SAMURAI X - REFLECTION: Director's Cut (Mania.com)

By:Troy Roberts
Review Date: Tuesday, January 18, 2005

If you are familiar with the RUROUNI KENSHIN anime series, you should be excited and sad to know that SAMURAI X - REFLECTION is the end of the samurai series. A warning to fans, however: there are many, many spoilers found throughout the DVD, so if you haven't watched most of the series, you may want to hold off on REFLECTION until you see more of it.


For those wondering, RUROUNI KENSHIN (or SAMURAI X, as the movie and OVAs were released in America) takes place in the late 19th century and deals with Himura Kenshin, a legendary hitokiri (or manslayer) who has vowed never to kill again and makes him for his past wrongdoings by helping those in need with his reverse-blade sword.


REFLECTION takes place 15 years after the end of the television series and presents us with a much older Kenshin, one that no longer carries a sword and continues to help people even in his failing health. When Kenshin is asked to go to the continent to help with the conflict, he fails to come back, sending his wife Kaoru into a state of depression; why has Kenshin yet to come back?


Originally, REFLECTION was told throughout two episodes; the director's cut has eliminated the separate episodes, combining the two for a seamless experience. The OVA is, like it says, a reflection on the life of Himura Kenshin; it is mostly told through flashbacks by many of the characters that have known Kenshin throughout the years. We see most of these through his wife Kaoru's point of view, but we also see flashbacks from some of the other characters like Yahiko Myojin and Sanosuke Sagara. There are also some added scenes in the Director's Cut, one involving Kenshin's nemesis Saito Hajime, and the other ones involving Kenshin's marriage.


One big plus that REFLECTION offers is a glimpse into the "true" third season of the anime that never happened; when the third story arc was being written by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the anime was going into its third season. Without the final arc being finished in the manga, the show's producers created "filler" episodes that encompass the third season. The show was soon cancelled due to the bad writing. So, REFLECTION is the only way to see what the real third arc would look like on television (although you can read it in the manga).


The art style is much different than what you will find in the series. The characters are more realistic. The characters are a little darker as well, especially Kenshin; no longer is he the sometimes bumbling samurai with a stupid smile on his face and constantly saying "Oro." He is much more serious in the OVA.


The original Japanese voice cast returns for the OVA, and they do a superb job. Mayo Suzukaze does a wonderful job with the Kenshin character; it is still hard to believe that a female does the lead's voice, but it works so well you normally don't think about it. The English vocal cast isn't actually too bad; I prefer J. Shannon Weaver in the OVA to Richard Hayworth any day.


I'll go ahead and warn you: the entire OVA is very depressing and pretty sad. It is nowhere near as upbeat and funny as the anime series is, and it deals with more serious matters than fans will be used to. Overall, though, while sad and somewhat depressing, SAMURAI X REFLECTION: DIRECTOR'S CUT is a fitting end to one of the best anime series ever made.



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Mania Grade: A
Reviewed Format: DVD
Rated: 17+
Stars: Mayo Suzukaze, Miki Fujitani, Mna Tominaga, Yji Ueda, J. Shannon Weaver, Katherine Catmull
Writers: Nobuhiro Watsuki (manga), Reiko Yoshida
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Original Year of Release: 2001
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Extras: Anamorphic widescreen, Japanese and English languages, English subtitles, Interviews with Japanese Vocal Cast, Clean Open / Close Animation, Production sketches, Commentary with the Voice Actors for Kenshin, Sanosuke and Kaoru, ADV Previews