Sword of the Stranger (Sutorenjia: Mukô hadan) (2007)

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Released 2-Dec-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Cast
Short Film
Trailer
TV Spots
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 102:34
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Masahiro Andô
Studio
Distributor
Bones
Madman Entertainment
Starring Yűki Chinen
Tomoya Nagase
Akio Ôtsuka
Naoto Takenaka
Kôichi Yamadera
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Naoki Sato


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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Plot Synopsis

    In feudal Japan a young orphan boy and his dog find themselves on the run from Chinese religious zealots. With one item of value in his possession the boy, Kotaro, hires a nameless ronin to take him safely to a distant monastery.

    Led by a mysterious tall blue-eyed Westerner who is desperate to find the ultimate opponent in battle, the visiting Chinese assemble a colossal shrine under the eyes of the local Japanese lords who have been heavily bribed to allow the Chinese free passage. Once these Japanese lords find out that the Chinese are after Kotaro, however, they too hunt him in the hope of either some reward or to discover what their visitors are really up to.

    Sword of the Stranger builds some great central characters but struggles to find enough interesting plot for them to traverse over the course of a feature film.

    The largely traditional hand-drawn animation is fairly basic, about the standard you would expect from a good anime series, but is attractive enough for the type of fare this is. This is hardly surprising as Bones, the studio behind the film, is best know for its TV work including the ever-popular Fullmetal Alchemist.

    Ultimately, Sword of the Stranger is an enjoyable second-rate anime that borrows heavily from the likes of Ninja Scroll and Lone Wolf and Cub.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video is of a good standard. The image is sharp and clear with little grain to be seen. The colours are bold and consistently balanced throughout the film.

    Interlacing artefacts are present in the image which makes the animation look a little choppy in the fast paced action scenes although it is generally not noticeable unless you pause the film. Mild MPEG compression artefacts are visible throughout many of the scenes; they are definitely visible on larger displays but not blocky enough to be distracting on most TV-sized displays.

    The film features optional English subtitles which directly translate the original Japanese. The language in the subtitles is frequently clumsy but the subtitles are well timed.

    This is a RSDL disc with a layer change occurring seamlessly at 61:12.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film features two audio options, the original Japanese and an English dub. Both are Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps). Each track is fairly interchangeable in terms of sound quality. The language in the dub is a little more fluid than the subtitles but still a little awkward.

    The dialogue is clean and clear. The lip sync is decent enough for an animated feature.

    The surrounds get a good workout from the orchestral score and environmental effects. The sound in the action scenes is a little clumsy with lots of big obvious pans although that audio style matches the animation style well. The subwoofer gets a reasonable workout during the action segments.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Cast Interviews

    A series of press-kit interview snippets with the Japanese voice cast intercut with footage from the film's Japanese launch party. These interviews are unintentionally hilarious, largely due to the cultural difference between Japan and Australia. The actors, particularly boy band heartthrob Tomoya Nagase who voices the ronin with no name, appear to take their roles absurdly seriously and have a lot to say about how the characters they voiced changed their lives. Definitely worth a watch!

Original Short (3:54)

    A conceptual short film used to pitch the film to financiers which heavily promotes the "samurai with no name" angle. The look of the short is notably different from the finished film as the character design is far less polished and the animation far more frantic. Well worth a look.

Trailers

    Three Japanese trailers for the film. Ho hum.

TV Spots

    5 short TV spots for the film, each running 15-30 seconds, selling the action in the film.

Additional Madman Anime Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 edition is identical to the Region 1 edition save for PAL/NTSC formatting.

Summary

    An uninspired but reasonably enjoyable samurai anime that borrows heavily from the likes of Ninja Scroll and Lone Wolf and Cub.

    Video and audio quality are both good. A reasonable range of extras is provided.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
DisplayOptoma HD20 Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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