Plot: In times of war and constant conflict, the samurai were crucial allies in battle and always had a deep sense of purpose, to defend those they were sworn to protect against all outside threats. But as wars have subsided, those samurai still around find themselves in a state of transition, unsure of how to proceed and driven to find purpose, even if the heat of battle has passed. With no masters to serve, these samurai wander the land and take what work they encounter, but for most, this is a listless life when they crave true honor and purpose. Rumors persist of a remote village, home to a dark path that leads through a dangerous stretch of mountains. The path is not an easy one to walk, but stories claim that samurai who have the skill to walk it and survive, never hunger for purpose again.
Entertainment Value: Path of Blood weaves a familiar tale of honor, sword battles, and the noble samurai, but thanks to a creative and striking approach, this feels like an all new experience. The movie is animated via traditional paper stop motion, a meticulous and beautiful process that yields some stunning results. For a frame of reference, think the early episodes of South Park, which used construction paper style animation, though Path of Blood is more ambitious, in terms of visual dynamism. Eric Power is the film’s director and animator, responsible for the entire animation process himself, which is an insane accomplishment. The animation provides us with iconic samurai visuals, but through a unique lens that makes it all seem fresh and vibrant. While the animation is a huge draw and helps Path of Blood grab attention, there is more to the movie than just the visuals involved.
The movie is steeped in samurai cinema lore, with obvious inspirations at work and perhaps the most evident is Lone Wolf and Cub. This is clear from the wealth of blood soaked sword duels that unfold and even in paper form, the blood flows often and looks quite cool. The action scenes are frequent and while not grand in scope, they are well stylized and deliver on all fronts. The movie gives us some colorful, creative deaths that result in some super fun animation, blood geysers, faces sliced off, limbs lopped off, all kinds of fun stuff. The narrative is solid and upholds the samurai lore well, with some interesting characters throughout. The voice work is in Japanese and the cast captures the spirit of samurai cinema well, though I am not fluent in the language, so that’s about all I say about that aspect. Path of Blood clocks in at just over an hour and packs in ample samurai action, so there isn’t a minute wasted here. I had a great time with this one and whether you are a samurai devotee or love unique animation, Path of Blood is a movie you won’t want to miss.