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MCM Birmingham Comicon

Coming this weekend, we see the return of the MCM Birmingham comicon. This comicon is in the UK and is the founding location of all the MCM Expos across the country.

Animesalvation will be attending this event, though the reviews and coverage will be handled by our affiliate UK-based site AniHelp.

Animesalvation will be sending our UK convention correspondent to this event to report back on this and more information will be added here shortly.

For a brief overview of what the MCM Birmingham Comicon is and how it began, you can find our more via the Pre-review of the event on AniHelp which can be seen here:

http://anihelp.co.uk/Other-89-MCM-Birmingham-2014

We plan to share more reviews and ventures between the two sites in the future, please look for further contact and interaction between our two sites.

Kyle Hebert Interview

Kyle Hebert“Always follow your passion, do something with your life that’ll make you happy.”

LA based video game and anime voice Actor Kyle Hebert got his start in the early 90s as a fellow anime fan auditioning for Teen Gohan/ The Great Saiyaman for DBZ with a Texas based studio called Funimation. Since then, his career has taken off and he’s become a well known, looked up to man and I know I’m lucky enough to call him a great friend.

Over the years he has voiced the crazy Saiyan teen Gohan who calls himself “The Great Saiyaman”, a military officer who survives the military and its crazy alchemists literally with his eyes closed! warrant officer, Vato Falman. A dog boy ninja with a smart aleck attitude and a dog named Akamaru at his side, squad 8 member Kiba Inuzuka. A crazy boar riding, sword wielding doofus named Ganju Shiba, a soft spoken, genial, yet sexy soul reaper captain whose secret ambitions throw soul society into utter chaos and betrayal, Captain Sousuke Aizen, and most recently, a big mouthed, blue haired, tattoed, cape wearing, ambitious knucklehead from Jihaa village, that pilots a gunman called Gurren, named Kamina.

His recent video game roles include a Jedi on a star wars game (not released yet), Ryu on Street Fighter IV, two characters, Held, and the soft spoken Sigmund for a game called Infinite Undiscovery, a game that Kyle traveled to China to record.

Recently, I spoke with Kyle and asked him a few questions about the world of voice acting among a few other things.

1. What got you into voice acting, where did you get your start in voice work, did something inspire you to do so?

Growing up on Looney Tunes, when my dad said one guy voiced all those characters, I knew it was the job for me. I actually started doing character voices in radio, which was another life long passion. Back in 2000, some radio station coworkers heard about auditions for Dragonball Z, a show I had been a fan of for years. I went in, tried out, and got cast. I started out doing bit part voices and the rest is history, as they say.

2. Are there any challenges you find in voice work?

With anime especially, there’s the technical challenge of acting on top of matching lip synch. But I’ve always had a blast doing voice work, no matter what type of project. I love the director throwing curve balls at me, having to improvise sometimes, and the symbiotic relationship that develops in helping to bring a character to life. I just get the biggest creative rush……..and I even get paid for it.

3. Kind of follows question 2..are there any characters you found especially challenging to voice?

Ganju on Bleach was actually a bit tough to nail down at first because I have a fairly wide range of voices trapped in my head. I found it particularly rough to keep his low, gruff sound consistent. I’d keep changing the texture, or the gravel, and end up having to re do takes. I don’t think the first appearance of his character sounds too much like his eventual voice. I’d give anything to go back and re-record it, but ah well, what’s done is done.

4. You voice a lot of different characters, each dynamic in different ways..is there any certain type of character you’ve enjoyed playing whether it’s personality wise, good characters, villains?

I truly just love doing the work. But a recent character that I loved playing was Kamina on Gurren Lagann. Gung ho, goofy, and a big heart…….it reminded me of my DBZ days doing Gohan/Great Saiyaman. Kiba on Naruto is always near and dear to me. Aizen of course, I get a huuuuuuuuuuuuge rush out of playing since he’s so……….evil. :)

5. If you didn’t get into voice acting, what career do you think you’d be doing? was there anything you wanted to do before you got into voice acting?

I’d be TRYING to get into voice acting. I just love it that much. I wanted to be a DJ about the same time I got interested in voice work as a kid. I can say I’ve been blessed in fulfilling those goals. My long term goal is to be an established cartoon voice. Its a very tough and tight circle, but once you’re in, you’re set. I want to be able to record alongside a cast of people I’ve admired for years, helping to entertain the masses. I can play drums, and I think it’d be fun to be in a band, but I lack the discipline or patience involved in trying to get a music career going. I’ve just gotta keep my eye on the prize.

