Sword for Truth
Over the many years I've been running The Anime Review, the single most-asked question in the site's history has been, "What's out there that's just like Ninja Scroll?" Those emails have finally slowed down to a trickle, since the slash-and-hack spectacular has finally lost some standing after 10+ years. Nevertheless, I'll still occasionally get the request from a reader wanting more brutal feudal action. Well, I've finally found the title to end the question once and for all: Sword For Truth. That's only partially true, since Sword For Truth is a ridiculous waste of time, whereas for all its problems, Ninja Scroll was entertaining. But from the standpoint of plot, action, animation, and over-the-top sex and violence, Sword For Truth is virtually identical to the overly revered Ninja Scroll.
Jubei...er, make that Sakaki...is a wandering samurai with an unlucky double scythe symbol emblazoned on the back of his robes. Without a lord to serve, he and his sword go looking for trouble and invariably find it. As the show opens, a gigantic white-striped tiger let loose from a nearby freakshow goes on a rampage in the countryside, and not just a few palace guards are ripped to shreds trying to take down the ferocious beast. (Here, kitty, kitty...) The only one able to stop the cat is Sakaki, who bests him with one blow. The guards realize very quickly that the tiger was just a distraction--somebody must be after the princess! By the time they return, the princess is kidnapped, and Sakaki is charged to go after her captors. Of course, because there won't be enough action with Sakaki taking out huge numbers of rival ninjas, there are loose women around for action of another kind. *Ahem* A whole lot of shakin' and a whole lot of bloodletting follow.
Sword For Truth, by some reports, was actually made before Ninja Scroll; frankly, I didn't stick around during the credits to check. This show is amazingly incompetent. I've never been so bored by an action anime. The plot is so straightforward that we even see the inevitable double-cross coming extremely early. The action is poorly animated and poorly executed. There's a level of overkill that Sword reaches not five minutes after it starts. Every severed torso, head, and limb covers the landscape with tornados of blood, so once the shock and repulsion wear off, we're just left with a bunch of dull carnage. Although sex scenes in anime usually feel a little gratuitous, here they are nothing but.
Then we reach the worst part of the show, which is its pointlessness. Up to a point, it appears that we're going to get a violent but basically realistic story. But then the head antagonist is able to survive a blade stuck through his neck, and all believability disappears. From that point, the supernatural factors into all the battles, and it just gets dumber and dumber. The only conflict that doesn't fall into that trap is one between two random combatants in a streetfight that is never fully explained--though it seems to exist to set up a sequel that was never made, praises be!
The animation is also rubbish. It looks very much like Ninja Scroll in its style and feel, but the actual movement is non-existent. The technical aspects of the show just range from bad to worse, so fans of style and art over plot won't get anything out of it, either.
Why would I compare a popular slashfest to this junk? Frankly, it shows the fine line of difference between competent trash anime and burnable trash anime. Even detractors of Ninja Scroll admit that the artwork is decent, the story well-paced, and so forth. The same elements are all in Sword For Truth, but they expose one simple fact: an artist and a five-year-old with crayons can both use the same tools, but the end result will be vastly different. I actually have a newfound respect for Scroll's director, Yoshiaki Kawajiri...because Sword For Truth proves that even trashy entertainment can be done the right way or the wrong way. Sword For Truth happens to have been done the wrong way.
Sword for Truth -- graphic violence, nudity/adult situations -- D-