Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #20: Soulless Knights (of 22) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, August 02, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2002

What They Say
Yutaro Tsukayama, after being wounded by his own teacher during a revolution on the Izu Peninsula, departed for Germany in search of treatment for the tendons in his arm. However, on the day he left, he had promised to return and finish his unfinished duel with Yahiko. Now Yutaro has landed on the Japanese coast once again, rejoining Karou and the others as a member of the Kamiya Kashin style. However, Yutaro is not the only one who has arrived from Germany. A mysterious order of Germanic soldiers has followed him, each skilled in medieval-style melee combat and fighting from horseback. They bring with them a new threat, one Kenshin and Yutaro must prevent at any cost!

The Review!
Soulless Knights kicks off a new arc in the Meiji Tales section of the series, spanning the four episodes here and spilling over into the next disc. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty uninteresting arc.

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.

The transfer for these four episodes is pretty good, mostly comparable to the last volume where the colors look a bit more vivid and things in general look a bit sharper. Cross coloration still creeps in during a few areas as well as the aliasing, but it’s pretty minimal and had little impact on the overall enjoyment of the disc. There’s a bit more of the computer assisted work in here with some of the panning sequences and the layouts, which doesn’t fit that well with the more traditional animation. It’s also very brief, which is a plus.

The cover here is pretty light in tone and has a nice mix of earth tones with it. We get smiling shots of Kenshin, Yahiko and Yutaro as the two younger boys act up with each other. The back cover provides a couple of animation shots and a brief summary of the episodes. Episode titles and numbers are included here as 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.

Essentially using the front cover, the menu here is a nice image with some text moved around and the addition of the selections along the right. There’s music playing along but these are pretty much nice and simple menus. Selections are quick to access and moving around is pretty simple as things are logically and consistently laid out.

There’s a couple of good extras with this release. The main one that helps flesh out the disc is the liner notes which are pages longer than they have been in awhile. There’s another assortment of dub outtakes and the inclusion of a new textless opening since we have a new one with this volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the wrapup of the previous couple of short stories and arcs, the show moves off again into a longer running arc that brings foreigners into the country to try and cause mischief while achieving their own ends. Unfortunately, unlike past adversaries, these are pretty uninteresting.

Life is good around the dojo again, but you know it won’t last. Kaoru and Kenshin return from a day out and about only to find a strange German man there playing shogi with Sanosuke. And Sanosuke continues to get his butt handed to him with each game, even when they later switch to dice. As it turns out, the man is a doctor who had done work on Yutaro’s hand when he had arrived in Germany. The two of them are now back in Japan for undisclosed reasons, but it’s still time to celebrate. Yahiko and Yutaro celebrate properly by sparring with each other in the dojo.

But Doctor Hans isn’t the only German in-country. At the German embassy, the minister there gets a severe change in the order of things when Schneider takes a place within the building and pushes forward his own agenda. Showing a special insignia that the local minister quickly comprehends, he sends everyone out and essentially throws himself on Schneider’s mercy. A quick revelation shows the insignia belonging to the Black Knights, a group spread out from Germany that is essentially similar to the freemasons in their goal and agenda. World domination once again takes the stage in the Kenshin series.

As it turns out, Doctor Hans has something the Black Knights are after. And, going right for the cliché, it is indeed a map that leads to a hidden area where a secret elixir of healing resides that can take care of most of the ills of the world. So we end up going into a pretty standard plot of the Black Knights making an attack on the good doctor, the map falling into Kenshin’s hands and everyone going off to try and solve the mystery, which lets the Black Knights use them to handle all the trouble and let them claim all the glory.

The main thing that changed in these episodes is the inclusion of Misao, with her and the Oniwaban group making their way to the area to investigate a ninja group that’s been changing their tactics. It’s a bit forced, but having the Weasel Girl show up always brings a bit more fun cattiness to the group interplay and synergy.

This arc overall is leaving me pretty uninterested, from the new opening to the ending sequence, I was basically just counting down the minutes until the disc ended, with it being as predictable as it is. Hopefully it finishes quickly in the next disc and we move on to something else.

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

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: D+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)