Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Life in Fandom: Sword of the Stranger

I wrote a follow-up to my first post at PulpRev this past Monday, giving some recommendations on movies with the spirit of the Pulps in them. I tried to stick to things that new people and normies would not struggle to find, but I had to make one concession for my fellow anime and manga fans: Sword of the Stranger.

This is a fantastic story, told in a fantastic manner, with fantastic skill in all aspects. The TV Tropes link to the summary can spoil it for you, so be careful when reading it, but I don't think that's necessary. This film is a demonstration that storytelling is not just how you use words, and that even in an animated work choreography matters as a storytelling tool.

To give you a good sense of how good this film is, you need to see one of the fantastic fight scenes that drive the plot and do a lot of the storytelling. The final fight that everyone who sees this film loves and adores shows this in spades. Allow me to share:

You do not need to know who is the villain in that scene. You can tell without any prior knowledge. Likewise with the hero. What the stakes are may be a bit murky, but the presence of the boy and the dog give you what you require to figure that out (along with where this fight takes place).

The writer, director, animators, and actors took pains on multiple levels to ensure that the most subtle of details--things you notice, but your conscious mind misses--are in there. It does not insult you or lie to you. The hero ain't no angel, but he still does the right thing. The villains are individuals with comprehensible motivations, but they still do (or support) abhorrent deeds in pursuit of them (and the goal they pursue is arguably evil in itself). The result is a Japanese story that is Pulp to the core.

Find a stream, borrow a copy, or take a risk and buy one from Amazon. This isn't the usual anime bullshit. This is Miyazaki-level stuff, and it deserves a place in your library. Study this one if you're a storytelling, no matter your medium, because you will learn something. It reminded me of Robert E. Howard's historical fiction tales, favorably so. Of course the score is fantastic. Have a listen:

(Note: For those sensitives reading this, the dog lives. You're welcome.)

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