Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #22: End Song (of 22) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, October 03, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2002
What They Say
As the end of Kenshin's legend draws near, the scarred swordsman meets an opponent like none other. Saeki Mizu is a master of Feng Shui, a mysterious form of Chinese astrology that prevents him from ever being defeated by a sword!
During the time of the Tokugawa, there were two competing families who taught the art of Feng Shui, the Kaze and the Mizu families. Before the slighted Mizu family topples the Meiji government, Kenshin must join forces with Jinpu Kaze, whose family knowledge is the only defense against his attackers.
The journey has indeed finally come to an end, and like most who?ve gone through the entire series from start to finish, it does indeed feel strange knowing that the television run of this show is complete.
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.
The cover here is a is a solid piece that features the three main characters that are dealing with the final four episode arc, with Kenshin getting the full color artwork. 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.
The last round of extras here are pretty much the same as the past couple of volumes. There?s a couple minutes worth of mediocre dub outtakes and then there?s several pages worth of very useful liner notes to deal with all the Feng Shui dialogue throughout this disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final volume of Kenshin manages, after the last couple of discs of very poor episodes, to provide a series of four episodes in one overall arc that was quite enjoyable and allowed Kenshin to share the center stage with another character nicely, while still keeping him as a key component to the plot. And while I generally dislike Feng Shui storylines since they lack something that gets me involved in them, this was a well done arc overall.
The story premise is in the end similar to Kenshin himself. We get a history lesson of how back in the day when Tokugawa was given Edo, he set about with the Feng Shui masters to create masterful control points of chi energy throughout the area, as it was a rich fountain of such things. With numerous triangles set up throughout via temples and other areas, set into pentagrams, Edo aka Tokyo was tightly controlled but full of force. The primary movers behind the masters at the time was the Wind Clan. The Water Clan ended up causing several problems though that brought the two into conflict. One rather nasty battle towards the end of the completion of the Circle of Eternity caused a vicious defeat for the Water Clan, to the point where they simply disappeared.
But now, years and years after the end of the Tokugawa period, they?ve come back to wrest control of the Circle of Eternity by destroying key points and then ?juicing up? one of the dragons so that they can bend it to their will. That alone goes against the principles of Feng Shui, where you?re supposed to bend with nature and its energies. One of the last masters of the Wind Clan has come to Tokyo to deal with the problem, and Kenshin and friends get involved when it turns out that one of the areas that needs to be dealt with to destroy the Circle of Eternity is the Kamiya dojo. That?s just a minor point though, as the Water Clan takes it out easily and we move on to the larger picture.
The larger picture brings in more of the Water Clan members and various political and business forces that are working towards their control of taking over the forces underneath and throughout Tokyo. But their overall goal is to control the entire nation, as we see how they were involved in various incidents with such power lines throughout China over the past several years. Things begin to evolve as the police get more involved and the trail to discover who the leader is grows. All the while, Kenshin and the Wind Clan master work together to bring down this last threat from the Tokugawa era. Both of them are characters that no long really needed in this time for going forward, but just for cleaning up problems from the past.
The animation for these episodes plays out much better than the last couple of arcs as well. It?s almost like all of a sudden, the crew revived and put their energy back into it. They also pulled off some really neat things with the final episode, the unaired 95th one. This episode is primarily a character driven one where everyone just has a day in their life while Kenshin and Kaoru go off to visit a grave. The animators blended in or simply used outright a large number of real photos and shots, mixed with animation in some but not others. It?s similar to one of the endings earlier in the series. The mixture of these two styles often doesn?t work, but comes across rather well here. There?s a gorgeous sequence of Kenshin and Kaoru on the beach about halfway through, with the waves crashing against the shore as the two walk along. The episode itself doesn?t really settle anything, but it lays out the further groundwork of where you expect various relationships to go. It?s really the best way to send off a series who hasn?t ended its manga run yet.
With this final volume, a serious round of congratulations must be given to Media Blasters for this series release. With all the uproar and hoopla that came out during its planning phase, from release schedule to episodes per disc, they did a bloody amazing job. Let me present two statistics here:
Rurouni Kenshin aired in Japan from January 10, 1996 - September 8, 1998. Or roughly over 32 months, with some breaks I?m sure.
Rurouni Kenshin was released on DVD in the US from July 25, 2000 - September 24, 2002. Or roughly 27 months, with some months where we got two discs and others we waited two months between.
I can?t think of any other release that has mirrored that kind of aggressive release style of that many episodes that needed to be done from scratch and bilingual. Once they got in their groove and mastered their DVD authoring, they kicked some serious ass. At this point in time, they?re the only company I would want to have a long series to release in their hands. I?m very pleased to finally have the entire TV series in my collection without having it been relegated to crappy fifth generation VHS tapes. For that alone, I?ll be grateful to Media Blasters for a long, long time.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes,Liner Notes
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.
Mania Grade: B+
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
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)