Sword of the Stranger (Sutorenjia Mukōhadan, Stranger Mukōhadan)

Sword of the Stranger (Sutorenjia Mukōhadan, Stranger Mukōhadan) 2007

As I’ve probably made clear here on the blog before, I’m most likely going to automatically warm to a series or film if it’s set in a historical period. That does blunt my capacity for critical review of course, but I hope I can still at least outline what I enjoyed about Sword of the Stranger without presuming to claim that it is the best thing ever.

Even though it is quite good 😀

So, Sword of the Stranger has Feudal Japan as its setting and all the fighting and costuming that goes with it, so I was already happy upon learning that for one. It also features a wandering Ronin/quiet hero protecting others, beautiful scenery and a little bit of mysticism too AND Unshō Ishizuka in a supporting role, so once again, the film ticks a lot of boxes for me.

There’s a plenty of action in the film but enough in the way of breaks for character introspection or to build up tension and intrigue again, especially in regard to the servants of the Ming Dynasty who find themselves searching Japan for our hero’s charge, the plucky Kotaro.

No-name (the wandering Ronin) has a typically troubled past and the themes around obedience and honour from that past do spill into the main storyline at times, but I didn’t find the film heavy-handed in that respect. To some extent, the fantastic sword fights and action sequences are probably the stars before the storyline itself, though that aspect of the film was by no means deficient.

And while there are only few characters that act with honour in the film, this fact really sells the desperation of the time period, I reckon. Even the large cast of villains are memorable, along with a lot of the scenery and settings that they battle throughout. Despite a really big finish too, I actually found the duel used to introduce No-Name’s skills to be my favourite – hopefully I can find a clip to paste at the bottom of the review.

Part of what I think I enjoyed so much was that here, Bones worked once more on an original story – and by ‘original’ I mean that the story isn’t an adaptation of an existing manga, as opposed to a samurai film that is completely groundbreaking. Now, I know that a studio will want to mitigate risk by going with trusted works, but sometimes I find myself craving more totally new stuff as a viewer.

That’s probably a bit of a side note though, so I’ll instead finish by saying that I really enjoyed Sword of the Stranger and have no hesitation in recommending it to fans of the genre.

4 Stars  

5 thoughts on “Sword of the Stranger (Sutorenjia Mukōhadan, Stranger Mukōhadan)

      • So I decided to watch it tonight, and my initial impression is that it’s good. Technically, this is a great movie. I have no complaints about the animation, or how things are drawn.

        On an character level, I thought No Name and Kotaro were OK, if a bit predictable. I thought the other characters were kind of cookie cutter. No one really stood out in the rest of the cast. That said, I think everyone did what they needed to in service of the plot.

        As far as the plot, again I think it was decent. I think it dragged a bit in the middle, but it turned it up the stakes when it needed to. And that last act was great.

        The fight choreography is where this really shined. Especially that last fight with the blond guy. That section makes the rest of the movie worth it.

        I would say that if you like historical dramas or swordfighting, I think there is enough here. I think if you’re looking for more than that, I’m not sure that it’s here.

        I do want to say that the dub wasn’t that bad. It was pretty serviceable, especially for an Ocean Group dub. So overall, for a general audience, I think it’s a 3 our of 5, but for the audience that it’s intended for, I give it a 4 out of 5.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Awesome, great to read this!

          I know what you mean about the pacing there – I might have trimmed a few scenes that drifted off to focus on the secondary characters maybe and would have been interested in a little more of No-Name’s struggle with drawing his sword, a bit more of that conflict would have been ace.

          And yeah, this is a film I’d recommend for action/sword choreography fans before general fans, definitely.

          Like

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