Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 20, 2006
Release Date: Thursday, May 15, 2003
What They Say
The peace that exists as a result of his sword brings the master assassin no solace. Known throughout all Japan as the Hitokiri Battousai (sword bearing master assassin), Rurouni Kenshin is now a lost soul cursed to seek atonement for his bloody past. Even the peace that now exists as a result of Kenshin’s sword brings him no solace, driving him to wander far from those he loves. His wife Kaoru, steadfastly awaits his return as she mourns his absence. Will Kenshin come home before she dies of grief?
Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection is the tale of Kaoru waiting for Kenshin to come home. This OVA is done in the same style as the first and attempts to resolve the TV series but it is not everything that fans were probably expecting. While being emotional and exciting it also seems to be a missed opportunity.
The Japanese audio sounds great and all the original actors come back to their roles. Everything sounded clean with the music, dialogue and the sword clashing, which sounded fantastic even on the stereo mix. I did not bother with the dub too much as I am not a fan of most of ADV dubs but I checked the 5.1 version on a few fight scenes and it sounded good
The video on this disc looks gorgeous, there were only a few problems with shimmering that I could see but It did not effect the enjoyment of the show. Colours look bright when they are meant to and the dark blacks of night look wonderful as well. I love the look of this show, thank god for anamorphic transfers.
For the Region 4 release we get the same artwork as the Region 1with the half face of Kenshin that I just love with the logo moved to the side to allow for the OFLC rating. The only thing I don’t like about this cover is the Samurai X title. This was one of the stupidest ideas that Sony came up with and its sad to see that it still haunts us.
The back cover is the same type of half face image but of Kaoru, which I find very haunting, seeing her drawn in the OVA style staring out at you. It also includes a list of the extras as well as the disc information such as 16:9 anamorphic and the different soundtracks (English 5.1 English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0). This (like the Region 1 version) comes in a clear keepcase with a reversible cover featuring a head shot of Kaoru looking rather sick and sad as well as a shot below of her and Kenshin holding hands on the beach. The back cover almost looks like an insert with listings for the other Rurouni Kenshin OVA and the Rurouni Kenshin movie, no mention of the TV series however. Then there are six shots from within the show and a large website address banner at the bottom.
The main menu uses the two halves of the front and back cover put together with some music playing in the background that at first is rather cold but becomes more emotional as it plays. Once again I have to say I love this artwork. There were no problems navigating through the disc and all the menus were fast. My only problem is that the Samurai X logo is used throughout
The Extra on the disc consist of production sketches, a clean closing animation which is basically live action footage of waves rolling onto the beach in a blue night like colour and madman previews. The main extra is the interviews with the Japanese voice cast. There are two sets of interviews one for episode 1 and one for episode 2. Each interview is given its own menu option and music is played in the background. While writing this review I left it running and to my surprise on the second episode interviews I heard Kenshin’s English voice actor say “Goodbye Kaoru…thank you” which was rather sad but a nice touch. With the interviews themselves it is good to put faces to the names I have listened to since I started watching the show back in 2002 as well as hearing their thoughts of Kenshin and the OVA they have worked on. Mayo Suzukaze’s second interview was a highlight for me after I had just finished watching the show and hearing how she feels that this is not the end and Kenshin will always be within her heart.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the end of the Kyoto arc, the TV series had caught up to the manga for Rurouni Kenshin. Because of this the TV series went down a different path that some fans loathe and ultimately caused the show to be cancelled. The manga went onto the Jinchu or revenge arc and for years fans have been asking for the Jinchu arc to be animated. For a time Reflection was thought to be this and it is but only slightly.
Split into two episodes the story picks up fifteen years or more after we last saw Kenshin. Opening with a ship set on stormy seas we find Kenshin rescuing someone from going overboard only to be thrown overboard himself. Meanwhile Kaoru is waiting for his return at the harbour and does this everyday. Kenshin has been away involved in a war, but not to fight instead he went to help the people and treat the wounded. When we are told this we also learn that he is sick and does not believe he has much time left, it also seems that Kaoru is sick as well and suffering from the same disease.
