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  

Sirius the Jaeger (Shiriusu Shiriusu za Yēgā)

Sirius the Jaeger (Shiriusu Shiriusu za Yēgā) 2018

I can’t claim to be well-versed in the vampire sub-genre of anime, though I’ve seen a few of them over the years and the ‘exterminate all vampires’ theme is a pretty classic one – though it’s played out by our main character Yuliy in an almost dispassionate way during Sirius the Jaeger.

There’s a chance that if this series didn’t have such a great 1930s aesthetic I might not have been hooked at first, though the eventual main conflict between our MC and his brother kept me going once it developed.

That aspect of the storyline was great, though in thirteen episodes the two might not have had enough screen time together. In fact, that’s something that I also wish that the rest of Yuliy’s team had been afforded because in a way, the show seems to promise an ensemble cast but doesn’t quite go that way.

Despite those and a few other shortcomings, I still finished and enjoyed the show and really enjoyed a lot of the character designs too, especially the Professor and Mikhail,

Most of action sequences were pretty ace too – it was especially interesting to me that we see a three-section staff as a weapon, a nice change from the usual sword/gun approach.

3 Stars

Meet the main villain – and slight homage to ‘Hellsing’?