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REVIEW: Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration GN 1 & 2

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Joined: 21 Feb 2011
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:10 pm Reply with quote
Although it wasn't quite awesome I liked the characterization some guys received. In flashbacks, Saito acts more hilarious when he tries to smoke in the middle of his duel against Kenshin. What Kaoru does in the final chapter sold spoiler[Actually stop Kenshin from killing Jine in her state.] Also, they made Yahiko and Sano less rude but I can't say if that's good or bad. Kenshin is basically the same although Watsuki gave him new techniques. I didn't catch something different about his personality.
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Joined: 25 Sep 2009
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Location: SoCal
PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 2:00 pm Reply with quote
I finally got around to reading Restoration Vol. 2 last night, so this review popped up at the perfect time.

Restoration was an interesting proposition - I kind of viewed it as a manga "tie-in" for the live-action film, and its primary audience those who first came to RK through that movie. Its characters and plot setup were definitely built in tandem with that, though there are divergences - Restoration's version of Jin-e is uniquely unhinged (and, at least for me, didn't work as well in his portrayal as in the original comics or the live-action film).

Having followed Watsuki's various series over time, I think his art style peaked for me around the end of RK's Kyoto Arc and the beginning of the Revenge Arc. Subsequent series have focused on more simplified, more angular designs and straighter, thicker lines. To me, his art now (as in Embalming) looks more "generically shonen" than it did in past works. That said, the first few volumes of the original RK are a stark contrast in the other direction, with poofy hair and less thoughtful use of line weight, with some surprisingly shoujo-esque touches.

Still, by around his first duel with Saito in the manga, Watsuki was already doing phenomenal fight scenes, and some of his battles later in the series are, for what it's worth, my favorite fights in manga. I've never seen a manga artist who conveyed a sense of speed better or more clearly than Watsuki at the height of his game. Which is to say, I disagree with the reviewer in her assessment that Watsuki has gotten a lot better at drawing action scenes over time. I'm sure he's gotten the experience that sheer mileage provides, but action scenes were one of his fortes from fairly early on in his career.

Looking at the portrayals of the characters, I'm a bit torn between two viewpoints. I partly feel that they were "flattened", as is probably inevitable when you aim to reboot a 28-volume work and still give the characters their same essences. However, I also feel that for the purpose of this story, limited in scope as it is, taking the "essential elements" of the characters and trying to convey those is probably the best strategy one could've gone for. I did appreciate how Yahiko was developed out, with his conflict taking into account his family's past, but I thought that delving into Kenshin's personal thoughts was a bit hasty on Watsuki's part. Part of what made Kenshin work in the original is that early on, he's a likeable guy who doesn't do a lot of internal monologueing, but it's obvious there's a lot he's thinking about, so when more pressure is put on him later in the series and he does have those internal monologues - or even discusses specific points of his past with his friends - it comes as very eye-opening, learning little by little about what exactly this guy's past was like and why he was so put-off by killing as to make his vow never to take another life. Hitting some of those beats right at the start felt like it flattened his character, but again, it's a two-volume reboot of just the first arc of the story, so there IS no "later" to hold off further revelations for.

Ultimately, Restoration needs to be looked at as its own work, because compared to the equivalent arc in the original manga, it's just not as good. And if its purpose was to wallpaper over the original manga, I'd call it as such (not to mention, does it imply that, if Watsuki had it to do over, THIS is how he would've made the story go?). But as a "what-if" re-imagining of a familiar scenario and something like a trial version people who became aware of the series through the movie can pick up, it's not bad for what it is. And for anyone who read this but hasn't read the original manga, well, the VizBigs are out, they're great, and hopefully eager readers will ultimately funnel to those.

Last edited by ittoujuu on Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 5:04 pm Reply with quote
It should be noted that Episode 0 is an extra chapter from the original continuity, and is more related to the past story than this remake.

Honestly, I really liked this remake and wasn't looking for something to replace the original, which i still think is one of the best written shonen manga out there (or manga in general). At best this was going to be quirky recap of the original, but I was glad with the departures made which made it interesting and that Jine felt like much more of a threat than he did in the original.

If you read Marvel comics, this comic was essentially Ultimate Rurouni Kenshin- a different story told within the familiar foundations of the original.
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