I first came across this at AnimePlanet because of user recommendations linking this movie to Guardian of the Sacred Spirit. Both have similar initial plot devices and are set in a feudal esque era, with physically capable body guards as main characters.
Both series have excellent fight scenes where action is action rather than stage drama in the form of speeches. Some speeches are fine as a form of portrayal for internal motivations but it helps to separate the two into clear and decisive lines. It also plays into my own view of social vs asocial violence, which is another topic.
Centrally, the idea of warriors as protectors harmonizes with my own belief systems. It’s interesting to see Japanese authors take on this segment of life philosophy.
The introduction of the Ming in Sword of the Stranger, I found to be particularly interesting, since I could understand a few words in Mandarin though the accentuation seemed to part of an obscure dialect of Mandarin. The written forms of Chinese have not changed, but over the centuries the words changed in sound. Similar to Old English, perhaps.
The villains, of course, were not as interesting as in Moribito. In Sword of the Stranger, the villains had various motivations ranging from “good intentions” to “personal self-interest” to “fighting for the art of improving fighting”. Since this is a movie, what you get is a condensed form of characterization and plot line, but it doesn’t lose its impact just because it is concentrated.