The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Sword of the Stranger

Title: Sword of the Stranger aka Mukoh Hadan
Genre: Action
Company: BONES
Format: Movie, 102 minutes.
Dates: 19 Sep 2007

Synopsis: Set in the Sengoku era, a young boy named Kotaro is being pursued by the Mings, a secretive militia organization from China. Kotaro stumbles upon a vagrant samurai with no name, hence called ‘Nanashi’, and hires him as his bodyguard. Among the Mings is a Western warrior named Rarou who only seeks to find a worthy opponent, a desire that has gone unfulfilled ever since stepping foot onto the country. His fated meeting with Nanashi becomes an epic encounter amidst a tumultuous time due to the possible existence of an elixir for immortality.

The Highlights
Music score: Grand, mesmerizing and unforgettable.
Action: Exhilarating; never slows down once it starts rolling.
Characters: Give a sense of déjà vu, yet original in their own way.
Gore: Just marvelously plentiful for everyone.

The year 2007 is said to be one of the best that anime has to offer. Anime like Mononoke, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann and Denno Coil are just the tip of the iceberg of what anime fans were blessed with for the year. However for anime movies, the only recent one that had an emotional connection to me is Tokikake back in 2006. Since then, I have been craving for that special movie to raise the bar for quality anime. Then comes Sword of the Stranger, a highly-anticipated movie by BONES. Yes, it is produced by the same animation studio as Fullmetal Alchemist and RahXephon. Naturally, it became a highly anticipated movie for me as well, and my long wait for its arrival was rewarded in such grand fashion.

Sincerely speaking, the movie didn’t catch my attention for the first few minutes. This is until the first man begins to draw out his sword and all hell breaks loose. The bloodshed in SotS becomes a winning factor that, rather than just for gratifying reasons, helps to drive up the adrenalin-packed action which never slows down throughout the movie. Furthermore, fluid animation and superb choreography nails the movie as one of the best anime films of recent times. In fact, the gore is reminiscent of Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen(1,2), where the violence serves as a catalyst for the story development.

The cast is a debatable issue, particularly for those who feel have seen similar characters in other anime series. For those who have seen Seirei no Moribito and Rurouni Kenshin, the cast may have this aura of déjà vu surrounding them. A warrior has a dreadful past he wishes to forget. He thus refuses to draw his sword to prevent his past from happening again. A situation arises where he will redeem himself. It should sound very familiar to some fans but at least the characters are able to stand on their own two feet in terms of their personality and motives.

The overall plot is also another bane to SotS. The story revolves around a supernatural notion of the existence of an elixir that can make one immortal, but it’s marred by plot holes and unexplained storylines. The plot holes only makes things appear as if the supernatural notion is merely there as a plot device. Even with some loose nails within its structure, the music is another factor why SotS is a gem of the year 2007. “Epic” and “majestic” are two words apt enough to describe the score and the track during the final showdown is one grand enough to be put on par against some of the best you will ever listen to.

My love with anime is hampered with my constant yearning for that one special movie of the year. Tokikake is the undisputed movie for year 2006 but I feared that the 2007 may be a year without a quality movie despite an abundance of great anime TV series. The arrival of SotS then seals the year as one of the best in the anime world. Despite some flaws, SotS deserves to have a grand stand as perhaps the best movie of 2007. It is that good; you have my word on it.

The Rating: 8
8/10

Reviewed by: AC

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