6. are there things you enjoy doing outside of your voice acting career? hobbies, interests?

I love movies. I collect blu ray and love going to the theater. I’ve just started getting back into comic books again. I also love playing video games. I’m just a big kid. I’m 39 and refuse to grow up. Hmmmmm, that may explain why I’m single.

7. kind of follows question 6, are you a movie goer and what types of movies do you enjoy?

I love sci fi, action, horror, comedy, and occasional dramas.

8. what do you think about the anime cons you attend? seeing people cosplaying as your characters, the fans in general?

Its great to have an outlet for fandom to get together and celebrate anime as a community. I love meeting and mingling with the fans, since I am one myself. The fans make my job possible. I’m always genuinely flattered and honored.

9. you play video games, do you enjoy any certain type of game genre or system? what about the games you do voice work in?

I’m big into shooters, fighters, and racers. I mostly voice RPGs, but I don’t have the time or patience. I’m into instant gratification. The irony is I suck at games. But I’ve always had fun, and that’s the bottom line.

10. are you working on anything currently that you’re allowed to tell us about? or anything you recently announced that you’re excited about?

I’m particularly psyched to be Ryu on the new Street Fighter game, coming early 2009. Also, voicing an original Jedi character for a new Star Wars game, which I don’t even think has been announced yet.

11. do you have any words of inspiration for your fans about voice acting or just in general to say to them?

Follow your passion in life. Its crucial to get into a career that makes you happy. Being rich is great and all, but at the end of the day you HAVE to enjoy your work. I’m certainly not rich, but the amount of creative satisfaction I get from my work is invaluable. Understand that making a dream come true takes a long time. It never comes fast, easy, or cheap. Its always an investment in your future, and you have to take that seriously. Accept the bad with the good, and keep that chin up. Thanks to all the fans for all their support. It certainly is a source of great strength and inspiration to me.

You can also hear Kyle on his podcast “The Big Bald Broadcast” all the geeky news you can use! with his co-host, Other World Steve. You can also speak with Kyle on AIM at kibavox, through his website www.kylehebert.com, where you can also find his podcast. Also his Myspace page, and Facebook 

Finn’s Game Review: Tentacle Bento

                                                                           Tentacle Bento2

Type: Card Game

Ages: 16+

Players: 2-6

Approximate Game Length: 60 minutes

Company: Soda Pop Miniatures

At long last your humble manga reviewer has returned, but this is no manga review. No, today I bring before you a card game. That’s right, a card game. Tentacle Bento is a card game based on the rich anime tradition of doing horrible things to cute young women. Well, it’s not as bad as you might think. While most of the cards are decorated with suggestive pictures of scantily clad schoolgirls it doesn’t quite cross the line of totally bad taste. Fans of ero-guro and tentacle rape might be disappointed in the relatively tame nature of the game. It is certainly ecchi, not hentai.

You play as a tentacle monster who has infiltrated an all girl’s high school in order to do what tentacle monsters always do. The point of the game is to be the monster who “captures” the most girls. The game plays like rummy. You make sets of cards by playing a location, a capture, and at least one girl. There are four suits, sexy, smart, cute, and sporty. Each suit has a different type of mayhem that ensues when you make a capture using only cards in that suit. There is also one girl in each suit who is an All-Star. They are worth more points, and have a more powerful unique mayhem. The game is completed as soon as all four event cards are pulled from the deck. As soon as a player draws an event everybody follows the instructions on the card. The events are Sports Festival, Talent Show, Cultural Festival, and Final Exam.

Tentacle Bento Kasumi

Theme: 2.5/5

While many fans of anime might not bat an eye at a game based entirely on the implied brutalization of vivacious, large breasted teenage girls, you might not want to try playing this game with your elderly aunt. She might like rummy, but she most likely wouldn’t find this game oddly charming. Unfortunately, I don’t see much appeal to it either. The girls are moe enough I suppose, but it just feels a little bland. I would prefer if they had gone for a far more intense guro theme instead. Worst of all is that they recycle pictures for the girls. It feels like Japanese high schools are awash with clones.

