Sword of the Stranger
Movie 102 minutes
D: Masahiro Ando
W: Fumihiko Takayama from story by Bones
Released September 29, 2007
and Everyone else
If you are an action type who likes Samurai slice and dice movies, than this anime is made for you. One of the very best anime movies of this kind ever to have been made.
Constructed from the simplest of plots which you have seen many times before, yet constructed here in a rather beautiful, and horrific series of scenes. You should be forewarned that this is a very bloody movie with no romance of any kind, and rather little humor which hardly ever slows down to ruminate about issues of right and wrong, life and death, meaning and purpose.
The plot moves at light speed faster than you can assimilate any of the material, and there is nothing complicated about it.
Just about everyone in this movie is utterly corrupt and evil and without any redeeming factors in their favor.
The evil Ming emperor wants nothing but immortality, and his eunuchs tell him that a certain prophesied boy, Kotaro, has the special blood that can be made into an elixir of immortaily called Xian Medicine if it is drained at the exact time by a special sacrificial ritual.
As in “Full Metal Alchemist:Brotherhood”, the Chinese emperor thinks only of becoming immortal so he dispatches a highly trained group of Ming warriors to Japan to capture the boy for the necessary sacrifice. The leading swordsman of this group is Luo-Lang, a blond haired, blue eyed master swordsman whose only goal is to defeat the greatest warriors that he can find. He has no real desire to kill Kataro and to perform this ritual, but hey, its a job.
The Ming group from Japan is supported by corrupt Samurai clans because the Ming have a lot of gold, and by Buddhist priests who fear for their lives. Everybody is ready and willing to sell out his best friends and clan if that would lead to greater power and riches.
Just about everyone here is corrupt to some degree.
Into this mix we throw our three protagonists, Kataro who is the sacrifice, Tobinmaru his dog who is a leading character in this story, and Nanashi, a mysterious man who carries a sword which is tied to its scabbard and whose name means nameless or no name.
Nanashi is a foreigner with bright red hair like Chise Hatori in “The Ancient Magus’ Bride”. His minimal backstory is that he is the only survivor of a shipwreak when he was very young, and he was taken in by a Japanese family, and raised as Japanese. He dies his hair black to conceal his origins.
He was a swordsman for a clan in his youth, but some horrific evil actions on his part, have caused him great remorse and he now travels alone as a Ronin.
Kataro proposes that he hire Nanashi as his bodyguard which Nanashi reluctantly accepts. But his sense of duty binds him to Kataro, and he will not betray his obligations ever. He is loyal to a fault which is his greatest weakness, and leads him in the past to obey very evil commands.
Central to the story is what do you do when your duty requires you to commit evil. Do you follow blindly the commands of your master, or do you follow the commands of abstract principle?
Nanashi as all people never firmly comes to a conclusion on this issue because in binding himself to Kataro, he prepares to sacrifice his life for that obligation as he has done in the past.
Nanashi is everyman who must come to grips with his purpose in life and what beliefs do you follow in guiding that purpose.
On the other hand, Nanashi is contrasted with Luo-Lang who does not have a particular blood lust, but wishes to fight and kill the very best swordsman. Other than being a job for pay, he has no sympathy for the Ming, and even fights against them, but will kill anyone without remorse. He has no interest in killing Kataro, but he recognizes that Nanashi is a quality swordsman, and he does want to fight and kill Nanashi.
It is not clear what the title refers to. Is it the sword of Nanashi who defends Kataro, or the sword of Luo-Lang in the final fight scene. Also not clear is why in a Japanese Samurai work, the two greatest swordsmen are both foreigners, one blond and one red head!
As you might expect, the final fight scene between Nanashi and Luo-Lang has been expected from the very beginning, but one is not prepared for the greatness of the struggle, and the beauty of the choreography in the sword fight. We would challenge anyone to find a better combat. Even in Brotherhood, the final fight between Scar and Wrath, as fantastic as it is, does not compare to the final fight in The Sword of the Stranger. You have to see this as it plays to believe in what you are seeing.
Any description cannot do it justice!
The Sword of the Stranger is one of the very best Samurai type action movies ever made, and if you are a fan, you cannot miss this one.
Hang on because Sword of the Stranger grabs hold
of your throat and will not let go until it is
The pace is constant, and actually increases
as it approaches its denouement!
Sword will be over before you even realize what hit you.
One of the best action movies of all time
but be prepared for bloody sword fights
Folcwine P. Pywackett