Rurouni Kenshin: The Motion Picture
DVD: Requiem for the Meiji Restoration Patriots...
A small band of samurai dash through the woods, en route to a house in the middle of a forest. They halt briefly as they approach the dimly-lit mansion. Suddenly, the lights darken and a door opens. Defenders pour out of the house, and the small band charges into overwhelming odds. As samurai battle and die on both sides, a silent red-haired boy with an X-scar on his cheek steps out. Glancing at a dark-haired fighter, they begin a long duel that leads them into a bamboo forest. After numerous passes, the young red-haired boy gains the upper hand and jumps in the air to use gravity to propel him down onto his foe. The other blademaster turns and looks up. He braces himself for the impact, and the katana collide. A tense moment passes, and the dark-haired samurai finally topples, sword broken and gashed down the front. The red-haired youth also receives a wound, but ignores it. As blood as red as his hair pours down his face, he turns and leaves the dueling ground.
Now we jump forward to 1879, the 12th year of the Meiji Era, where Western influence has drastically changed Japan, its people and its culture. Sailors, businessmen, and foreign dignitaries now walk the streets, and traditional Japan is being pushed aside to make room. Amidst all this hustle and bustle is a red-haired man, with an air of honor and quiet patience in this new samurai-less era.
The man is Himura Kenshin, known as the Hitokiri Battousai during the wars that lead to the establishment of the Meiji Government, and the abolition of the Shogunate ways. He and his friends Sanosuke the Gangster, Yahiko, and Lady Kaoru, are on a train to Yokohama to see the new Western houses and styles. Of course, not all changes are pleasant, as a group of off-duty sailors try to take advantage of a young woman named Toki. A lone samurai steps out of the crowd and prepares to fight the ruffians. Kaoru assists Toki to escape, while Kenshin ensures no foul play interrupts the duel. Before things can really get underway, however, the local police race in to break up the fight.. Kenshin and the samurai (known as Shigure) escape, and as the first hints about Shigure's past are revealed, the intrigue and suspense begins..
ADV's usual DVD quality seems to have slipped slightly in this release, as both audio and video suffer slightly from minor problems. Additionally, the menus (although animated) are subdued both in color and content. On the upside, these menus load and transition without any delay.
The video is pretty clear, with rich and vibrant colors throughout. A few video artifacts are present throughout the disc, but these appear to be few in number, hardly noticable under normal circumstances. The disc contains the 1:1.85 widescreen edition of the movie, and the subtitles primarily use the black letterbox bar underneath the movie, off of the movie itself.
Overall the English dub isn't up to my usual expectation from ADV. Some of the voice actors have difficulty portraying their characters, and the script doesn't help much. The English dub script and the subtitled script differ drastically at certain times, altering many motivations behind important plot points. One low point of the dub is the inability of various characters to pronounce their own Emperor's name correctly! Meiji is pronounced "May-Gee" or "Meh-Gee", and is definately not pronounced "Mee-Gee". The dub isn't all bad, however; Shigure's English performance is solid and profound while remaining very much "in character" as a remorseful, poetic samurai.
Unfortunately, ADV's dub scriptwriters took great liberties to "smooth away" any uncertain motivations for characters. In the dub, vengence is the primary motivation for Shigure. His compatriots follow and believe in him because of his plans. Victory and the formation of a new government are important factors that tie his band of ronin together. The subtitled version boasts a much less clear-cut motivation. Shigure is no longer a man of vengence, merely one who wishes to honor his lost friend and comerade. His samurai followers believe in him not because of his high hopes, but because of his honor, and his belief that justice will be served by the actions he takes.
All-in-all, Samurai X: The Motion Picture is a good title to watch. If you like samurai action, coupled with political drama and an accurate subtitle track, then take this DVD for a spin. You won't be disappointed.
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