Tentacle Bento Location

Gameplay: 1/5

There are some serious flaws in the fundamentals of Tentacle Bento that make it more difficult to get through the hour long game than an episode of  Glasslip. A game of rummy ends when one of the players puts their last card down, but the same isn’t true with this game. Instead the players suffer through a situation where they draw and discard until a school event comes up. It is a frustrating situation that can be rectified with some house rules that would let players draw a card in certain situations. As it is you will end up wishing the game was over already 2o minutes in.

Tentacle Bento is a game that you might want to buy on a whim. You may even have fun playing it a few times before it ends up gathering dust on your shelf, like mine has.

tentacle bento special card

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge episode 1 review

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge episode 1

Title: Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge

Producers: SHAFT, Starchild Records, Square Enix

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Seinen

Rating: PG-13 – Teens 13 or older

Finn here with the first of 3 new season anime reviews. This fall is such a fantastic season for new anime that it is actually pulling me away from my hobby of reading manga until my eyes bleed. It’s really tough to find the time for all the new series so I have to be careful and only watch the very best of them. Arakawa Under the Bridge 2 is one of those that I will be watching every week. This is a continuation of the absurd adventures of the uptight perfectionist Kou “Ric” Ichinomiya and the various vagrants who live along the banks of the Arakawa river. If you are wondering how a wealthy young bachelor like Kou ended up living under a bridge with a woman who claims to be an alien then you should probably watch the first season or read the manga. This episode starts with Nino waking from a dream about being abandoned on earth. Ric takes this opportunity to suggest her moving in with him. She misunderstands the proposition and they end up trading houses. Ric finds himself dealing with the clinically insane residents of the riverbank who keep dropping by to visit Nino at her house. Most of the second half is about a yearly marathon the vagrants hold along the riverbank. Though Ric is at first unenthusiastic about participating his competitive personality comes out after a little taunting from Star.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge episode 1 review

Art: 4/5

Bright and colorful backgrounds make this a pretty nice looking anime. The opening song is “Cosmos vs. Alien” performed by Etsuko Yakushimaru. The song was alright, but I think I prefer the previous opening “Venus to Jesus”. The animated sequence for the opening was a little confused. It didn’t really work for me.

Story: 4/5

This anime is all about the community of insanely oddball characters. Ric seems to look down on most of the other characters for their senseless behavior. Yet he always ends up getting dragged into their pace and seems to even enjoy his unusual lifestyle. There was a little bit of plot development in this episode with a few allusions to Nino’s mysterious background. Just like the first season this is an enjoyably amusing show. Well worth watching.

Arakawa Under the Bridge x Bridge episode review

I also really like the opening tho this series, super catchy:

Finn’s Manga Review: Worst Vol. 1

Worst Vol 1 Manga

Worst is a manga that is about gangs of juvenile delinquents fighting for dominance and respect. The story begins with the main character an amiable country boy named Tsukishima Hana arriving in town to start high school at the notorious Suzuran high. Hana is staying at the Umihoshi boarding house with a bunch of violent Yankees who all make an oath to treat each other like brothers.

The plot thickens as on the first day of school at Suzuran a contest to see which first year student is the strongest. Hana declaresin front of everyone that he will unite and lead all of the many gang factions afterwards Hana’s rival Amachi is revealed when he attacks a prominent gang leader who was conducting the “First Year War”.

That’s what happens in the first volume, but now I have to talk about what I absolutely hate about Worst. For starters this manga seems to take place in a town populated solely by roving gangs of male high school students. Im not even sure if there are teachers at Suzuran, and no character ever goes to class.
Probably the most disturbing thing about Worst is the curious lack of female characters. I know that Suzuran is an all boy school, but not only do the characters not ever mention females and apparently have no girlfriends, but the entire city is devoid of any girls. Its no wonder the boys from Suzuran fight so often. The closest thing to a woman in the manga is a transvestite who goes by Mary-Nee. Worst is a simple manga entirely about pointless fighting, and thanks to the latent homosexuality I rate the script an abyssmal 1.5/5.

Worst Manga
The artwork in Worst is actually quite good. The characters are drawn with a high level of realism which is something that I look for in martial arts manga. Its a little odd that everyone dresses the same, have the same hairstyles, and most have facial scars. When the artist draws a group of characters together it looks strange that they are all so similar; it reminds me of Where’s Waldo.
The backgrounds are average in that they dont really pop out at you, but they dont take anything away from the manga.
I would say that Worst’s artwork is a little above average 3.5/5.

