Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
With Shishio finally defeated, Kenshin and friends make their way back to Misao's place for a little rest and relaxation after a hard-won battle. Meanwhile, dark forces are gathering elsewhere, and Enishi, a figure from Kenshin's shrouded, blood-soaked past, emerges from the shadows to declare war on Kenshin!
Volume 18 of the Rurouni Kenshin manga represents a major turning point for the series, and it's one fans of the anime series who haven't been keeping up need to read. Basically, this is the final volume of the Kyoto arc where Kenshin and his buddies head back to Tokyo after bidding Misao a fond farewell. In the anime series, this is where the show jumped the shark and started plotlines about crazy Christians with blinding powers and germans with tin ears and whatnot (not to mention that episode where Sano finds that treasure-hunting dog). In the manga, volume 18 starts a storyline that will be all-new to anime and manga fans alike: the Enishi arc, the gripping (but still kinda silly) revenge tale of Kenshin's deceased fiancée's brother coming back for vengeance.
The first half or so of this book is basically the slow part at the end of the Kyoto arc where they spend a chapter or two talking about going home and getting settled, and it's a nice breather between the relentless action of the Shishio battle. Watsuki's gorgeous visuals never fail to please; he's one of the few shonen artists who are just as good at rendering scenes of idyllic bliss as they are at drawing exciting action panels, and these scenes are no different. The storyline really heats up, however, when Enishi shows up, and he starts gathering an all-new army of villainous circus freaks to take Kenshin down. Yeah, we've kinda seen this before, but people have talked about this storyline for years and it's finally in America where everyone can read it.
That said, the road this new storyline is going down has already started to get a little ridiculous. The first of Enishi's henchmen is a gigantic grinning dude with a cannon for an arm a'la half the bad guys in Trigun, and he fires a colossal warning shot over Tokyo to let Kenshin know that something's afoot. If the crazy, bizarre villains in the Kyoto arc (like the flying bat-guy with dynamite wings) didn't turn you off, these won't bother you, but anyone who giggled will probably be rolling their eyes at some of these new ones. Don't expect great literature, but it's fun enough.
What makes this volume so special is that if you only ever saw the show and didn't want to read through 17 volumes of a story you've seen before, you can pick it up here and not miss a single beat. Odds are the artwork – which still shines really well, even this late in the series – will strike any anime fan as being superior to the anime, if only for the consistency in the character design. The story is executed better as well, for the most part.
Viz's translation remains competent and serviceable; the font they're using looks like it's been bolded and the text seems a little large, as though they'd designed this book to be read by senior citizens, which is interesting. Overall, if you've been following the series, there's no reason to stop now just because the universally accepted “best part,” the Kyoto arc, is over. While it might seem a little like more of the same over-the-top silliness, the Enishi arc certainly has promise. At least, there'll probably be some cool fight scenes. What more can we ask for?
Story : B
Art : A
+ Great art, beloved characters, better than anime anime
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