Anime Meta-Review




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Title Info

  • alias: Strange Sword Yotoden
  • alias: Sengoku Kitan Yotoden
  • seen: 1-3 of 3
  • type: OAV
  • grade: watchable
  • made: unknown
  • Review created: Mon Nov 13 11:37:25 EST 2000
  • mod: none

A solid piece of ninja action in this older OAV, but is not without some limitations. Still, everyone loves a good kagenin (shadow warrior) story. Linked with magic, masters of strange combat techniques and with impressive gymnastic skills they're a staple of anime. Of course given that it's not much fun simply portraying them as assassins they need a foe worthy of their attention and, ideally, undeniably evil so they can be the good guys.

Thus the foundation for this period piece in which a warlord (Oda Nobunaga) seems to have allied with demons to assure his domination of Japan. One of his first targets being the three ninja clans. Two are almost wiped out, and the third humbled, but it seems these ninja have a legend of such a time. It says that three magic weapons will enable the sealing of evil. The bearers of these weapons, two being the sole survivors of their villages, are the leads in this story of war, betrayal and fighting back against the demonic forces ranged against them. This fight taking place against the backdrop of Nobunaga's cruel conquest and the time ticking away to the prophesised birth of an even greater evil. In the end it turns out that the true story is even more complex than it seems, and the evil even more deadly that they believed.

It might be older, but this is a solid piece of work. The world of the period, along with possibly true historical events (albeit largely meaningless to a western fan) is believably represented. At the same time the tone is dark, deadly and tragic with violence and betrayal as much parts of the war as anything else. There's a large element of fantasy, both in terms of demons and ninja powers, but it fits in cleanly and works well. We also get to see some character from the leads, with them all being very different people and reacting to their `role' in very different ways. One of the three, indeed the one we mostly follow, is female and this works well at adding another (albeit not unfamiliar) angle to the story. The violence is frequent and quite graphic, but once again fits the dark mood. The main problem is one all to familiar with short OAV series, even though each OAV is 40+ minutes long. Basically it's fairly compressed and seems to run out of time in the last episode. This makes the conclusion feel rushed and artificial, with the epic final battle seemingly coming far too `early' in the story. Which is a real shame, because the core plot could have been pretty cool with some more time to be revealed. As it is we largely listen while the plot is described to us after the event. Still, a solid and enjoyable watch in general and a definite opportunity for those into the whole ninja scene.

Being an older OAV this has the complex shadows, designs and subdued color often seen in `serious' OAV's of this period. Fortunately, being an OAV, it has enough money to actually animate these designs (although it does resort to still frames for the `faceless' extras). This leads to some quite attractive and entertaining action scenes which are well animated and fun to watch. There's also all the ninja standby's like `zipping' away and super-human leaps that are such an expected part of the genre. The demons are interestingly designed, with different powers and styles, and quite happy to kill (and then eat) anyone who gets in their way. The conclusions a bit disappointing, with a few to many `energy beams' and magical light shows but still has enough cool action to be interesting. The voices are pretty good. The music alternates between some Japanese sounds and some modern `energy' sounds which works less well. All in all, as expected from an OAV with some money behind it, this is solid production.


Words by Andrew Shelton, Web by Ticti, Last Compile: Wed Aug 5 12:39:27 WST 2009