultures and cultural barriers such as language. The Ming considered the inhabitants of Akiake to be brutal warriors and are horrified by the execution of the lord they kidnapped

    The Japanese feel the Ming are the brutes and that thier culture is the violent one and secrecy and feelings of supperiority to boot. But the Japanese utelize betrayal and torture and show no fielty to thier own lord where the Ming show undying allegience to the Emperor.

    The two westerners are each tied to one of these cultures. One with the Ming simply fights for the sport. The other was made to kill because he was ordered and takes no joy in it and wants to never kill again.

    It was very interesting to see the two cultures at odds and to see that in the end they were equaly brutal and equally matched.

  17. headachebaby says:

    Just watched this yesterday and it’s a good anime movie. I say it deserves more than 80/100 rating. Of course the subject of 2 super fighters has been done numerous times, but the animation, soundtrack, the culture differences, and the relationship between the hero and boy were good.

    I’m glad that they had the Ming speak chinese. Even if others consider the chinese dialogs as doggy, hey, it was good that it was used. In other animes, the creators introduce other ethnic groups but never attempt to introduce the language. It’s odd…like all the other ethnic groups speak and understand Japanese.

    I definitely like the soundtrack and it made the movie epic-like. I’ll definitely buy this movie on DVD. My rating 90/100 ^_^

  18. Patrick says:

    I’m with headachebaby. Long time I didn’t see such awesome fight scenes. And the soundtrack did a wonderful job in enhancing the epic moments.
    Really great movie.

  19. cpt says:

    This movie is completely UNRATED, this is one of the best anime movies I have ever seen. The story was great, the action was incredible, and the music even better. If you cant stand violence and gore, don’t watch a samurai movie. I expected to see this movie pop onto, “best anime movie of all time” lists all over the place, but people are just to scared to not pick already exisiting fan favourites. This movie is AMAZING.

  20. cpt says:

    This movie is completely UNDER RATED, this is one of the best anime movies I have ever seen. The story was great, the action was incredible, and the music even better. If you cant stand violence and gore, don’t watch a samurai movie. I expected to see this movie pop onto, “best anime movie of all time” lists all over the place, but people are just to scared to not pick already exisiting fan favourites. This movie is AMAZING.

  21. LovedThisMovie says:

    People often ask what was so special about the kid’s blood…
    Probably nothing! The whole mission is based and superstition and wishful thinking, not something uncommon in the past or even today. The Chinese Emperor believes the blood of a child drawn at a certain time can grant immortality and has the power to send his minions to go and try to fulfill this crazy mission… so he does!
    I read reviews of people picking this movie apart – the plot, the story etc. but… it’s damn good and I even felt like it gave the characters depth using very little screen time. I can understand their motivations, whether it’s seeking eternal life, power, excitement or redemption (the nameless hero DID NOT do the right thing in his own past, slaughtered children and seeks redemption)..

    Perhaps it has flaws but this movie got to me..

  22. Soaringhawk says:

    @aya, I never realized the similarities with Serei no Moribito before (except for the well animated fight scenes), but I agree with you. It reminds me of how Balsa and Chagum are forced together, and then they each learn something new. Sword of the Stranger’s charm lays not in the action scenes (although they are some of the best that I’ve seen) but in the realtionship between Nanshi and Kotarou. Individually, the parts of Sword of the Stranger may be weak (here I mean story, characters, music, ect…) but combined together, they are greater than the sum. This is an amazing film, and I was sort of disappointed that psgels gave it an 80/100. Even though I know that 80 is actually a really good score.

  23. CharanJ says:

    Not much to add other than I always get a nice little tingle of joy when I read a review of ‘Sword of the Stranger’ that matches how I felt…but I do want to clarify that anyone who has seen the TV series ‘X’ (CLAMP/Kawajiri) would certainly not be surprised by the music Sato Naoki put in here — it has an equally incredible soundtrack. Check it out if you dug the tunes of Stranger.

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • wicked
    (Wednesday, Feb 10. 2016 08:55 AM)
    it’d actually be a shame for them to make it into I Wanna Be the Strongest in the World, or worst
  • wicked
    (Wednesday, Feb 10. 2016 08:54 AM)
    @Aidan, Yeah that guy tries really hard to make it more than just fanservice though. I have a weird respect for people that can play ridiculous concepts straight.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, Feb 9. 2016 08:31 PM)
    Alright, if I can just catch up with Gundam orphans then I can finally post this summery.
    Also RWBY has gotten quite good lately.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, Feb 9. 2016 01:34 PM)
    @wicked, that’s the surprising thing. I still think the reason its getting a anime adaption is simply because of the premise and I bet the anime is going to play up the fanservice. It is pretty standard sports manga despite how utterly ridiculous the sport is.I mean that exam which featured girls swinging their asses in figure 8s…and not one person pointed out how strange it was.
  • wicked
    (Tuesday, Feb 9. 2016 06:31 AM)
    @Aidan Gotta hand it to Keijo though, it takes that fighting with tits and ass thing crazy serious.
    It’s straight up a friendship, effort, victory shounen fighting manga otherwise
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Feb 8. 2016 01:45 PM)
    Keijo is getting an anime adaption huh…well its a manga about girls pushing each other off floating platforms using just their ass and boobs. Of course it’s getting an anime adaption.
  • AidanAK47
    (Monday, Feb 8. 2016 01:41 PM)
    @CloudedAnime, Normally I am not too keen on others using this Shoutbox to push their blogs but I will allow it this time. (Pretty certain that compliment was insincere and being pasted everywhere else you are pushing that blog. The joys of self promotion…)
    Just ease off on the exclamation marks there and keep at it.
  • CloudedAnime
    (Sunday, Feb 7. 2016 06:54 AM)
    Love this place! Come check out my blog too at Clouded Anime! Follow me on Twitter too for updates! https://cloudedanime.wordpress.com/
  • wicked
    (Sunday, Feb 7. 2016 05:49 AM)
    @kaiser though those were published in japanese magazine, they were full on mangas
  • AidanAK47
    (Sunday, Feb 7. 2016 05:33 AM)
    @Prince, I Responded.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 05

