I was lucky enough as a U.S. moviegoer to catch this anime in theaters for a one day Fathom Event in early February. To the best recollection of my memory, it is the first anime I have ever seen on the big screen. Sword of the Stranger is Bones’ first attempt at an original movie. Masahiro Ando, who had no prior experience with directing an entire anime, was given the director’s chair. On paper this all sounds like an experimental project resulting in a let-down. Even though you shouldn’t expect too much from the story, it unfolds beautiful with plenty of engrossing characters and action elements to keep you entertained.
Story is fairly simple stuff. Kid has a bounty on head for reasons revealed later, he meets amnesiac samurai whom he manages to convince to look after him. Most of the time in this movie is not actually spent on the fights, but on showing how these two, with totally different personalities come to understand each other amidst their arguing.
Even though the film falls prey to a number of action film clichés, and at times feels like a rehash of bits of the samurai film genre, and even though its plot is undemanding and almost silly, it is irresistibly engaging. With the accompanying music score being of the classical Japanese drums and strings, it all adds up to something special.
Yes, there is copious amount of blood and gore, and for this reason alone I can’t recommend it to kids. Which is a shame really because this is a story that would make a great family film ala Miziyaki films. They went the Manga route and you could tell they borrowed heavily from Ninja Scroll in some aspects. If this movie came out, say, 10 years ago, it would be at legendary classic status among anime flicks. Being released in this generation muddles it down to just another above average anime. Buy this movie for the sleek visuals and gorgeous music but check your brain at the door. Recommended.