Overall I rate the first volume 2.5 out of 5.

My Neighbor Totoro

 

My Neighboy Totoro Tonari No Totoro

I was down with the flu and I was curled up in my room, looking for something cozy to watch. Flipping through my collection, I suddenly remembered the My Neighbor Totoro DVD I had received as a gift a while back. Needless to say, I popped it into my player, sat back and had one of the most relaxing and peaceful 90 minutes of my life.
My Neighbor Totoro is hard to synopsize because of the tranquil and laid back first half. I suppose it would suffice to say that this classic 1988 Studio Ghibli movie is about the innocent fun of two little sisters who move into a house in a village, along with their father, only to find out that the picturesque place can be more mysterious than they thought. My Neighbor Totoro has bagged several awards over the years and helped bring Japanese animation into the global spotlight.
The basic driving force behind the story is this: Don’t you want to be a kid again? Don’t you want to go back to the days when your only responsibilities were to show up at school and be home on time? Don’t you want to look forward to each day, because there was always something new to learn, find and discover? This universal, yet eternally successful theme is what made My Neighbor Totoro click. The story is so beautifully crafted that kids look at this movie as the adventures of two sisters, while adults while adults perceive this anime to be a timeless classic that will forever remind them of their innocent childhood.
Another positive aspect of the story is that it’s character driven, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of developing the characters or making them take on hard decisions, this movie’s characters are the diamonds in the rough because of their simple and lifelike charms. They think, act and behave just like any curious and energetic children of their age would. The two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, are sure to inspire kids and bowl over adults with their sweet and loveable attitudes. The seiyu also deserve a lot of credit here, because they bring out all the energy and emotions necessary for their roles.

 

 

If you were wondering why I didn’t make a mention of Totoro, the giant chubby ferret/forest spirit, it’s because he is (in my opinion at least) present for appealing to the kids and doesn’t really play an important role otherwise. A contributor to the entertainment (and cuteness, if you like) factor.
I got my hands on a re-mastered DVD edition of this one, so I won’t be able to judge the quality of the original theatrical/VHS version. Still, you can’t make a good sculpture without good clay, so I think it’s safe to say that the art was outstanding. The backgrounds were very neat and looked exactly like a 1950s Japanese village. Characters were drawn in trademark Ghibli style, which is never a bad thing. A perfect ten.
The soundtrack added to the straightforward atmosphere of the show. Nothing fancy, just the good old piano. The OP, Stroll, was a nice upbeat song that reminded me of The Sound of Music, especially the English version.
This anime would get a sure ten from any kid who’s below 10, but looking at it from a more mature perspective, My Neighbor Totoro does have some minor issues which deny it the perfect score. Because of its age, it is rather predictable and I felt the mood swing from the lax and serene atmosphere from the first half to the more fast paced and fantastical approach to the second half was a little unnecessary. The fantasy aspect is played around with to please kids, but older viewers might not approve. The dialogue and script could’ve been a tad tighter too. But that’s about all the flaws I can come up with, after a lot of time I spent on nitpicking.
Regardless of whether you’re a kid, adult, otaku, casual viewer or just plain bored, My Neighbor Totoro is most certainly worth your time.

 

 

[  THE WRAP-UP ]
My Neighbor Totoro is a landmark anime that garnered critical appeal and international fandom. Although primarily intended for children, this 90 minute movie is bound to appeal to the taste buds of anyone, even if they’re not a big fan of anime. The story is uncomplicated and easy to watch, which is always a good thing if you’re looking for something nice and comfy. The undeniable charm of the characters also adds to the realistic atmosphere of this Studio Ghbili movie. Despite its release date, the animation is solid, just like the fitting soundtrack. My Neighbor Totoro is an anime that gained mainstreamed recognition and popularity for good reason. In other words, watch it.


