Sword of the Stranger

Alt titles: Blade of the Stranger, Stranger -Mukou Hadan-

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VivisQueen's avatar By VivisQueen on Aug 28, 2008

Story

It's a real shame that Stranger - Mukou Hadan is regularly compared to Seirei no Moribito; it means that, all the while I was watching, I couldn't help noticing how deficient Stranger is in comparison. Although it starts off fairly strong with an action-packed opening sequence and a character dynamic that is full of promise, it fails to keep that level of quality and becomes progressively weaker from about twenty minutes in.

Easily the narrative's biggest failing is the lack of surprises - the story unfolds from start to finish with the ingenuity of a bus timetable. The good news is that there are a handful of fights along the way to alleviate what would otherwise be a below-average movie; the bad news is that, unlike productions such as Ninja Scroll, there aren't nearly enough inventive ones to boost its entertainment value beyond the ‘decent' mark.

Worse still, after events have run steadily in a certain direction, Stranger randomly decides to tack on a military battle; considering this event has no prior build-up at all, it presumably exists just to kill off several minor characters in a series of gory fights. Annoyingly, this contrivance only has the effect of completely overshadowing the already weak character development.


Animation

No matter what its faults, Stranger is undeniably a good-looking movie; it offers well-accomplished backgrounds and several eye-popping action sequences. Unfortunately, I have also seen movies of the same era with stronger atmosphere (Kara no Kyoukai), more enchanting detail (Piano no Mori), and more stylistic flare (Tekkon Kinkreet) than this one. The result is that Stranger still feels like a well-budgeted, straight to DVD movie rather than an all-out splurge of studio money made for the big screen. For example, although the backgrounds are excellent, none of the scenes provide any mind-blowing pans of sprawling countryside to allow the viewer to appreciate this animated lushness; furthermore, Stranger has an uninteresting colour tone, with every scene washed in the same dull blue/grey/brown hue.


Sound

I have no complaints whatsoever regarding the voice acting spoken in Japanese, and am particularly pleased with the vocal performance for Nanashi. However, there are several instances, when the Japanese actors have to speak Chinese, which to my uneducated ear, sounds as awkward and weirdly paced as Engrish. In particular, during a scene when Kotarou and Rarou are having an intense confrontation, the sound of stilted Chinese robs the performances of some emotion.

As for the soundtrack, the use of intense orchestral music works well to enhance the atmosphere, although it is not very memorable and certainly not worth buying (unless you happen to like nondescript orchestral music that sounds like every other Hollywood soundtrack ever composed).


Characters

Nowhere is the difference between Stranger and Seirei no Moribito starker than with the characters; while Stranger promises a similar sort of relationship between its two protagonists as Seirei no Moribito's, it never pays the same attention to character development. Balsa and Chagum are original, multi-faceted, and share an intensely watchable relationship across twenty-six episodes; Nanashi and Kotarou, on the other hand, are mere twists on stereotypes, familiar and yet mildly engaging for their two-hour adventure.

What also doesn't help is that, while the antagonists in Seirei no Moribito are not necessarily evil, in Stranger, the bad guy is nothing but. No convincing explanation is given for Rarou's behaviour - the only clue he provides is that age-old drivel about wanting to fight strong enemies. Needless to say, this makes for a rather predictable and one-dimensional emotional conflict, as pacifist Nanashi pits his skills against war-mongering Rarou.

However, of all the let-downs, the biggest has to be in regards to Nanashi himself: his origins and his former career as a soldier are emphasised as key to his personality, and yet they are left totally unexplored. Considering the mystery of Nanashi is Stranger's main hook, this failure to deliver not only leaves me feeling cheated, but also unsure about what ultimately motivates him to develop from reticent warrior to kick-arse hero.

6.5/10 story
8.5/10 animation
8/10 sound
6/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
MrChearlie's avatar By MrChearlie on Aug 10, 2014

This is one of those, fuck you elaborated mindblowing story, I want to do what I want. So, sure the plot is written with the logic of a kid entering to his teenage years, however it also have the heart of one; You can feel the lighthearted but strong love and passion on this film, It portraits itself for what it is, nothing amazing, just a "typical" Samurai story with cool fights, but it focus heavily just in that, and the results are outstanding, So if you watch this for the action and/or love for samurais, you will be more than satisfied, the animation is quite spectacular, I think that a little bit low-budget compared with other outstanding action animated movies like Cowboy-Bebop the movie, or RedLine, but still above the big mayority, is definitely not cheap, I just don't feel that sumerge in the atmosphere sometimes.

