Anime Review: Sword of the Stranger

Monk talks to Kotaro

I hope that everyone is have a good week, and not letting the monotony get you guys.

Things have been going well, though I have been busy doing some maintenance behind the scenes, and I can still do something that I can enjoy.

Earlier in the month, I decided to transition more towards anime, even though I am expecting a book to arrive soon, and I finally got around to where I can start looking at the services I am subscribed to and found something that might be interesting.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called Sword of the Stranger.

Kotaro's group traveling

Things not that peaceful for in Japan, as people are searching for a boy, Kotaro, traveling with a dog, and the boy is only trying to stay alive another day.

However, one day, when they return to their hideout, they encounter a nameless wanderer who gets tangled up in their mess and hires him to take them to stay of a certain temple before their pursuers catch them.

Kotaro smiling at Tobimaru

I kind of liked this movie.

From the moment that I started watching the first few minutes, I did not want to stop watching for any reason, though I do have to satisfy the same needs as everyone else and my Internet connection has been quite bothersome recently.

While there was not necessarily the somewhat slow start that I kind of prefer to see, and was there for a bit in Wolf's Rain, it would become kind of boring if things started off like that all the time, especially because it does not particularly work for every kind of fiction.

In fact, a slow start works best for series like Spice & Wolf, where the journey itself is the main focus of the story, because we need to get to know the characters right from the beginning so that there is a reason to keep on following them.

What made this so engrossing within the first few minutes was how something seemed to be happening right from the get go by showing a building on fire and Kotaro and his dog fleeing.

Like Pandora Hearts, the fact that it started off in a way that something was going on made me wonder what was going on and how things ended up like this.

The most important thing for any work of fiction is that the audience is made to ask question, whether they are basic ones, which some people, such as the fans of Attack on Titan, think are deep, philosophical questions, or something that can be pretty deep, and the way that this movie started off is the quickest way to generate those kinds of questions in the audience.

If things had not started out that way, I do not think that I would have found myself as engaged with the work, because things would not have made too much sense, such as why Kotaro was actually on the run and why he would be so suspicious of people, not to mention that it would have ruined Bones' reputation that earn through titles like FMA.

Fortunately, that did not occur, and things were easy to get right into because of that, which makes me want to give Bones Studio a good round of applause.

I also liked how there was quite a bit of action to be seen.

Back when I got into anime, many of the titles were mostly the kind of action flicks that you would find in Hollywood, though there were some that did have a story line or some character development, such as Yu Yu Hakusho and Rurouni Kenshin, and action series are still some of my favorite kinds of series, seeing as I do enjoy A Certain Scientific Railgun because the fights are interesting to watch, so I can kind of see what a fan of action series are like.

Fans of action not only want to see a lot of action in their entertainment, but they do not want something that is just too boring to watch, such as was the case with why the second volume of A Certain Magical Index.

Yes, this movie is not exactly like Magical Index are not exactly the same kind of series, as this does not really have any of advanced science and takes place in Japan's past, but the big difference here between the second volume of the Magical Index series and this is that the staff at Bones actually made the fighting and chasing quite interesting, whereas the action parts of the aforementioned installment of A Certain Magical Index.

If the staff at Bones failed to deliver in this area, I would have been really disappointed in them because this kind of series is their specially, and they should know that great fights is one of the hallmarks of a good story, when there is not some underlying story or the series or movie takes place during a time that would be rather violent.

Thankfully, they did not do anything that horrible, and I can give them another good round of applause.

This is how an action flick should be delivered, and the staff at Bones succeeded.

Another nice thing about this movie is how I could get in a few chuckles.

While many anime and manga tend to have a lot of common elements, from things like fan service or things bordering on the side of what people he would call slapstick, there was not too much of that to be found here and it ended up being rather enjoyable.

Yes, the mundane comedic moments can be funny if executed properly, but that does not change the fact that those humorous moments can still grow stale, as was the case with what happened with Detective Conan, one of the few series these days that does not have a huge amount of fan service.

Here, the humor came about because of the interactions between Kotaro and the nameless wanderer and how the two bonded during their travels to the temple where Kotaro needs to go.

Without the small moments of humor, such as when Kotaro first started learning how to ride a horse, I do not think that the characters would have been able to be fleshed out, and the audience would not have been able to see how the two characters bond with each other, not to mention that it would not feel too believable.

After all, I do not think that a child would let remain serious for too long, since they do not understand how the world works to much, and it is for this reason that I actually feel like giving the staff at Bones a good round of applause.

