Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #18: Fall From Grace (of 22) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 14, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2002
What They Say
The Christian Saga thunders to a close as the army and Shougo's followers meet on the battlefield. Elsten manages to arrange a truce for one hour, while Kenshin and Shougo fight to decide the outcome for every soldier. Kenshin is still blind from the Rai Ryu Sen, while Shougo was wounded by a bullet in the earlier fighting. Will either Hiten Mitsurugi master be able to pull off the ultimate attack of their style, the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki?
I’ll say it right out. I thought the end to the Christian Arc was far superior to the end of the Kyoto arc. And now, I’ll go in hiding.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The audio track here is basically what we've seen in previous volumes with a good forward soundstage based track with some decent directionality here but nothing going to the rears. Dialogue is nice and clear and we noticed no dropouts or other distortions.
This almost feels like a different show during the first two episodes. The transfer here looks so much sharper than the previous volumes and the colors so much more alive and vibrant, I had to recheck my setup to make sure my two year old didn’t mess with the settings. While there’s still some minor cross coloration and a few instances of aliasing throughout the four episodes here, things just looked much more vivid and alive than the previous discs in this arc did.
Though somewhat dark in the character artwork, this is a good cover in how it’s laid out those represented. It’s got one of those rare pieces of Kenshin and Kaoru actually close to each other and another with Sano and Sayo clinging to each other, while Shougo looks off to the distance. The back cover provides a couple of animation shots and a brief summary of the episodes. Episode titles and numbers are included here s well as the features listing and production credits. The insert provides the shots from the back cover placed underneath the chapter listings for this disc while the reverse side is just adverts.
Continuing the look of this arc, the Meiji menus continue to look good and make good use of the original Japanese cover artwork in them. Using the front cover artwork and overall design, the look here is fantastic with some of the music playing along. Selections are quick to access and moving around is pretty simple as things are logically and consistently laid out.
Two of the consistent extras from this series continue to appear here, with another segment of dub outtakes and a slew of new and interesting liner notes about these episodes and relevant information.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Spoilers ahoy, as we’re talking about the of an arc and want to actually talk about it.
The opening two episodes on this disc deal with the Christian Arc fully, with the first one opening where we left off before, with Misao rushing to the military to get them to stop while Kenshin confronts Shougo himself. Misao finds herself under arrest by those in charge there, not listening to a word she has to say. It’s only the last minute arrival of Elsten that manages to save her. And with his stronger conviction about stopping this after having just left Sayo and Sanosuke, he pushes hard to give Kenshin the time he needs to bring things to a peaceful conclusion.
The time spent with Sanosuke and Sayo, as she breathes her last breaths, is very touching and a great change in the character of Sano from when we first met him way back when at the beginning of the series when he came to kill Kenshin. These scenes with the two of them by the waters edged are played out perfectly, hitting the right heart strings with the right level.
The main crux of things though is the fight between the still blinded Kenshin and Shougo, who intends to win no matter what. Even his death is a victory, as it will lead him into heaven and bring those around him to his cause even more strongly. The sequences with the two of them standing nearly the cliffs edge, with the bright blue sky and the clouds floating by, are just so perfectly choreographed. Both men are fighting so strongly for what they believe in, and both fighting for what they believe to be a good thing, is good storytelling. Rather than the good vs. evil, it’s much more in the grey.
With Shougo fighting for his people, fighting to become what his parents died for, fighting to provide something for those around him, he fits the tragic hero bill to a T. With all that he’s been through, which we seen in brief flashbacks as things rise to a crescendo, and with all that Kenshin’s been through, these two are perfect for bringing a very taut fight sequence off. With both having mastered the same style, as opposed to Shishio just picking it up by watching it, there’s a greater feeling of more on the line here. And when it’s all brought down with just the one final attack, I was glad to see it play out as it did.
With as tense as the first two episode were, the next two that followed the group on their journey back home to Tokyo was perfect. Yeah, it’s comic relief, but it fits this group oh so very well. The first one was a good spot of fun as the group travels through an area close to where Kenshin grew up, and apparently someone has taken to calling himself the Battousai and strikes fear in the hearts of villains in the area. Of course, he’s got no skill and is just doing what he can to earn some coin and feed some refugee kids he’s taking care. Everyone but Kenshin seems upset at the idea, but he ends up liking the man using his name and what he’s doing with it. Of course, things go sour when a traveling swordsman decides to take out the fake Battousai, regardless of whether he’s real or not, so there’s still some good action to be found.
The final episode on the disc is just perfect though and had us laughing out loud through a lot of it. As they continue to travel, they stop over at an inn and celebrate, having good rooms and lots of food and sake. When time comes to pay the bill, they realize that Kenshin lost the money along the way. So they all end up working chores for the owner, cleaning, cooking and more. Kaoru ends up getting out of some of the chores though when a painter whose traveling himself to find out what art means decides that she’s beauty personified and tries to capture her image properly.
This plays out like a typical modern day show such as Love Hina or Hand Maid May, but done in the Kenshin setting, it just proves to be great. Having the three guys rush into the women’s side of the hot spring when they hear screaming and end up catching a good look at Misao and Kaoru, the ending result is great, with Kenshin managing to avoid almost every item thrown at him. Lots of things like that just made this a great way to cap things off.
This was a great disc all told with solid storytelling from the big arc down to the little light fillerish stories. For those who’ve passed on this series after the Kyoto arc, I think you’re missing some great stuff.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner Notes,Dub Outtakes
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)