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Anime on DVD: Rurouni Kenshin OVA
Rurouni Kenshin OVA Series "They are afflicted, the times and the minds of man." Hiko Seijuro
The Rurouni Kenshin original animation video (OAV) series, also known as Samurai X, succeeds at combining two basic elements of any entertainment art form: violence and drama. Although where other anime often excel in action scenes but lack in story-telling, or vice-versa, the Kenshin OAVs paint an elegant portrait of love, journey, and sacrifice with a brush dipped in blood.
Within the first 20 minutes of the series, we are confronted with an as yet scar-less Kenshin, red hair flowing as he carries out systematic assassinations in the dark alleyways of Kyoto. Blood splatters onto the sides of buildings like smeared paint while the music pulses with hard drums and melancholy strings. These action scenes are so stylized and beautiful that the violence becomes downright poetic.
Bringing the heart into the story is Tomoe, a young woman who had been engaged to one of the men murdered by Kenshin in Kyoto. The two fall into a sort of co-dependent love, but ties to rival clans will tragically seal the fate of their romance. Upon conclusion of the series, Kenshin is taught a deeply moving lesson: for every act of violence committed against a person, there is another that will suffer as well.
The Kenshin OAV series is on a different level than most anime; noticeable from the way it is animated to the nuances in translation. A degree of care is put into details of water, flowers, and clouds that rival only the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Just as Miyazaki films often emphasize strength in simplicity, the natural elements in the Kenshin OAVs appear with undeniable significance. Also, many terms have been left raw, such as "hara kiri", "ryokan", "sepukku", as well as prefixes, "-ya", "-gumi" and "-tai". Those who have the ability to watch the subtitled version are treated to a certain amount of linguistic realism that is often neglected in translation.
Sometimes, it is hard to justify anime as a legitimate art form. With the market being as diverse as it is now, there are many titles that are simply garbage. Very few stand above the rest as artistic and dramatic benchmarks. The Rurouni Kenshin OAV series is one such title. To watch it is to be in awe; seldom has an anime so flawlessly combined action, romance, tragedy and personal reflection. In ten years, when everyone pines for the "gold old days" of anime and Kenshin is mentioned, don't be left out of the conversation.