Rating:
8/10

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Golden Time Review

Golden Time Anime  Review

By Miki

Koko & Banri Golden Time

This series deals with a college student who has amnesia.  Tada Banri  has forgotten everything from high school and earlier.  In Shizuoka he confesses to Linda his best friend after graduation.  She tells him she will give her answer tomorrow and he awaits her on the bridge.  Unfortunately he is run over and loses his memories before she gets there.  He runs to Tokyo to escape the feelings of expectation from those who knew him before the accident.  We find this is due to an incident when he snuck out of the hospital and ran into a girl (Linda) who said she was attending a university in Tokyo. He did not remember that Linda was his childhood best friend.   He then makes new friends: Kaga Koko , Mitsuo Yanagisawa , Chinami Oka, Nana, and Takaya Satō aka 2D-kun. He joins the festival club with Koko and renews friendship with Linda.

Koko Golden Time

He meets Yana first when they are following girls to find the college. Both looking very suspicious they end up buying popsicles and losing the girls.  They start their friendship there and once they get to the college he meets Koko as she slaps Yana with a bunch of roses.  Banri is instantly captivated by her confidence and beauty.    Yana keeps trying to run from Koko but she pursues him wildly and eventually they come to terms with Yana making it expressly clear he won’t be anything but a friend to her. Koko and Banri get taken to cult club and meet 2D-kun.  Banri creates distraction by telling part of his story so others can leave. They end up running into Linda and the festival club practicing as they fled the cult. Koko and Banri become good friends by her using him to get to Yana.  Banri stays by Koko’s side and finally tells her he likes her and wishes she’d give up on Yana.  Yana in turn confesses to Oka and is hurt at a party.  Koko and Banri start dating.

Banri Golden Time

They all have lots of adventures together.  Yana decides to go after Linda not understanding Banri’s close relationship to her.  He has hidden his past from all of his new friends but it slowly starts to unravel as his memories slowly fluctuate and sometimes return in small bursts causing current memories to vanish momentarily.  This scares Banri and Nana helps with Linda to keep him from losing it.  Will Koko and Banri stay together?  Will he forget all his current life for the past?  Can Banri share his fears?  Will the others figure out whats happening to Banri?  Find out by watching this twisting and emotional anime.  It really was worth the wait to find out the ending.  8 out of 10 stars.

Finn’s Classic Anime Reviews: Slayers

Number of Episodes: 26

Episode Length: 22 min

Year of Release: 1995

Producers: FUNimation, SoftX, Easy Film

Genres: Adventue, Comedy, Fantasy

slayers anime

In a world of fantastic adventure where monsters plot the destruction of mankind everyone’s hope rests squarely on the shoulders of a band of stalwart quest seekers led by the infamous and undeniably powerful sorceress Lina Inverse.  Can Lina save the world from darkness or will she be distracted yet again by shiny treasure?

Artwork: 3/5

I have to try and remember that the mid 90’s were a simpler time when it comes to animation. There’s a lot of pan and zoom type animation in this. For example, Lina is falling off a cliff so the animators take a still drawing of the forest below and zoom in to simulate the descent. Actually, the only thing that really bothered me was the design of the fishmen. It’s mystifyingly silly looking.

Plot: 5/5

The setting is typical for fantasy anime. Imagine any fantasy rpgs you’ve played and that’s pretty much the world of Slayers. You have the adventurers travelling through forests, mountains, and ruins whilst fighting off monster hordes. Occasionally they visit a town and stay at the inn or try to sell loot they found adventuring. While that stuff gives me a nostalgic feeling it is not what makes Slayers a classic. It’s all about the characters. They are by no means typical. Rather the characters of Slayers are in every way memorable and unique. Their zany antics are what make Slayers an enjoyable anime with immense replay value. As such I have decided to end my review with character profiles. Enjoy!

Slayers Lina

Lina Inverse - Where ever there is treasure to be found Lina will be there to take it even when it belongs to someone else or could possibly lead to the destruction of the world. Often Lina’s greed is the focal point of the anime. She is a well known trouble maker and a frighteningly powerful sorceress. The two things Lina loves is treasure and food. She will stop at nothing to obtain mass amounts of both. Even though Lina can be rather cunning she usually ends up resorting to using her powerful Dragon Slave spell to wipe out anything that gets in her way, and everything else nearby too. For a hero she is downright evil sometimes.

Slayers Gourry

Gourry Gabriev – A virtuous swordsman, weilder of the sword of light, and Lina’s constant companion. He joins up with her when he mistakes her for a lost child. At first she let’s him stick around so that she can steal his magic sword, but his skill as a warrior becomes indespensable. Gourry is a simpleton. He has no knowledge of the world and often forgets what just happened. Which works pretty well as a plot device to get Lina to explain characters and events to both him and the viewers.

