In the Sengoku period of Japan, a young orphan named Kotarou and his dog Tobimaru steal from unsuspecting villagers in order to make ends meet. However, Kotarou is forced to remain on the run when he finds himself being hunted down by assassins sent by China's Ming Dynasty for mysterious reasons not involving his petty crimes.
Fortunately, the duo run into Nanashi, a ronin who has taken refuge in a small temple, when Kotarou is attacked and Tobimaru poisoned. Although the samurai saves the helpless pair from their pursuers, he feels that there is no need to help them further; but when offered a gem in exchange for his services as a bodyguard, he reluctantly accepts Kotarou's offer of employment—just until Tobimaru is healed and the two reach their destination. As the three set out on a perilous journey, it soon becomes evident that their path is riddled with danger, as the Ming Dynasty has now sent a terrifying swordsman after them to capture Kotarou and fulfill a certain prophecy.
Brought to you by studio Bones, “Stranger: Mukou Hadan,” also known as “Sword of the Stranger,” weaves a rich tale set in a bygone, feudal Japan with a touch of mysticism. It follows the journey of a wandering samurai named Nanashi, literally meaning ’No Name’ – bearing a heavy past, the clash between honour and survival has caused him to seal his sword, vowing never to kill again. However, fate has other plans as he gets embroiled in the fate of an orphaned youth, Kotaro, and his dog, Tobimaru. Pursued by Chinese warriors led by a man obsessed with immortality, Kotaro’s desperate cry for help unearths buried sentiments within Nanashi, leading to a tale of loyalty, friendship, and redemption.
Along their journey, they encounter numerous antagonists fuelled by greed, power, and immortality. The storyline revolves around the mystery of Kotaro, the target of the Ming Dynasty of China plot for immortality, and the inner turmoil of Nanashi, mirrored by the socio-political struggles of the era. With battles fought both within and against the outside world, the duo traverses through challenges that test their courage and values.
Now, diving into “Sword of the Stranger,” the first thing that stands out is the sublime art and animation. Studio Bones, famed for ‘Boku no Hero Academia,’ ‘Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,’ and other visually stunning anime, has done nothing short of exceptional work here. The character designs are detailed, distinctive, and Alive; the sceneries are beautifully drawn, capturing the essence of each location wonderfully, from serene village landscapes to chilling snow-capped mountains.
The animation really shines in the fight scenes, the choreographies are sharp, smoothly animated, and well-detailed, making them not only visually spectacular but also emotionally impactful. The fights are not just about who has the biggest weapon or the flashiest tricks, but it also incorporates strategy, skill, and experience. It’s clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into making the combat as realistic and engaging as possible.
The character development in “Sword of the Stranger” is another highlight. Nanashi’s character arc, in particular, brings depth to the narrative. His internal conflicts and evolution towards the end make his journey compelling to witness. Kotaro, who at first seems like a standard “kid in trouble,” also experiences a nuanced growth throughout the series.
Additionally, the score by Naoki Sato is commendably stirring and fitting, immersing the viewers into the anime’s world completely. The voice acting is fantastic, and both the Japanese and English dubs do the characters justice, while the sound design during fight scenes is especially mentioned-worthy with their accuracy.
In conclusion, “Sword of the Stranger” is a perfect blend of action, drama, and heart-warming moments. With crisp animation, well-developed characters, a poignant storyline, and an outstanding soundtrack, it’s a prime example of what exceptional anime looks like. So, whether you’re thinking of renting, buying, or streaming – this anime is a must-watch on your list. “Sword of the Stranger” is a thrilling samurai tale that you’ll remember long after the credits roll.
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