Today I decided to post about another movie I liked, and for a change it’s not a Miyazaki movie. It’s a movie called Sword of the Stranger, or simply Stranger. This movie doesn’t have any deep truths to teach, except maybe about friendship. It’s just a good, animated, action samurai movie. Which is probably why I like it.
This movie follows a young boy named Kotaro and his dog,
Tobimaru. They meet a wandering ronin calling
himself Nanashi, which means Nameless, referring to soldiers lost in battle. Although Kotaro is suspicious of him at first,
he comes to their aid when they're cornered by two soldiers and an odd Chinese, ninja-type character. Nanashi and Tobimaru together kill these
three but Tobimaru is injured with a poisoned weapon while protecting Nanashi. Kotaro demands that Nanashi heal Tobimaru and
escort them both to a temple where they have friends and will be safe. Nanashi’s not so sure at first, but agrees to
help when Kotaro “hires” him for a costly stone which he’ll get when he finishes
Pursuing Kotaro are a group from the Ming Court in China. They include an old shaman, several
ninja-assassin-type persons and a big, burly, blond European man named Luo Lang whose only
interest is finding someone strong enough to be worth fighting. When the Chinese are betrayed and attacked by
their Japanese hosts, Luo Lang defeats the entire attacking cohort.
Some of Nanashi’s history comes out during the movie in the
form of nightmares that he’s plagued with.
It runs out he has vowed to never draw his sword again, and although he managed
to kill the first Chinese assassin without drawing it, he struggles to meet
that vow, especially when he accidentally runs into Luo Lang. He’s saved from drawing his sword that time
because Luo Lang has places to be.
The basic plot here is that Kotaro was an orphan raised in a
monastery who was to be sold to the Ming Dynasty. It is believed that Kotaro’s blood can be
used to create an immortal elixir to keep the Chinese Emperor alive
forever. A monk helped Kotaro escape to
Japan before being sold. Kotaro is
trying to get back to this friend at a temple, and the Chinese are trying to
recover him in time for the ceremony.
The ceremony must be held at a specific time of the year, at a specific
location and using a large, wooden structure which the Chinese are just finishing
and preparing for the rites.
Nanashi delivers Kotaro and Tobimaru to the temple as agreed,
receives the costly stone which is in fact pretty worthless, and rides
away. Kotaro’s friend then turns him
over to the Chinese in order to save his own life. The
local Japanese Lord Akaike meanwhile attacks in an attempt to take Kotaro away
from the Chinese to hold him for ransom, and is himself captured by the
Chinese. Nanashi returns to the temple
when he sees that a battle is occurring there and discovers that Tobimaru has
been tied up and Kotaro has been given to the Chinese. Akaike’s chief shogun with vassals and
Nanashi with Tobimaru both try to reach the Chinese fortress before the
ceremony, shogun-tachi riding hard and Nanashi-Tobimaru cutting across
The shogun-tachi make it there first and in the ensuing
battle clear out a lot of the Chinese forces.
Nanashi makes it later, but in time.
He breaks his vow, drawing his sword to protect and save Kotaro. He kills the two final Chinese assassins and
then takes on Luo Lang. Nanashi and Luo
Lang battle all across the compound, Luo Lang even killing his own shaman when
he interferes in their battle.
Eventually both men’s swords shatter and they stab each other at the
same time with the remaining shards.
Nanashi is saved by the stone which Kotaro paid him with, so eventually
Nanashi wins, although he takes bad wounds in the process.
In the end, the creators of this movie pretty much let you decide for yourself
whether Nanashi survives. The movie ends with Kotaro riding away,
Nanashi on the horse behind him and Tobimaru following. Nanashi is leaving a pretty major blood
trail, so I suspect he may not survive that wound, however, they don’t end it
with him obviously dying, so I can enjoy my delusion that he lives happily ever
after. So the movie has a good plot line,
great action, decent characters, good music and the good guys live. I highly recommend it.
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