Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #08: Ice Blue Eyes (of 22) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2001

What They Say
As the ambitious Shishio circles Japan in flames, Kenshin is forced to leave behind everything he loves and become a wanderer once again. After joining forces with Misao Makimachi a young Ninja and member of the Oniwaban group, Kenshin comes across a rural area that has already fallen into Shishio’s grip.
The new villain controls the villages with public executions and random acts of terror, while Kenshin finds himself drawn closer and closer to the true heart of darkness. As he faces off with Shishio and the boy assassin Soujiro, another opponent reappears after a long absence. It’s a relentless warrior with a heart of ice and no hopes or dreams other than to defeat Kenshin!

Contains episodes 32-35.

The Review!
While not overly subtle, the pieces to the puzzle are being moved around the board here fairly openly. Kenshin's trip to Kyoto along the Tokaido road is one that's pretty interesting, and one that introduces a surprisingly bubbly new character.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. While the shows soundtrack wasn't quite as impressive as the last volume, it was definitely above the early volumes. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no noticeable dropouts or other distortions. The music is the real beneficiary here, notably the ending song that just sounds fantastic. Sound effects make good use of the forward soundstage, giving various techniques a very strong presence.

If anything, the video here manages to get a few hairs better than the previous volume. Rainbows continue to be practically non-existent throughout the show proper, the blue night time skies hold together well for most of the show and the colors in general are very solid. There are only random flickers here and there where some color banding is apparent or the night skies don't hold together, mostly towards the end episodes. Some of the softer colors, such as the yellow and purples of Karou's kimono look great.

While not as dark as the previous volume, there's a somber edge to most of the cast on the cover. The only happy one appears to be Misao, which fits in perfectly with the feel of these episodes. The back cover has a nice simple layout with a couple of good looking images, a good summary of the episodes as well as the episode numbers and titles, always a big plus in my book. The special features are also nicely separated and listed at the bottom, along with all the technical things I like to see. The insert has the same images from the back cover displayed here, along with the episodes and their respective chapters. The disc itself is silkscreened with the female portion of the front cover, which looks really nice.

The menu system continues the new style set forth in the seventh volume. A black/red style from the cover is used here, with another Japanese styled layout for borders and lettering. The effect is definitely in tone with the show, and after having consistent menus for the first six volumes, this is a nice change for this arc. If there's one thing I didn't particularly care for, it's the dialogue section that comes up before the menu loads, since it's in English only. While the Japanese language fan community is small, there's no need to beat them over the head with an English bit. Menus that don't use vocals from the shows always work better in keeping everyone happy.

The extras are a bit slim this time around, which isn't too surprising. The main attraction again for me is the liner notes, detailing parts of the historical aspects of the show as well as other little treasures. There's also a two minute clip of various dub outtakes, with some much funnier than others, at least depending on what you find funny. I'm glad these are still being included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Where to even begin.

With Kenshin now on the Tokaido road (something I'm glad I saw some background about on the History Channel recently) on his way towards Kyoto, those who've remained behind are dealing with their frustration in different ways. Sanosuke is throwing tantrums all over town and just kicking and breaking things (much to the dismay of the poor girls at the Akabeko). Megumi is throwing herself mostly into her work. The children cry and plead for Kenshin to return. Kaoru simply lays in bed, vacant eyes staring at her hands, not knowing what to do.

And lurking in the background all this time is Saito, with the composed little half smirk of his, watching them all try to figure out what to do. When Sanosuke decides that he's going to Kyoto to confront Kenshin, since Kenshin had promised him he'd never wander again, Saito tries to beat him down through humiliation in a "fair" fist fight, to convince him that he'd only be a weakness that Kenshin would have to defend against.

A similar story goes on in the dojo, with Kaoru and Megumi verbally sparring about their relationship with Kenshin, and why neither of them is doing anything, and why they should, but for vastly different reasons. This encounter is a real wake-up call for Kaoru, but I had hoped it would go on a bit longer before she came to her realization. The flashback to the moment when Kenshin told her goodbye was still very powerful, and her inaction from it was very true to her character, and to the subtle relationship that the two of them had been forming over the past year.

Where the majority of the episodes focus though is on Kenshin and his journey along the Tokaido to Kyoto. His persona is still a slight mix of the Battousai into his wanderer personality, as he openly wears his sword which keeps people away from him. His expression falls under the dark and determined area, which also keeps fellow travelers along the road away from him. Knowing that the Shishio obviously know about him, and are either likely following him now and/or planning their own traps, it's the best way to keep everyone safe.

Well, except for that one cop that chases him all over the place, which proves that the humor is definitely not gone from the series.

Along the way, the various little hotels and other areas that have sprung up along the Tokaido all try to get Kenshin to spend the night in their place. When they take a closer look at him, and notice how shoddy his clothing is, they write him off as a poor traveler and move on to their next mark. During one of these nights, Kenshin, now somewhat down about this particular turn of events, sits under the night sky with his small campfire and tries to mentally readjust to life on the road.

It's at this point that our new character is introduced. A young girl in her mid teens, who lured a group of thieves out into the woods so she could steal the money they just stole. Her skills are pretty decent and her looks work nicely, though the men leave her when they realize she's essentially just a kid. She starts to take them on to get the money, at which point Kenshin's wandering into the scene brings more attacks and some interesting verbal and physical sparring on Kenshin and the young girls part.

After settling the fight, the girl decides to follow Kenshin for awhile since they're traveling in the same direction. We eventually learn that her name is Misao (which according to my dictionary can mean chastity; fidelity; honour; faith), which I have to admit is just exceptionally cute. She's the complete opposite of Kenshin in being very much a talkative person, but one at the beginning of her career and life (and Kenshin does his best to sway her away from the life of a thief).

Misao talks repeatedly about being left with a caretaker by the man whom she had traveled with. Though it becomes obvious to the audience first and eventually to Kenshin, it's learned that she was part of Aoshi's Oniwaban group and was left behind when she was much younger so she wouldn't be harmed during the revolution. This brings a very interesting bit of fear to Kenshin's face and movements when he realizes it, as well as how he should handle the situation with Misao in whether he should tell her who he really is and what has happened to the Oniwaban group.

There's definitely a lot more than this going on in here, and it's pretty much all good. The characters are rapidly evolving now while building off of what we've learned from them as opposed to just going in a weird direction that makes no sense. The pushes by Saito continue to get interesting, and the glimpses of Shishio and his group hint at a lot of dark things to come, especially as we learn some of what has gone on between him and the government.

So far the Kyoto arc is shaping up very nicely. Very recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner Notes,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
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: A-
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)