Anime Review: Sword of the Stranger

By Drew Hurley 30.12.2017 1

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Sword of the Stranger (UK Rating: 15)

Anime Limited has, for some time now, been bringing a diverse range of anime series and films to the UK and in celebration of its tenth anniversary, it is bringing the classic BONES story, Sword of the Stranger. This movie, available now, tells the tale of a nameless Ronin/Yojimbo, protecting his young charge, and fighting against a multitude of foes headed up by a peerless blonde barbarian.

Set during the famous Sengoku era, Sword of the Stranger is primarily the tale of a young boy, named Kotaro. The film opens on Kotaro fleeing a scene of violence; he's on a long journey to safety in a temple across the country, with mysterious Chinese warriors hot on his heels and only his brave companion, Tobimaru, keeping him company. Tobimaru is the finest companion and warrior anyone can hope for - a Shiba Inu; a boy and his dog, fleeing across feudal Japan, while deadly warriors hunt after them - it doesn't seem like he has much of a shot.

Lucky for him, another wanderer decides to take refuge in his makeshift campsite. This wanderer is a nameless man, a scarred, mysterious warrior, with a sealed sword at his side. Events conspire to unite the Ronin with the travelling pair and soon he's hired as something of a bodyguard and servant. Plucking at the heartstrings of the audience, the master and bodyguard duo has to travel fast to save the injured friend before attempting the trek across the country to an apparent sanctuary. Meanwhile, their pursuers' fragile alliance with a feudal lord reaches a boiling point, the feudal lord obsessed with money and the Chinese strangers with an obsession for drugs and immortality.

The story is a familiar one, the archetype of the wandering lone warrior protecting a child or a woman has been done countless times, but Sword of the Stranger takes this age-old story and tells a compelling tale that seems to fly by, despite its two and a half hour running time. The film is also elevated thanks to the quality of its presentation. The soundtrack comes from Naoki Sato and the thumping accompaniments to the action are ideal for setting the mood throughout. Visually, BONES does a stunning job here and the cinematography from Director Masahiro Ando shows his wealth of experience as a veteran of the industry. Sword of the Stranger paints a beautiful backdrop of feudal Japan, delivering some rich environments, filled with silky smooth animation. That animation looks best during the tremendous battle scenes, with the finale being so ridiculously good that even at ten years old, this season's battle anime need to take notes.

This collector's combi pack delivers both DVD and Blu-ray releases, each with dubs in the original Japanese, along with English and French. The Blu-ray disc comes with a whole host of extra features. There are a bunch of trailers, a small animatics compilation showing some of the key scenes development, a nine-minute featurette looking at the voice actors, including some stage recordings from Japan during the film's launch, and interviews with the actors in present day. There's also a very brief four-minute pilot that looks at the hero's past and a one-hour "making of" that is particularly enjoyable.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
While there are plenty of classic anime movies that are well-known and well-loved here in the West, strangely, Sword of the Stranger is often - criminally - overlooked. An absolutely superb film that every anime fan needs to see and, thanks to Anime Limited UK, fans now get another chance.

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Yeah one of my fav anime movies, I use this as a gateway for getting people into anime.

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