If you have ever found yourself looking for hidden gems in anime, chances are you've seen Sword of the Stranger listed there? Perhaps not. This particular anime is about twelve years old now and revisiting it yesterday, I still cannot believe how well this masterpiece has aged. If it has at all.
So, here's the rundown: A swordsman from a strange land is caught in a struggle between morality, righteousness, and devotion as he reluctantly agrees to take a raggedy boy and his dog to a remote, Buddhist temple.
Sword of the Stranger is a 2007 Japanese anime film directed by Masahiro Andō and produced by the animation studio Bones. Screenplay by Fumihiko Takayama, music by Naoki Satō and outstanding cinematography by Yohei Miyahara. The language of this film is Japanese and Mandarin. The English-dub released in 2009. Personally prefer the Japanese/Mandarin dub but you can't go wrong with either.
The first thing I noticed about this anime, was the incredible background art by Atsushi Morikawa (most famously noted for Cowboy Bebop: The Movie). Atsushi Morikawa has an incredible eye for detail but I've always been ecstatic seeing his colors and their contrasts.
"I try to make good use of lines. I render the exterior and a certain amount of the detail with lines, and then color it in. I color these lines differently depending on things like time of day, season, whether it's an indoor or outdoor scene. Whatever's appropriate, and try to make it so that each location has a different feeling. Outdoor scenes in winter might have a lot of dark blues, or I might use brown for an indoor scene." - Atsushi Morikawa
I also appreciate the historical research he does to translate the era/environment he'll be working on. In this case, The Sengoku period.
The anime itself continues to be refreshing in it's fluidity, raw action and complementing musical scores that distinguish from the typical Samurai motif. Perhaps the most interesting and unique undertone of this film surrounds the idea and concept of foreigners; belittled and ostracized for their physical differences. In a land that prides itself on sophistication and civility, both our protagonist and antagonist face a share of discrimination for hailing from other lands. With Luo-Lang from the Western world, often criticized for his blond hair and blue eyes. Nanashi, the Ronin-
Later we discover Nanashi conceals bright red hair and his last memory was of being the only survivor to a sinking ship. Implying that he might actually be from the North, possibly the Celtic nations (that's just my guess though).
The irony is that both Luo-Lang and Nanashi have greater respect and sense of integrity that their surrounding parties/affiliations do not. It was a nice dynamic coming from the outlook of the reputable feudal scenes in anime.
To truly immerse yourself in the phenomenal fight sequences, you simply need to watch the movie. I highly recommend it and hope you like it just as much!
Spoiler warning on the video!! It's the last scene of the movie but arguably the greatest artistically choreographed sword fight of the time. It does reveal the ending entirely, so avoid if you're interested in seeing the movie. If there's anyone out there that's already seen it, I've primarily posted it for you. So we can remember that this movie is about twelve years old now!
Also, not a spoiler; you're free to listen! My favorite track from the ost. Ah, the good memories.
If you ever get around to this movie or have seen it already, what are your thoughts on it?