I really have a nice time watching it, those fast movement were clearly a sweet for the eyes, and the pacing was very fluid, however, this is not my cup of coffee since it didn't have much substance, although I was not dissapointed at all, since I liked that they didn't want to develop that much of story of characters, which by the way they were really likeable and had strong prescense despite of the simplicity of their personality, and the setting was quite interesting as well, you really feel the sensation of a real town, however it felt roughly disconnected to the rest of the story. In other words, the story is mediocre as well as for the characters, very straightforward and not much into details, the setting is there but it doesn't have that much of a vital repercussion to the essence of the movie.

So now you know, if you are into Samurai Fights just for the action, this is for you, highly recommended and worth your time, if you want a spectacular master-piece you might find that if you take the blood out of the picture is a perfect legit movie for little kids between 8 - 14, nothing impressive and may be a dissapointment. If you are in the middle of that equation, you might find it very entertaining, but also a bit meh like... well, me.

Never judge a review for its score, I rather have someone bitching about the review than someone complaining of some number

Judging by Taste
Kudos for: Awesome Action! Solid Pacing! Is not pretentious at all! Just the right dosis of Cliche and Corny moments! Rule of Cool well applied! Blood everywhere but no unecessary shock-factor! There is passion and love behind the project!
Half Full/Empty Glass of water for: It is very simple and easy going! Childish spirit!
Boo for: A really sexy and atractive woman... wait.... it is man... fuck you damn traps!  Outside of that, nothing really bother me.

Judging by Quality
Presentation: Great (2)
Themes: Mediocre (1)
Characters: Mediocre (1)
Setting: Mediocre (1)
Overall: 5 (Mediocre)

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
5/10 overall
iymovies's avatar By iymovies on Sep 3, 2010

First, a small rant: I feel sorry for some of the people out there, who can't watch an anime without obsessing over finding every little detail with what could be wrong with the anime. I feel sorry because these people probably only find a minimum amount of things they actually enjoy in life. I'm glad I don't live such a boring and dull life like that.

<center>- Sword of the Stranger Review -

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Story: 8.3/10

The plot to the show is pretty simple. This is one of the main reasons why "critics" are giving it such harsh reviews. It's plain and simple, but it's not bad at all. When you combine the story together with the intense action packed fighting scenes, it definitely helps make up for it.

Animation: 9.8/10

The animation in Sword of a Stranger has to be some of the best I have seen. It was extraordinarily well done in almost all aspects. Very detailed, for me it seems to have somewhat of a "western feeling" to it. I'm not just comparing this to other anime movies either, it's some of the best animation I've seen period. From the generic scenes to the fighting scenes, the attention to detail is amazing.

Sound: 9.1/10

I also must give major props to the voice actors of this movie. Although I wasn't paying to much attention, the timing and everything seemed to be very well in sync. The music was also decent, and pleasant to the ears. Overall another definite plus to the anime.

Characters: 7.3/10

The characters for the most part were very generic. You could consider this another area critics target. There's a samurai who's troubled over his past, along with a mysterious boy who's being chased after some bad people. Then there's the boys dog also. No intense history or anything is really behind any of the characters.

Overall: 9.7/10

Overall, this is probably one of the best anime movies I have seen. While I haven't seen a lot of them, this was probably one of the only ones that I felt myself truly get into. Unlike some of the others were I could get bored pretty easily halfway through, this one seemed to have a good grip on my attention throughout the entire movie. It's a great movie with a basic plot, basic characters, but with very redeeming action packed, intense fighting scenes. Along with the great voice acting, it makes this a truly wonderful film.

8.3/10 story
9.8/10 animation
9.1/10 sound
7.3/10 characters
9.7/10 overall
chaoserver's avatar By chaoserver on Feb 28, 2010

Story:

This movie is one I went into having heard some great comments about it. However, as I usually do with animes I intend to watch, especially movies, I avoided reading any reviews.

On the other end of this movie, I really have to say, I don't know what there really is to rave about. The story begins with an excellent action scene, and continues at a pretty good pace from there on. However, there isn't much story to be had along that decently paced road.

