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My average ranking: 6.50

Director Pantheon: Kazuhiro Furuhashi Rating
(Le) Chevalier D'Eon (TV) Decent

A one watch wonder, mainly because, despite gorgeous graphics and appealling characters, the whole thing is dominated by a plot that, while labyrinthine, drives the characters rather than other way round. It's as if D'Eon and his band of musketeers are constantly chasing their tails. It's a sign that a plot is going around in circles when the creators try to spice things up by having one of the characters suddenly reveal their allegiance is the opposite to what had been previously presented. This happens twice with the D'Eons band, and numerous times with the sundry villains and extras. Compare with two other plot heavy anime, Full Metal Alchemist and Gankutsuou, where events are pushed forward relentlessly by the cast. Worth watching for the wonderful images and the final homage to the French revolution.
Rurouni Kenshin (TV) Good

Samurai X rises above its shonen limitations thanks to its many appealing characters whose back stories and motivations drive the various plots, a fascinating historical setting post the Meiji Restoration, and an ongoing examination of the moral dilemma in pursuing peaceful ends through violent action.

As the wandering samurai, Kenshin is a worthy protagonist - smart, thoughtful, humble and optimistic. His allies, particularly Misao and Kaoru of the women and Saito and Hiko of the men, provide equally worthy support plot-wise and entertainment-wise. Few of the villains transcend their shonen tropes, even if they are graced with interesing backstories or tragic flaws. Thankfully Kenshin is such a memorable creation that the lengthy fight scenes are bearable.

Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc (OAV) So-so

This retelling of the Kyoto arc of the manga and TV series through the eyes of one of its most memorable characters, Misao Makimachi, is a disappointment. Attempting to compress 35 episodes into 90 minutes was a foolhardy exercise from the get go. Most of what is great about the arc has gone west: Kenshin’s dignity; the tragic motivations of the various villains; the spunk and clownish behaviour of Misao Makimachi; and even the unforgettable, and highly ironic, reunion of Kenshin and Kaoru in Kyoto. Really, concentrating on a short section of the arc would have made much more sense, in more ways than one. I guess a lot of the disappointment for me comes from Misao Makimachi - my single favourite element of the original arc – being comprehensively sacrificed on the altar of brevity, though she gets a happy ending. In fact, plotwise it departs significantly from the TV series. Thankfully it keeps the central conflict between Kenshin and Shishio.

I suspect this is an OAV that only the initiated can properly enjoy. None of the characters get any backgrounding, nor are their issues explored in any depth. Nevertheless, having a pre-formed knowledge of those backgrounds and issues allows the viewer to enjoy the OAV as a series of tableaux, highlighting key moments of the conflict at the heart of the series. Given that, the otherwise seemingly disconnected events can be enjoyed. And, as a bonus, the artwork is extremely pretty. It also minimises one of the worst things about the TV series – the ridiculous supernatural powers of the various villains. The franchise is always better when it emphasises their human side.

Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection (OAV) So-so

Unfortunately, this OAV will always be compared with its predecessor, Trust and Betrayal and, sadly, will be found wanting. In bringing a conclusion to the life of Kenshin this OAV isn't able to overcome a structural flaw in the story: with Kenshin ill and enfeebled the action sequences are restricted to flashbacks that, necessarily, lack tension because we know they are history. Add to that a final resolution of his love for Kaoru that is melodramatic rather than dramatic and Reflection is, in the end, rather dull. The philosophical ruminations on violence, guilt and love aren't as convincing as those in its predecessor and Kaoru can't match Tomoe in either character or appearance. In fact, despite higher production standards, the visuals and music lack the expressionist power of Trust and Betrayal and, to my great disappointment, this OAV has abandoned one of my favourite aspects of the predecessor - the Japanese eyes. Hey, it's not all bad. Reflection is good to look at at and, in the end, is a serious attempt at doing the near impossible - concluding Kenshin's journey in a satisfying way.
Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal (OAV) Excellent

The shocking but magnificent opening scenes of Trust is the first indication that in these OAVs we are going places that the TV series never dared to. What follows is a bloody but thoughtful rumination on violence and its repercussions... until the climax to Betrayal, that is. The exploration of suffering and redemption is completely undermined by a final showdown with a bunch of fantasy freaks that is downright silly and is reminiscent of the worst shonen elements of the TV series. The fanciful villains are inappropriate for, despite the expressionist artwork, the plot of Trust and Betrayal has a strong sense of realism that sets it apart from the rest of the franchise.
Zipang (TV) Good

When a 21st century Japanese Defence Force AEGIS cruiser, the JDS Mirai, is mysterioulsy transported back to 1942 the Japanese and the Americans as well as the often hapless crew must come to terms with the impact of this formidable weapon on history. It's a preposterous idea, but no more so than other series such as Death Note or Full Metal Alchemist or Mushi-shi, but, once you accept the premise what follows is some of the best story-telling around, accompaned by consistently fine animation. This is a rare beast: anime aimed squarely for adult males that isn't hentai. And that, is also one of its major drawbacks: not fitting within a fashionable genre it is unlikely to appeal to western anime fans. Further, although it takes a consistently condemnatory tone towards Japan's actions in WW2, some people might still draw the mistaken impression that it is merely patriotic recidivism. Zipang is, rather, an historical "what-if" scenario that thoughtfully and intelligently explores what it is to belong to a country caught up in war. What do you do when you are Japanese, you suddenly find yourself in a war where you know your country is in the wrong, where you know the after the Hiroshima your country will prosper, but you know millions will die beforehand, and you know you can change history? Fascinating, no? The battle scene involving the Mirai and the USS Wasp is a highlight - the American dive bombers and torpedo bombers have been rendered almost lovingly, it seems, and the astonishment of both the Americans and Japanese witnessing the event is matched by the anguish of the ship's crew as they find themselves forced to kill to survive. The other major fault with the series is its unresolved conclusion: based on an ongoing manga, it would seem that plans to make another season were never realised. But the journey is worth it.
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