Basic plot summary – The Chinese Ming emperor has sent a convoy to Japan to recover a child (Kotaro) who is essential to a sacrificial ritual. A samurai with no name (Nanashi) takes it upon himself to protect Kotaro and escort him to his destination.
This is a well done movie that sticks to the genre which is typically full of blood and violence. The battles and encounters are mostly one-sided till the end but it is always a thrill to see people fight each other in interesting ways. The plot is another classic tale of one party being hunted with a satisfying conclusion.
The characters elevate this movie above standard action fare. The kid is a Chinese orphan from a high-class family who has fled to Japan and taken care of by Japanese priests. After being pursued Kotaro had to become self-sufficient and his dog Tobimaru has helped him cope with this. The dog is especially a great companion as he is capable of fighting to protect Kotaro. There are other characters such as the western Samurai part of Chinese convoy who serves as the main adversary for Nanashi. His motivation is purely to find a worthy opponent and doesn’t really have any connection with his Chinese employers.
Why watch it? Great Samurai action and Drama
Rating – A
Length – 102 Minutes Year – 2007
Sword of the Stranger was directed by Masahiro Ando in his first overall directorial role. He has recently directed the 2009 high budget action TV show Canaan.
Darker Than Black returns for a second season directed again by creator Tensai Okamura. What’s Different? It’s 12 instead of 26 episodes, Yoko Kanno does not return to do the music and Hei A.K.A the Black Reaper is no longer the main character (he’s has more of a supporting role). Instead the focus of this sci-fi mystery is a a young half russian and japanese girl. Season 2 is very much a side story that provides some continuity of events in the original season.
Despite the change in main character season 2 of DTB starts off very much the same as season 1 with similar conflicts between different contractors and spy agencies. A new Earth threatening disaster arises involving the gates and contractors with various agencies trying to prevent it from happening. The crazy variety of contractor powers are again present and remain as interesting. For example there is a contractor that performs deadly magic tricks and another that is able to absorb surrounding material to form armour and wreck havoc like the hulk.
Compared to the first season it is simply is just not as good. Animation is on par in quality but I think the general plot and characters are less interesting. After watching this I don’t feel as excited about watching further DTB properties. If judged on it’s own merits it still is a decent above average SF anime than stands out among other shows released in 2009.
Rating – B –
Genre – Mystery, Science Fiction, Action Length – 12 Episode series Year – 2009