The plot isn't all that well put together(or rather its put together in the most cliche and predictable way possible), in the first scene we know exactly who the main antagonist will be, and as soon as the second of two protagonists is introduced we can already picture just how it will end. Speaking of which, the second of the two protagonists is introduced sloppily, with no real explanation of how he happened across the place he meets our main character, which bothered me quite a bit. From there, the weak multitudes of antagonist's ambitions are revealed, which actually raise more questions, and seeming logical inconsistencies. Why are these extremely skilled fighters serving someone else? Why does the man seeking only a strong opponent even bother being a mercenary? And why does everyone seem to believe in the seemingly implausible goal of the villains? Regardless of the answers one could devise, it is executed in such wholly predictable ways you feel like you've already watched the scenes as they unfold.

Heck, the entire plot seems just uneeded, they might as well have said the main characters had a grudge and just made the final fight scene, which was clearly going to be set into motion from the get go. The ending was so sloppy however, it really brings even the end fights down, much of the bloodshed at the end being wholly uneeded.

Animation:

Really really good. I cannot name off the top of my head better animated fight scenes. The animation is noticeably better at some times, but really, if you watch Sword of the Stranger it will be the reason you see it through to the credits. From fast arse whoopings to full blown sword battles, it is all perfect. The enviornments and every detail even out of combat are expertly detailed as well. This is one of those animes you really wish had the same animation with a better plot. Though, one issue I do have is the anime doesn't really know what it is, it's fairly light and up beat in art and feel, yet has massacres and murders left and right. Though I can't say a darker feel would have worked neccacarily.

Sound:

Actually pretty good. Voice acting is adequate, but above that sound effects in general are very well implemented, and go great alongside the animation. No annoying voices, or generic repeating sword clashes here.

Characters:

Another huge shortcoming of this movie. We have no idea why 'no name' meets our main character. Minimal details on what happened to our main character. Cliche all around: Helpless kid trying to hide from nefarious individuals looking for him. Laid back warrior who is insanely skilled when it comes to fighting. Invincible warrior who is searching for the ultimate opponent. Suspiciously homosexual warrior who looks up to the invincible warrior. Old man seeking immortality. And so many other side characters who are developed poorer than I can even stress. 'No name's ' past is weakly referenced a few times, though really to no end, as it doesn't elicit sympathy or give any real understanding into him. And by the end literally nothing is explained about ANY of the characters, when some enlightenment is the only reason the story gives you to watch on.

Overall:

A movie I really cannot recommend, but also really cannot warn to avoid. It is very cliche in so many elements, and has some astoundingly bad characters, which match it's stale plot, but on the other hand only starts to outstay it's welcome as it winds up, and you begin to realize the culmination will be unsatisfying. If you can watch it for free, in a way that will show off its animation, by all means give strangers a try. 5/10

2/10 story
9/10 animation
8/10 sound
3/10 characters
4/10 overall
RoyalOss's avatar By RoyalOss on Aug 10, 2014

This is the first movie Ive watched which isnt connected to some anime series.
The movies I watched were never as good as the series itself while I didnt even find of the series even top notch. The movies were usually additions to the series or some filler material. So I found this movie really enjoying, it contained a beginning, ending and wasnt just some filler material to make a quick buck.

Story/Characters
Well...''boy in trouble meets strong samurai'' is basicly the story. Its very basic and cliché but sufficient. They could of add another 30 minutes for some more dept but Im not sure if that would of improved the movie and its pacing. So the story is simple but there are tons of blockbusters in the theatres which have even less of a story but are just as entertaining.
The same applies for the characters, Kotarou and Nanashi are cliché and basic but again sufficient. You get just enough information to understand their backgrounds and their problems and during the movie just enough time is taken to see them bond with each other.
The secondary characters get only a minimal (couple of minutes) screentime on their own just to explain their reasoning for their actions. Its just straight to the point ''I want this'' ''I like this'' so they can fit in the story.

Animation/Sound
This couldnt be any better. The animation is top of the shelf even during the action scenes. They are easy to follow and not like some anime movies/series like to do half hidden in some shadowy area or the night time to hide the imperfections. The soundtracks and animation can easily be matched up against some of the big Hollywood studios like Disney/Pixar, altough this movie is for a slightly older audience.

Overall
Even though the story and characters are minimal and cliché this is an higly entertaining movie. Dont think to much and let you be swept away by the movie, the action, the animation, the sounds and the easy to follow plot.
If you like deep stories and plots then this movie might not be something for you but if you want to enjoy a good action movie it would be a shame to skip this movie.

6/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
7.5/10 characters
10/10 overall