When it rains it pours and Boku dake isn’t pulling any punches. Hinazuki is gone and the only hint of her we see is what looks to be her dead body in front of her parents, one of whom is panicking. With this we have two possibilities. Either they happened upon Hinazuka’s dead body or […]

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 04

Well it seems like I have to eat my words as Yakumo is quite the ladies man. Which is odd when he clearly doesn’t have any interest in interacting with women. Yakumo has a fruitful love life despite his apathy towards love in general. Yakumo and Sukeroku’s relationship has certainly gotten more easygoing as the […]

Schwarzesmarken – 04

This episode starts with a groan as we meet a new member of the cast, that being Theodor’s sister who on first sight hugs with with the ever so traditional “Onii-chan!” The sister does bring some good developments to the table, namely the machination the Stasi has in store for her, but I really wish […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 04

There certainly is a layer of dread from this episodes beginning as we see happy events unfold. Things are looking up, history is changing, Kayo is finally getting out of an abusive relationship with her mother and finding happiness. But much like Satou is feeling, there is a unease at these developments. Things are going […]

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 03

From the looks of things this series will be focusing primarily on the past of Yakumo as the stylish opening seems to place emphasis on the characters of the flashback. Rakugo is surprisingly abset this week as World War II causes Yakumo to be left behind as his Teacher and Sukeroku go out to entertain […]

Schwarzesmarken – 03

Schwarzesmarken remains a strange specimen of an anime, while still not excelling it is clear it has the potential to. So why is it not a great anime? Well it’s beating the same point as my last post but I do think characterisation is key here. In this episode we had two characters introduced whose […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 03

When it comes to matters of time travel, it’s always a wonder to consider just what rules it follows. Time travel, much like alternate realities is one of the biggest can of worms to open when writing a story. Mainly because it demands the viewer keeps in mind a series of characters,settings and event which […]

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 02

So we enter a flashback on how the master became the man he is as well as how he met Hatsuda. It’s interesting to see the man who always seemed to be in control be a person of much more vulnerable status. As a child we see the aspects that he will ebody in the […]

Schwarzesmarken – 02

Two episodes in and I certainly can feel that Schwarzesmarken is missing something to truly make it work. The setting has no problems and what’s presented is interesting but for some reason this isn’t as engaging as it should be. One could blame the art which had some spotty parts during this episode or the […]

Latest Reviews

Gangsta. – 58/100

Gangsta is an anime with a lot of things going for it. A mature cast, gritty themes, a interesting setting and a trio of main characters who can carry the show. However due to a number of factors it never quite reached its potential. The main trio of characters are unconventional and quite interesting with […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 80/100

Gakkou is one with a good facade as promotional material would have you believe it was some dime a dozen moe slice of life. I was one who wasn’t fooled by the cute cuddly exterior but I was truly surprised with just how good this anime ended up being. Gakkou is one of those rare […]

Little Witch Academia The Enchanted Parade – 81/100

I wonder when it was that a film being childish became a flaw. As a medium grows it takes steps to aim to mature itself and seek a more intellectual level of presenting entertainment. Animation did it as Anime aimed to explore terrontry that cartoons refuse to explore and video games only recently broke away […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks Review – 85/100

For a long time now this adaption has been the dreams of many a Fate fan with many believing it would never come to pass, but now that it is here is it everything that we dreamed? Short answer to this is no, long answer is nearly. I feel this show will have many divided […]

Shirobako Review – 80/100

When you see a harem anime and sigh as the breasts of the female lead jiggle with every step and wind that can flip a skirt it’s easy to forget that somewhere in Japan a group of people worked hard to get that jiggle right and draw each frame of animation. The hardships of the […]

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]

Clipboard01

Kyousogiga Review – 90/100

Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a wonderful thing because that allows us to have so many different forms of media that all aim toward their own niche. My blog is obviously written from the perspective of my own taste, and even when a show doesn’t cater to it (which is nearly always), I love […]

Clipboard04

Ore no Nounai Sentakushi ga, Gakuen Lovecome o Zenryoku de Jama Shiteiru Review – 80/100

Noucome! You do not want to know how long I have been waiting for a series like this. More than half a decade, at the very least. Finally a series comes along and puts the incredibly overused harem genre in its place. And it actually does it well. Thank you! So to elaborate: the harem […]