Believe it or not, I’ve actually tried writing about Stranger: Mukou Hadan, aka Sword of the Stranger, before. It didn’t end well – rather, it didn’t end at all because I never even got started – because the only comment I could think of was “It’s so good it feels like it’s not even anime”. Back then I think I meant that as the highest form of praise, but I no longer have any idea what I really meant by it. Oh well, it wasn’t the most descriptive comment anyway.
Sword of the Stranger is well-known for its fantastic animation, which is something I knew of long before I actually watched the movie. And I guess I don’t have much more to say on that point other than “I agree”, because I really do. It’s one of those movies, alongside Redline, that I’d say is worth watching for the visuals alone. It’s a masterpiece, in my opinion. If you like animated sword-fighting at all, this is a movie for you.
That said, that’s not all the movie is. It’s also a historical period drama, and a very interesting one at that, at least in my opinion. I’m usually not very interested in the Sengoku period as shown in anime, especially if there’s grand politics and stuff like that, but Sword of the Stranger has a much narrower scope: It’s about a specific series of events, mostly happening in the same place, and concerning a handful of important characters. And although it has some (if I recall correctly) fantasy elements and not so historically accurate parts, I feel like it was able to present some themes that seemed relevant to that time period, such as the influence of China and new technologies. And I think it’s definitely worth watching for that reason as well. I should even rewatch it.