Monday, April 14, 2014

Sword of the Stranger

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 the job. 

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 country.  

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.    

No comments:

Post a Comment