Slayers Zel

Zelgadis Greywords – The heartless mystical swordsman. Skilled in both elemental magic and physical combat Zelgadis is a powerful warrior motivated by his own interests. At times he is great ally or a fearsome enemy depending on his whims. Through unknown magic Zelgadis has been transformed into a chimera part demon, rock golem, and human. He sometimes travels with Lina’s party while trying to find a way to turn back into a human. Of all the heroes he has the most normal personality. Compared to Lina he is relatively neutral.

Slayers Amelia

Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun – The fourth usual member of Lina’s party is the princess of Seyruun. Amelia is a holy priestess who is entirely consumed with an obsession for heroic justice, and dramatic entrances. She can often be found climbing to a high place before flinging herself headlong into danger. She has a naive idea of absolute good and evil. Perceiving any crime as a threat to humanity she tags along with Lina for various reasons, but mostly in an attempt to play hero.

Slayers Rezo

Rezo the Red Priest – An enigmatic wandering sage who has a reputation for being a great healer and champion of the people. His true nature is wrapped in mystery.

Sword of the Stranger Review

Sword of the Stranger poster featuring Luo Lang and Nanashi.

Sword of the Stranger poster featuring Luo Lang and Nanashi.

Well nuts. My first review, for Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, got lost in cyberspace a while back, so this one will be, officially, my first review for this site. But that’s okay, because I’m reviewing a top-notch film for you.

It’ll be a little gushy and maybe even a little mushy at times, but that’s only because this film is that good. A traditional samurai plot is upheld by stunning animation, impeccable voice selection, and a sound track worth listening to on its own. The story is that of Kotaro, a young boy fleeing from a group of Ming warriors following their Emperor’s orders. Their goal is to make a medicine from the boy’s blood that grants immortality, as prophesied by trusted member of the Emperor’s court. A child sacrifice is only chosen every hundred years, and must be sacrificed at a specific time and day, and Kotaro is that child.

He is first sent on the run by his monk protector, who bids him to find his way to a specific temple that will protect him. Along the way, he takes shelter in an abandoned building and encounters a nameless ronin. After demanding that the ronin leave, he makes dinner for himself and his dog, Tobimaru, who offers the ronin a fish despite Kotaro’s protests. The ronin sticks around long enough to witness a Ming warrior and his escorts attack the boy; despite his previous disinterest in Kotaro, he becomes protective of the boy and defeats the attackers. Tobimaru is injured and poisoned in the attack. Kotaro subtly begs the ronin to help him save the dog, offering up a gem the monk gave him and boasting about it’s value. The ronin, Nanashi – “No Name” – accepts the boy’s terms to save Tobimaru and escort the two to Mangaku temple after much hesitation.

Tobimaru and Kotaro early in the film.

Tobimaru and Kotaro early in the film.

They immediately set off for the nearest town with a medicine man. Tobimaru is treated and recovers while Nanashi locates a saddle for them. On his way back to their rented shack, he is attacked without reason by Luo Lang and holds his own until the fight is interrupted with the news that two of Luo Lang’s companions are dead. The Ming leave, and Nanashi returns to the shack. They argue briefly before Tobimaru wakes. Due to the dog’s recovery, Kotaro’s attitude towards Nanashi improves, allowing the ronin to teach the boy how to ride a horse. Once Tobimaru is able to travel, they continue their journey.

Upon reaching the temple, Kotaro happily gives Nanashi the gem while telling the truth about its value. The two have a laugh, and Nanashi quietly slips away when Shouan, Kotaro’s monk friend, appears from the temple. The monks tie up Tobimaru and escort the boy to the center of the complex, where the head monk greets him, then hands him over to the Ming. Lord Akaike’s men attack the Ming in an attempt to capture the boy for ransom. The Lord’s men fall easily, but one takes off on a horse to gather reinforcements, which alerts Nanashi to the commotion. He arrives at the battle scene after the Ming leave with Kotaro, and demands information from Shouan. The monk proclaims that he had no choice, and that if Nanashi were in his position, he too would have given up the boy. Deeply disturbed by the monk’s justification, the ronin deems Shouan unworthy of being a monk and races off on foot with Tobimaru to the Shishine fortress, where the Ming have constructed a gigantic altar.

