Thursday, December 2, 2010
A great new anime movie, Sword of the Stranger came as a blessing.
I had noticed that for a while I hadn't seen any anime movies or series. Because they are not as popular or as well represented in the West it comes as a challenge to find those hidden gems that truly do keep coming.
Sword of the Stranger is both really well done in animation, atmosphere, choreographed action and storytelling. The story is subtle in a way as it doesn't wander into fantasy or fantastic dimensions as animation often leads people to (or perhaps they feel with animation there is a need to exploit the possibilities of over-the-top because the medium lets you get away with it more easily).
In ancient Japan we have a little boy being persecuted who meets a traveler. The boy witnesses his fighting skills and hires him to safeguard him and his dog on their journey. They become a cute trio and slowly begin to bond during their travels. On the other hand you have the group hunting the boy - a team of Chinese warriors led by an old monk.
The Chinese team is on a mission for their emperor to build a certain temple in Japan according to an old prophecy. When the time is right, the prophecy says, they must sacrifice a young boy in the built temple and this will give them the essence for eternal life - what the emperor is craving. For some reason this team believes this above-mentioned boy is the one and that they must find and sacrifice him before the time runs out.
Spoiler Alert for the next part -
This warrior team appears supernatural, however we find out that most things about them simply appear to be so from ancient Japan's standpoint - the Chinese for example have gunpowder and what looks like the first type of rifle. They also appear supernatural in their way to withstand pain, but again, we learn they use medicine that eliminates any sensation of pain for a limited time.
For some reason one of them (and this point I find highly...interesting) there is a "blond devil" with them. The most powerful warrior of them all is a European with blond hair and blue eyes, making him stand out from all others. Although in league with the Chinese, he has his own goal, to find a worthwhile foe to battle.
Needless to say, our trio is separated by the foreigners and our traveler must face the "blond devil" to save the boy.
Overall, a solid story utilizing the animation aspect to intensify atmosphere and making the action faster and more brutal then live-action movies can.
Once again Anime teaches us in the West a lesson leaving me humble as always.