Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #05: Renegade Samurai (of 22) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 17, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, March 27, 2001



What They Say
On holiday in the countryside, Kenshin and his companions come across a massive European mansion owned by the wealthy Tsukayama family. There, the young master Yutarou searches for a powerful master of swordsmanship to become his teacher. Kenshin, however, does not measure up to Yutarou's idea of a father-figure and the job goes to the giant Raijuuta Isuragi. Raijuuta wastes no time in proving himself to be more than just the average teacher. He's an undefeated manslayer from the Revolution, whose special swordsmanship techniques can cut opponents in half without even touching them. Yutarou trusts his new surrogate father completely, but Raijuuta hasn't forgotten the time of the Revolution just yet. When he uses the Tsukayama fortune to spark a new rebellion, Kenshin and Yahiko must not only stop an all-out war from exploding, they must also protect Yutarou's heart, because he may be losing his father-figure for the second time. Episodes 18-22.

The Review!
With five episodes on this disc, things work out in an interesting way. The opening and ending episodes server as bookends with self-contained stories while the center three provide one nice multi-episode story. Things worked out quite well this way.

Audio:
We listened to the Japanese track for our primary review and had quite the good experience with it. The music comes across really great with some nice separation on the left and right speakers. Dialogue throughout the episodes was solid with some directionality here and there and no dropouts or distortions. The English track was spot checked afterwards and sounded pretty solid with no hollow sound attached to it.

Video:
There's a mixed bag of video quality here, though by posts made in our forum by the studio, it's something that'll be cleared up later while they were experimenting with different encoding styles. The openings and endings to each of the episodes are of VCD quality in many scenes, with artifacting and a generally poor look. However, once you get into the show proper, it's simply great looking. Bright colors, gorgeous looking blue skies and a solid looking transfer. Beyond the opening/ending issue, these five episodes look much better than the previous volumes and give us something to really look forward to with future volumes.

Packaging:
The cover art looks pretty good with varying cast members on it and Kenshin looking all tough in the center. The style of the covers is one I still like a lot, even though others don't. The reverse side gives us a few more animation shots and good summaries of each of the episodes as well as the technical information. The insert provides a nice meshing of the front and back cover along with the episode chapter listings.

Menus:
The menus are pretty straightforward with the episodes available right from the main menu and the various selections below it. Navigation was problem free and access times were pretty decent.

Extras:
The liner notes continue to be a great selling point for this series for us, providing a lot of interesting little tidbits of information along the way that does expand our appreciation for the show. I've loved liner notes since I started buying domestic anime releases in the early 90's and this stuff is just great to have. With a new ending here, we get the new creditless ending as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With a lot of people not caring for episodes prior to the Kyoto arc, I find myself on the opposite end and enjoying a lot of these smaller stories and getting familiar with the country at this time.

The opening episodes brings back Gohei from the earlier episodes, whose now made himself something of a respectable businessman by becoming a realtor of sorts. While out and about town, he finds Yahiko dealing some damage to a crook at one of the restaurants and decides it's time to have revenge. He goes off to hire some powerful goons who are in the area, and sets up a trap to have Kenshin fight them but without his sword, which he tricks Yahiko into stealing.

The episode does a good job of dealing with Yahiko's ego getting a bit big from the crook incident at the beginning as well as his desire to move away from the wooden practice swords and onto a real sword. It also manages to set things up quite well for the three part arc the follows.

The three episode arc follows the gang heading off for a month long vacation in the countryside, visiting some friends. The region is overlooked by a huge mansion where the young master named Yutaro lives. Yutaro's something of a spoiled brat, having lost his parents and growing up with the staff helping him and obeying most of his wishes. It's a fairly typical set up.

Yutaro's meeting with the gang is humorous, with the similar-minded Yahiko and Yutaro butting heads. Kaoru offers to teach some swordsmanship to Yutaro along with Kenshin, but Yutaro doesn't believe Kenshin could be any kind of good swordsman, especially not like his father. Kenshin's appearance once again comes into play.

Yutaro heads out for a horse ride after that, only to be picked on by a couple of thugs. He's quickly saved after master swordsman Raijuta arrives on the scene and kills almost all of the thugs. Yutaro makes Raijuta his teacher and brings him to live in the mansion, having the staff treat him as if Raijuta was his father. The staff are naturally quite dismayed by all of this.

Raijuta's got a scam running though. He's essentially using Yutaro and his property to bring in members of his Shinko School, a group whose against the government and intends to turn this small region into their own mini-kingdom within the country, still believing that the nation cannot be properly unified under the current government.

The members of the Shinko School begin to really fill up the mansion, creating a small army. Kenshin learns of this after trying to talk with Yutaro again, only to end up battling Raijuta and learning of the plans. A near death experience with Yutaro and the two take a few days to recuperate, with Yutaro learning swordsmanship from Kaoru. Of course, it doesn't take long for Kenshin to deal with the Shinko School, something the military intends to do as well.

The final episode of the disc is a bit of old fashioned fun, with the group heading off to Yokohama on the new train that now connects the country together. This is actually a really important part of the changes in Japan during this time, as well as the changes it made in America. The train really brought people a lot closer together and changed the way people lived their lives. Thinking of how the train must have changed Japan is really fascinating, and though not dwelled upon here, lets the imagination run for a bit.

The show is a typical train robbery episode, with a special car filled with gold and a group of robbers who want to get it. It's fun and light episode with some unbelievable moments that just make you laugh. It does have some good moments, such as Kaoru and Sanosuke arguing over whether the train is powered by steam or by an tanooki. Sanosuke also goes on at length about how a photograph will steal his soul and time from his life. I enjoyed this episode a lot for the light elements it brought into play after three fairly serious episodes.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Creditless Closing,Liner notes

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C/A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)