As she walks home we see Tsubame and Yahiko talking about her and that Kenshin will return. It seems that Kaoru and Kenshin have married and have a son named Kenji who has also left to go and learn Hiten Mitsurugi style swordsmanship from Seijuro Hiko. Kenji wants to find out what true strength is and does not seem concerned with his mother illness or the fact his father is away, this is probably because he is use to it. Later Kaoru faints and slips into her memories and flashback to the time when she first met Kenshin and the battles he fought.
The first fight we see is the battle between Kenshin and Jin’e from the TV series reanimated here and it looks fantastic. It expands on what we have seen before and the music that plays throughout is very powerful and heart pumping especially Kenshin's final blow to Jin’e. We then move onto one of my favourite scenes from the TV series, when Kenshin says goodbye to Kaoru and leaves for Kyoto, I loved the original scene and seeing it with a different style was great, so much so I don’t know which version is my favourite any more.
We get to see some quick parts of the Kyoto battles and when Kaoru welcomes Kenshin home as they return to Tokyo. In this version it brings their relationship and love much more to the forefront then it did in the TV series.
Soon the Jinchu part of the story rears its head and Kenshin tells Kaoru of his past and the cross-shaped scar. We see a flash back to the first OVA superimposed over an image of the cup that Seijuro Hiko made for Kaoru, which was wonderful to watch and the music rises to the occasion once again. As Kaoru walks alone trying to make sense of everything and realising that Kenshin ‘s mind is still wandering in his past we see her taken by Enishi Yukishiro which closes out episode one.
Episode two opens up with Kaoru in Enishi mansion, waiting for Kenshin to come and rescue her, we learn more about how Enishi feels and how his grudge against Kenshin has shaped the 10 years since Tomoe’s death. We also see another fantastic fight between Enishi and Kenshin and the resolution that follows with Kenshin ready to accept Jinchu (punishment by a human). While this is what most people wanted to see it is only a tiny bit of the whole Jinchu arc. This is where things start to disappoint.
Sanosuke appears and finds Kenshin who has washed up in China; his look of utter shock and sadness at seeing what has happened to Kenshin is powerful. The problem is that for all the love he has for Kenshin in the end he gets him well and then lets him get back on a ship and sends him home. The Sanosuke from the TV series would never do this, if Kenshin were ill he would have gone with him all the way.
More information is given about the disease that Kaoru and Kenshin are suffering with, Kenshin has been going across japan to help people and somewhere along the road he contracted this disease, Kaoru wanting to share his pain intentionally lets Kenshin infect her. The scenes that follow are very sad but at the same time beautiful as you can feel her love for Kenshin regardless of everything else.
Yahiko was given Kenshin 's reverse blade sword in a coming of age ritual and left on his own adventure, he has returned and after seeing Kaoru decides its time to get Kenji to come home. Yahiko teaches Kenji what true strength is and hands him his father’s sword and thus bringing him home. This fight sequence is my favourite overall, as Kenji finally understands his father.
The ending is something that I want to talk about but this contains major spoilers so I suggest anyone who doesn’t want to know what happens to stop reading now. My main problem with this show is that after all of his battles Kenshin is reduced to a pathetic figure that can hardly move, but worse then this was that they killed Himura Kenshin. The creator Nobuhiro Watsuki has always said that he intended for Kenshin to have a happy ending and this is not it. Instead of animating the last part of the manga and giving the fans what they wanted SME decided to spend most of the time in flashbacks of story we have already seen and then kill him. This was a wasted opportunity, while the show is a well animated sad and emotional story that will move most people it shouldn’t be what was to be the last Kenshin animation.
Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection is sad story of love and longing that despite its flaws and what it could have been is one of my favourites. The music and the animation are so well done that every time I watch a part of it I find myself struggling not to watch the whole thing again. For the fans that despise this there is the manga that Viz is publishing which has just hit the Jinchu arc. For everyone else be prepared to have some tissues ready as you say goodbye to Himura Kenshin and his wife Kaoru Kamiya.
Japanese Stereo 2.0 Soundtrack,English Stereo 2.0 Soundtrack,English Dolby Digital 5.1 Soundtrack,English Subtitles ,Interviews with Japanese vocal cast ,Clean closing animation ,Production sketches
LG 32LX2D 32” HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 4 - Australia / South America
Released By: Madman Entertainment
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)