Hopefully, Bones will be able to churn out more stuff like this, as they have already done quite a bit to impress me.

Then again, Bones Studio could find themselves in a downward spiral someday, much like how Agatha Christie was not always able to write great books while she alive, so I will just have to see where things go from here.

Still, it is nice to see that their original content is quite good, so they do not deserve to have their headquarters burned down any time soon.

The thing that I liked the most though is how the company that did this dub handled things.

Even though the dub sounds just as good as many of Bandai's other title, I liked how things were handled here by providing English subtitles.

Now, some of you guys might be groaning and saying that of course there are subs present, since this is an official release, but I am not praising it for the fact that it is subbed, especially since I am not always in a good enough condition to watch anime subbed.

Over the course of my time with anime, I have seen numerous titles dubbed and how each company has been handling them by releasing the title where I live, and some of those companies delivered some poor products in some form or another.

For example, when Aniplex of America released Durarara!!, their dub was mostly good and was able to show that Ikebukuro was a somewhat of a melting pot, but when there were people speaking a different language, Aniplex failed to provide the proper subtitles, instead putting up Japanese subtitles, which hardly any average person in North America can read, and it was quite irritating.

When something is dubbed, the company responsible for the dub has to take into account who will be watching this stuff and by not providing the right subtitles at the right moment, it would make the whole thing look worse that it might have if things had been done properly.

Fortunately, Bandai did not make this mistake and English subtitles were provided when characters from the different nations encounter each other, which makes me want to give them a good round of applause.

If Bandai had done what Aniplex did, I would have been disappointed enough to say that I am glad that they are no longer distributing titles where I live directly any more, since the people over at Bandai would have seemed to be as competent as they appeared to be before they closed shop in my area.

However, because they did not do that, they were at least able to leave things off on a high note, though this plus side to the movie might be because of FUNimation, since they rescued a few titles from Bandai, even if they do not bother redubbing any of the title Bandai held.

Hopefully, people can look at the dub presented here and see how things should be done when localizing content and it is decided to have characters from different country, as that is the only way that a dub can be any good.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out as much as what already has.

Because the movie was able to grab my attention relatively quickly and hold it for the entire duration, as it started off properly, had some decent action sequences, and gave me a few laughs, this movie was relatively decent.

Nanashi irritated

Although I did like the movie, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, one thing bothered me.

I did really seem to understand what the nameless wanderer was going through.

Yes, there are some sign that it might be something similar to PTSD, though I cannot really confirm that, and he has sworn to not draw his sword again, just like Kenshin Himura, but the only hints at what is troubling him is the nightmares that he experiences from time to time.

This movie is supposed to have some focus on the bond between Kotaro and this nameless wanderer and that means that the audience needs to see how he overcomes his obstacle, yet he seems to get over things without any troubles, so that he can save Kotaro.

Really, Bones Studio, is this anyway to handle a movie where I am shown the wanderer's nightmares multiple times?

If this is indeed what you think, you should be ashamed, because the wanderer and his concerns over Kotaro do not make too much sense when he is not fully fleshed out.

Nobuhiro Watsuki dealt with this problem way better during the manga exclusive Jinchu arc of Rurouni Kenshin by showing Kenshin suffering and what brought him to his feet, but the only thing seen here is at least one more occurrence of the wanderer's nightmare.

Now, I know that there are limits to what can be covered in a two-hour movie, but the fact that things like this needed to be covered but were not makes me think that the staff at Bones should have produced this as a series instead of a movie, as that is the only way that this issue could have been resolved.

However, because the Bones delivered this as a movie, I am truly disappointed in them, seeing as their last original work was actually quite decent, and this just let me down.

Hopefully, this same problem does not rear its ugly in future works from the series, as I do not want to see Bones studio going downhill already, but, as they are only human, I cannot expect them to continually produce gold time and again.

Thankfully, that was the only big problem with this work, so I do not need to tear further into things than necessary.

While there was only one noticeable problem with this work, it did enough damage to take this movie from being great to just okay.

Despite the fact that there were a few things to like, the only negative present was bad enough that it only made this movie good enough to kill time.

I recommend this to fans of action, as they will like this the most.

As for everyone else, it might be worth giving a try, but do not expect anything outstanding enough to satisfy the desire of a good movie.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or buy the reviewed title from Amazon, so that I can continue finding more worthwhile anime for you guys to watch, and do whatever you do when you find something that impresses you.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.