Sword for Truth Anime Review
修羅之介斬魔劍 - 死鎌紋の男
Shuranosuke Zanmaken - Shikamamon no Otoko
Demon-slaying Sword of Shuranosuke - The Man of the Crest of the Death Scythe
US Release By
Gory Ninja Action
Sasaki Shuranosuke, a wandering swordswinger, is hired to rescue a princess (well, actually, he's supposed to trade a family treasure from her father for her). In the process, he runs into a big group of bad men who are trying to unleash demons upon the world (or something like that) using that artifact. They aren't the only ones after it--there's also a troupe of female ninjas and a tragic assassin. Anyway, Shuranosuke saves the girl, but it looks like he's going to have to do something about all those nasty people trying to kill her (and him), and (surprise, surprise!) he kinda likes her, too. Wonder what her dad's gonna think...
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Sword for Truth is bad. If you want a breakdown, here: The art is ugly, the plot is mostly random, it's totally inconclusive but there's no sequel, and the whole mess is almost completely devoid of originality. The closest things it has to saving graces are heaps of poorly drawn gore and pointless sex. Yes, that's the good stuff.
Perhaps there are those who will enjoy parts of it, but unless you're a very big fan of ninja mayhem it's almost certainly in the must-avoid category.
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Sword for Truth bills itself as the best ninja action since Ninja Scroll. The only way that could be true would be if it was the only ninja action movie since Ninja Scroll--which it isn't--and despite logic dictating otherwise, even that would be a questionable claim because of the implication that anything about this mess is worth watching.
In reality, Sword for Truth actually predates Ninja Scroll by several years, but while it has all the same basic elements as that "classic," it's at absolute best a miserably forgettable ninja hack-and-slash flick. Less charitably, I'd call it boring, ugly garbage.
Sword for Truth is so bad I can't even bring myself to spend much time insulting it. Here's your short-form laundry list: The animation is generally weak, the art is downright bad (the main character is particularly ugly), the plot is mostly random, and the whole mess is almost completely devoid of originality. As if all that weren't bad enough by itself, the story is full of loose ends and blatantly set up for sequels, but this is all you get. So, if it wasn't bad enough alone, it has no conclusion, either.
The characters consist of a wandering block of wood that passes for a hero, a generic princess, a big group of female ninjas who seem to be really good at getting cut to pieces, and a tragic assassin, who would probably be interesting if the series ever continued. Don't even ask about personality or character development--the only thing that could make me like the cast more is if they'd die faster to get it over with more quickly.
The only memorable features are the large volume of completely pointless sex and the extremely large number of severed body parts. Even splatterfest fans shouldn't get their hopes up, though; the violence has a surprising lack of blood, and doesn't feature any of the gory artistic detail that might've sparked some interest--just a lot of limb removal.
Actually, that's not true--the other memorable feature is that it had famed director Osamu Dezaki at the helm. Mainly that's memorable because of how terrible of a job an otherwise talented guy did with it; everybody has an off day, I suppose, and there wasn't much to work with, but you won't see this one bullet-pointed on his resume unless it's to point out the rare botch.
Overall, Sword for Truth is uniformly awful, both artistically and in plot. Unless you can't get enough of both violence and ninjas, it's definitely in the must-avoid category.
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Ninja Scroll is very similar, and much, much better. Those glutton for punishment might be interested in such anti-gems as Cybernetics Guardian and MD Geist.
Notes and Trivia
Based on the first of a series of five "Demon-slaying Sword of Shuranosuke" ("Shuranosuke Zanmaken") novels by Takeshi Narumi, which, while not available in English, apparently contained a whole lot more depth, perhaps explaining why there are so many non-sequiturs in the plot. There is also a 1996 live-action movie subtitled Legend of the Devil starring the same character, available in English as, appropriately, Legend of the Devil.
Director Osamu Dezaki has a storied career stretching all the way back to the original Astro Boy, and including everything from two Golgo 13 movies and several Lupin III specials, to TV classics Aim for the Ace and Ashita no Joe, to shoujo epic Rose of Versailles and sci-fi drama They Were 11, to two Hamtaro movies. Sword for Truth is one of the most forgettable entries on the list.
Linguist trivia: On the cover, the title is written "修羅之介斬魔劍" using the old character for "sword" (劍), but Amazon and elsewhere usually lists it as "修羅之介斬魔剣" using the simpler modern version of the same character (剣).
US DVD Review
Manga Video's DVD version features bilingual stereo audio, an English subtitle track, a chapter index, and little else. Manga says it's digitally remastered, for whatever that's worth.
Violence and pointless sex, and the wrong kind at that--easily in the 16-up category, maybe even adults-only.
Violence: 4 - Not wildly graphic, but lots of flying limbs.
Nudity: 3 - A fair amount.
Sex/Mature Themes: 4 - A surprising ammount of unwholsome activity.
Language: 2 - Nothing noteworthy.