This month I have had my share of good, funny, lovable, and memorable movies. I have watched a handful of love comedies (I will only mention the ones I liked) which is my favorite genre in movies – at least that’s what I think since it seems I’m always more willing to watch those than any other. There was I Hate Valentines (it was cute, but pretty ordinary) Valentine’s Day (I dislike Julia Roberts, but the movie was okay) Ramen Girl, and Love and Other Disasters –which I loved, loved, loved. I always liked Brittany Murphy, I think her acting – in comedies- was always very refreshing and natural. There was also the action movies, the drama, war movies –yes, there is always some of those; Black hawk Down, According to Greta, Blood The Last Vampire (the motion picture). But none of these movies have that peculiar feel of familiarity I look for in a movie to post under my “Films” category. With all the good films I have seen, there is only the one film that caught my heart this month. Maybe because I have watched it many times before, and thus the familiarity.
On another note; what a coincidence this film falls under two other categories; Anime, and Rurouni Kenshin… (sigh) I truly am lazy. Before I get into anything, this is not a proper review of the movie, in case you are looking for a discussion on character insights and plot development. Just my take on it, and its similarities to some manga, which has been my obsession recently.
Sword of the Stranger has been a favorite at home for a long time now. My boyfriend cannot get enough of it. He has seen the film at least a dozen times, and I’m not exaggerating. Is that, Sword of the Stranger is one of the few decent anime films about samurai. And of course, we love samurai stories.
The film begins when soldiers of the Ming Dynasty are chasing a boy name Kotaro, and his dog Tobimaru. Kotaro is running from his persecutors and trying to get to the main temple where he will be safe, since the monk who was caring for him died protecting him from the Ming. While hiding in a deserted shrine, he meets Nanashi (nameless) and hires him as his bodyguard after Nanashi saves him from the soldiers of Akaike, a daymio working together with the Ming.
Nanashi is a samurai with a heavy past. Because of it –and I suppose as a form of atonement- he has sworn to never use his sword again. However, he fights and defends the boy from the soldiers, and he doesn’t hold back. Kotaro tells the stranger he has no idea why the Ming wants to kidnap him. This makes Nanashi suspicious and he starts taking his job more seriously. Although at first it was what kept him close to the boy, after days of traveling together –and after many quarrels- they form a bond and Nanashi takes a liking to Kotaro and his dog. The samurai does not offer much detail about his life since he cannot remember where he comes from, but the boy is surprised to see Nanashi’s real hair color is red (a secrete he keeps by dying it black) and that he has no more desire to serve under a lord. (Am I speaking of Kenshin? No. Weird. Yep).
On the dark-side there is Rarou, second in command of the Ming Dynasty soldiers. He is a foreigner who joined the Chinese in search of a good fight. In his hunt for Kotaro, he meets with our mysterious ronin and sees his dreams come true.
The plot moves with good pace towards the climax, in which both sides are confronted in a battle that unravels the mystery surrounding Kotaro’s existence.
Sword Of The Stranger was directed by Masahiro Ando –a new liked director on my list- and produced by Bones (Wolf’s Rain=extraordinary.)
I have seen more than a handful of animated films throughout my life, and this one is really a great movie in general terms. I’ts got a good storyline –yes, it’s true, nothing new, we have seen this plot before, but it’s well told- stunning visuals, well-drawn animation, and the fight scenes are mind blowing.
I cannot praise it enough. The only thing that really questioned my faith in it -although I got over it- was the obvious relation it has to Ruroni Kenshin, and how it is not really essential to the plot.
There is no information on this movie that pertains to the anime Kenshin, but the fact that the main character’s hair is red; no cross-shape scar, but a scar on the face nonetheless, and he is a ronin who’s past has led him to lead a quite and peaceful life in a sort of redemption quest. It all screams KENSHIN to me. Couldn’t the director (with all respect) think of something else? Or is this really, another representation of the character Himura Kenshin? Moreover, it is true that Kenshin was based on a real hitokiri, Kawakami Gensai. So, let’s just assume for a minute that Nanashi is based on the real hitokiri therefore having some similarities to Kenshin. However, I’m pretty sure the real hitokiri didn’t have red hair being that he was Japanese, so, I don’t see why Nanashi has to have red hair too if this is another representation of Kawakami.
This, my friends, is the only part of the movie, which does not make a lot of sense to me. But at the same time gives me warm feelings every time I watch it, since I forgive the nonsensical part of it, and rejoice in the idea that it is my dear Kenshin; that he never dies like the OVA series shows; that he keeps forever wandering, like the true wave man he is.
Now, leaving all that Kenshin talk and going back to the movie, I will say once more that this film is great despite that little tiny bit of detail. If you are looking for a samurai story with good fighting scenes, this is the one for you.
To read a proper review of the movie with insights on the characters and story, click this link; Sword Of The Stranger, Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?
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