Shogun Itadori arrives at the temple after Nanashi leaves, finding Shouan’s body hanging from one of the trees. While Itadori is gone from the daimyo’s mansion, Luo Lang, Lord Byakuran, and the other Ming kidnap Lord Akaike and take him to Shishine. Itadori is alerted to this and makes his way on horseback with his lieutenant, meeting up with a platoon of soldiers on the way to the fortress. They reach the fortress before Nanashi. The Ming use the daimyo in an attempt to stall for time, but Itadori has his own agenda and his lieutenant kills the lord before they storm the fortress gates.

The battle is well under way when Nanashi arrives, and is caught in a blast that destroys part of the fortress and kills most of Itadori’s men, but survives unscathed. While trapped in the debris, he relives the moment that caused him to put down his blade: he obeyed an order to kill the children of the lord he helped depose, despite his own moral code. He comes back to reality with new resolve to save Kotaro and escapes the debris, working his way to the boy. One of the surviving Ming attacks him, but the ronin breaks the binding preventing him from drawing his blade and kills the Ming with ease. Tobimaru, having gone up the altar while Nanashi was buried beneath the debris, delays the sacrifice long enough for the ronin to reach the altar, but not enough for Nanashi to get to the top. Knowing he can’t make it, he throws his sword, and it kills the large Ming assigned to kill Kotaro.

Nanashi makes his way to the top and reunites with the boy. However, the Ming still want Kotaro, and two attack the ronin. He kills one Ming fighter, but is blinded by a spray of blood, though he manages to send himself and the remaining attacker off the platform to the one below. Only he survives the fall, and while Kotaro pulls him from the edge of the platform, Lord Byakuran fires at him. Luo Lang has different plans for the ronin, however, and slices through the gun and the elderly man’s left arm, causing the bullet to miss its target. Luo Lang reveals his true nature: he cares not about the Emperor’s medicine, nor about the boy, only about finding a warrior who can defeat him. Thus, they fight, and Nanashi ultimately wins.

A still from the final fight scene that showcases the film's exceptional art.

A still from the final fight scene that showcases the film’s exceptional art.

And now I can talk about how much I liked it. There are very few animes that I don’t end up nitpicking to death, whether it’s over bad writing, bad animation, or bad editing. Sword of the Stranger is an exceptional film in pretty much every way. The animation is beautiful, the plot is strong, the characters are genuine, and the dialogue is real.

To start with the animation, it is supreme when it counts, and was sloppy in all the right ways. The level of detail and care put into this film is palpable, most notably during the final fight scene. Not to mention the beautifully painted backgrounds that give it an even more authentic feel.

Now on to the plot, which is your basic samurai epic; this is not a bad thing. Traditional samurai epics are fantastic things to behold, and this film brings only glory to its genre. It is complex without being confusing, and each majour character is well-defined in the context of the plot. The ‘invasion’ of the Ming adds an interesting element to the film, as it brings extra-cultural influences as well as a hint of the supernatural.

As for the characters, none of them feel out of place or forced, with their traits displayed naturally and effectively. Luo Lang and Nanashi are an intriguing duo in opposition due to both their similarities and differences. Both are foreigners, are exceptional fighters, and are driven by their own motives. In contrast, Luo Lang seems to have little use for morals, where Nanashi adheres to them strictly. Nanashi’s agreement to escort Kotaro and Tobimaru to Mangaku temple, and ultimately saving the boy from a sacrificial death, is a way for the ronin to clear his guilty conscience, to repent for the killing of innocents he had done in the past, while Luo Lang’s only desire is to find an opponent worthy of killing him. I could go on about the characters for hours, so I won’t, and will move onto my final topic, the dialogue.

I’m a writer myself, and one of the few things about writing that always gave me trouble was dialogue. Having recently taken up screenwriting, I have learned to appreciate the dialogue in films much more than I used to; but it also means I’m much more critical of it. A good film can end up being cringeworthy if the dialogue is badly written, and good dialogue is memorable, even if the film isn’t so great. So when I say that the dialogue in this film is real, I mean that the writer knew exactly what they were doing. This can be surprisingly uncommon. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a translation for the spoken Chinese, so I only have a faint idea of what was said, but all the English was spot-on.

In closing, I’ll reiterate: this is a great film. I would recommend this to everyone mature enough to watch it, including those who don’t usually enjoy anime.

Nanashi and Tobimaru

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