The story centers around an AWOL soldier-with-no-name who unwittingly finds himself protector to a small orphan boy and his dog. He’s forced to battle the child’s pursuers who it turns out want the kid for some elaborate human sacrificial ritual. A ritual that will supposedly grant them eternal life.
As anime storylines go, this one is surprisingly strong. There’s a well written and layered human drama with each character having believable if occasionally shallow motivations. No one ultimately feels two dimensional, although it may seem so on first watch. This is a film that gets better on second viewing just for some of the subtle character development.
For a show that’s ultimately an action adventure, the narrative actually had some thought put into it. Not something that can be said about most animated features. Were the story poor however, the action would more than make up for it.
The animation is handled expertly by STUDIO BONES whose work we’ve previously seen on anime such as Full Metal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop. If you’ve seen either of those anime TV series (BONES actually worked on the movie version of the latter) then it’s no surprise how well the action is handled.
I’ve yet to see a true successor to the amazing action in the original Ninja Scroll anime movie, but this film came really close to giving me the same feeling I felt when I first discovered Kawajiri‘s masterpiece.
From the first caravan ambush at the beginning of the film, to the epic one on one battle between the two expert swordsman at the end, and really every action sequence in between, BONES outdoes themselves.
B+ grade – for storytelling
A grade – for casting
A grade – for animation quality
A grade – for action.
Overall Score: A