The Film: 4/5
“You have chosen the path of blood!” yells the mysterious and mythical master. Samurai film fans will probably feel like that bears at least a somewhat passing resemblance to lines of dialog they’ve heard before and with good reason. Director/Animator Eric Powers set out to make a love letter to a genre he obviously loves and I’d say he succeeded. Sparse but never wasted dialog from easily recognizable character archetypes immerse you in the journey of Kazuo, the wanderer. A Ronin, or masterless samurai, who won’t hesitate to test his strength against anyone or anything. His path is as fluid as the wind, but always filled with purpose. The individuals he meets along the way, be they eager student, budding ally or dangerous foe all bring him somewhere new. Sometimes new is prosperous…and sometimes new is perilous.
Filled with more gore than anyone probably thought possible from paper cut stop motion animation, the attention to detail is impressive and truly was a labor of love. From foliage floating on the breeze to beads of sweat to eyes plucked from sockets, equal parts beautiful as it is gruesome, this should easily satisfy anyone with a bloodlust that isn’t looking to go the traditional route. Samurai tropes aplenty as the story unfolds and you follow Kazuo, not necessarily because he’s a hero, his attitude is less do gooder and more begrudgingly honorable as he tries to lose a young boy all too eager to learn swordplay or prods an elderly man in a sake bar for information that might lead him to make some money. Never hesitant to put his sword into the papery flesh of anyone unfortunate enough to try him. Ninjas, booby traps and a freaky dream involving a snow white dog with bleeding eyes await you on…the path of blood.
The only audio option available is Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with non-removable English subtitles, but it comes in crisp and clear both for the dialog and the very above average score. The subtitles appear as accurate as possible as the film was originally written in English, translated to Japanese and then dialog was re-edited to suit the actual Japanese translation. The video is presented in High Definition 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and looks as clear and detailed as anyone could ask for given the animation style. Lines and details show through perfectly.
A making of featurette is provided that’s somewhat informative, mostly for anyone rather unfamiliar with the animation style, which is completely provided by the director. I’d guess had he let someone else maybe watch the film and figure out some questions they’d like answered this could have filled out a bit more but as it stands it’s certainly worth the watch. The original short film that spurred the impetus for this feature length movie is provided and it’s neat to see how far Mr. Power was able to develop his skills and style between the two. Beyond those are a couple of trailers and a photo gallery.
Path of Blood should be an easy addition to any samurai film fan’s collection. It’s a nice change of pace given the animation style and has definite rewatch potential. The amount of labor given to this alone should be enough to warrant a watch from just about anyone and it’s this reviewer’s opinion that anyone who doesn’t easily missing out on something pretty special. I highly doubt paper cut stop motion animation samurai films, especially made with this much care for the samurai genre, are going to start dropping out of the sky weekly after this, so get on it.