Reviewby Bamboo Dong
Rurouni Kenshin OAV
During the second half of the 19th century, a new era dawned over Japan. The events leading up to this new empire, however, were dark, filled with rains of terror, torrents of pain, and showers of blood. This was the start of the Meiji Restoration. Amidst the chaos were the Shinsen Gumi, and the Ishin Shishi, a small band of soldiers trying to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioko-hen (Reminiscence) also known as the Rurouni Kenshin OVA series, is the prequel to the Kenshin TV series. It portrays the events of the Meiji Restoration, and the life of a young orphan named Shinta. After the group he is traveling with is attacked, he is taken in by master swordsman Seijuro Hiko, who teaches him the sword technique Hiten Mitsurugi, and gives him his new name, Kenshin. Kenshin later decides to leave his master, becoming the hitokiri (assassin) for the Ishin Shishi. The four episode series follows Kenshin through his tumultuous existence as a hitokiri, and shows his relationship with an enigmatic woman named Tomoe, whose connection to Kenshin's past is both horrendous and shocking. This powerful series details Kenshin's youth, even exposing the background behind his infamous scar.
The Rurouni Kenshin OVA series is one of the only series that will make Kenshin fanatics grudgingly admit is better than the TV series. Taking place roughly eleven years before the events in the TV series, it answers many questions about Kenshin's past, such as how he met his master, his involvement in the war, and how he got his scar. People expecting light-hearted, slapstick comedy like in the series will be surprised by the seriousness and reality in this new series. With scenes from the OVA appearing periodically in the Tokyo Arc of the TV series, it is fascinating to watch how events in his childhood trigger his later life.
Some of the Japanese voice actors for the series appear again to voice the characters for the OVA. They deliver their lines with true emotion, making the viewer feel as though the characters really did exist in life. However, coming from a fan that has watched the entire Kenshin series subbed, the dub track was a different story. The English script was off, even during the moments when a voice was narrating and it was unnecessary to match the character's lips. The English voice actors were emotionless, and Kenshin's dull voice grated on my auditory nerves. The only English voice that I particularly liked was Hiko, whose deep voice provided a nice touch as he contemplated over human existence. Also, at the beginnings of the episodes, ADV overlaid the episode titles with English. Normally I wouldn't mind it so much, but the font they used was hideous, hard to read, and distracted the viewer's attention from everything else around it. Despite that, ADV did a relatively good job with the series, providing accurate translations, and crisp picture quality.
The artwork for the series is amazing. The animation is extremely fluid, and the different character designs provide a realistic and moody effect. Oftentimes, real camera shots are blended into the animation, and the detailed backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. Strong symbolism is laced into the series, providing depth, insight, and harsh irony for the storyline. Almost everything in the series has a deeper meaning, and nothing extraneous is left in the scene that does not need to be there. The soundtrack for the OVA is filled with beautiful instrumental tracks that help create a serious setting. Fitting perfectly with the dark overtones of the series, the hauntingly gorgeous music adds the finishing touch, bringing the reader into the scenes as Kenshin struggles with his inner emotions.
Containing two episodes per DVD, ADV did a rather good job with the OVAs. Each DVD comes with a reversible slip cover, allowing you to choose between the Samurai X cover as seen on the dubbed VHS, and the traditional Rurouni Kenshin logo as seen on the subtitled VHS. The extras on the DVDs include historical background on the Meiji Restoration, character introductions, and trailers for other ADV series, including the original trailer for the OVA. Although the extras are a bit scant on each individual disc, the breathless affect of the series more than makes up for it.
No matter what kind of anime you watch, you will benefit from watching this series. Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuioku Hen is a masterpiece, with dramatic visuals and beautiful animation. Pick it up; I promise that you won't regret it.
Overall : A
+ Fluid animation, beautiful music, stunning overall experience
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