The online anime critics have tended to dismiss Sword for Truth as a rip-off of Ninja Scroll, a pretty rich charge considering that Sword for Truth predates the better known Ninja Scroll by five years. They are similar however, because both are based on the tradition of exploitation/fantasy samurai movies that have been popular since the 1970s.
Shuranosuke Sakaki is a masterless samurai who is charged with rescuing Princess Mio from the Seki ninja. The Seki want the Genryu sword, which is owned by Mio's clan. Shuranosuke must fight his way through all the various Seki ninja, several of whom are not even human.
For what it is, a samurai anime with blood, sex, magic and monsters, Sword for Truth is entertaining. The story moves quickly, the action scenes are well animated, and the various swordsmen that Shuranosuke must deal with are interesting. My personal favorite is the guy with the mechanical mask that can shoot spider-like web fluid. He catches samurais, just like flies.
On the other hand, this disc does not contain a complete story. Like many of these projects, Sword for Truth is based on a novel, and this anime only covers a small part of it. So we get hints of Shuranosuke's past, but not the whole explanation. We never find out what the Genryu sword is, what it does, why the Seki want it, or even who ends up with it! And there are scenes that set up a judo-wielding assassin who never enters into the main story at all. As near as I can tell no more of this novel was ever animated, so unless you can read Japanese you'll never find out how the story ends.
The video on this release is sharp, clear, and colorful. Even these blue-tinted scenes that are supposed to be night are perfectly clear (sometimes a bit of a problem when watching anime on tape). The sound for both the Japanese and English tracks is in stereo, and sounds fine. As usual, the English dubbed track pushes the dialogue in to the forefront more than the Japanese track. The English dub also humanizes Shuranosuke a little more than the original, and softens some of the brutality.
At times the compositions seem to be tightly framed, but considering the number of times shadows or speed lines obscure whole corners of the screen, this may be on purpose.
There are no extras directly related to the main feature, but there is the usual line up of promotional stuff for Manga Video.
Scott Hamilton, 8/22/00