Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #09: Heart of the Sword (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2001
We are now into the third volume of the Kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin. After a promising start and a backsliding second entry, I'm pleased to announce that this volume surpasses every prior disc. Looks like the fans were right; this is some good $#!+.
The menus on this volume are pretty much identical to Volumes 7 and 8. They are fast, crisp, and have varied music that I actually enjoyed sitting through. The extras include the now standard liner notes, with plenty of meaty information. We also get outtakes, which this time around tend to be mostly of the mumbling type, although we do get a good one from David Lucas (Shishio) which I won't spoil for you. Also included is the creditless closing for the new ending animation (beginning with ep. 39). Unfortunately, we don't get the new opening animation in creditless form. It's a shame, because it showcases all the new characters we'll meet, as well as all the ones we've come to know. And wait until you see that last character, walking down the bridge... those who have seen the OVAs will heavily anticipate his return to the forefront.
While I would ordinarily keep this a content-focused review, I feel I must point out that while for the most part the video quality was great, there were many instances where patches flashed across the screen. I don't think it was a scratch on the disc... perhaps it's due to the subtitles, or just an encoding problem.
Content? Best disc ever, man. What do you want? You want long drawn out fights where we see Kenshin match wits with his enemies? Got 'em. You want quick fights where the outcome is decided with the first strike? Got 'em. Want comedy? For the first time, we get an actually funny character in Okina, the borderline-senile Oniwaban leader. Thankfully there are fewer of the big-headed shouting/embarrassed caricatures (although they aren't gone completely). Want Zen Buddhism and mysticism? You're in luck! Want Ben Kenobi-esque ghostly apparitions, spouting advice on where you should go and what you should do? Battin' 1,000! You want annoying voices? How about a Texas accent? Got that too! How about new opening and closing animations and songs? For Chris' sake, you even get characters from other anime series! (Vash the Stampede shows up!)
Things start off right where they left off. Kenshin and Saito confront Shishio in a remote village. Soujiro greets them at the door and they take a few minutes exchanging pleasantries and discussing plans for the domination of Japan. Shishio calmly reclines, with a 10" pipe and his best woman at his side (Ah, memories...), and has his henchman Senkaku fight Kenshin so Shishio can observe Kenshin's techniques. Kenshin outfoxes Shishio's cunning plan by constantly running away, however. Meanwhile, Misao and Eiji try to break into the complex so Eiji can wreak his revenge.
Kenshin bests Senkaku, but in so doing demonstrates one of his techniques. Shishio is unimpressed with Kenshin's no-killing adaptations of formerly mortal blows, and gives Soujiro clean up duty as he and his woman leave for Kyoto to prepare to take over the world. Soujiro and Kenshin square off, but apparently Soujiro's complete lack of intent forces Kenshin to make the first move. Shishio describes what is going to happen in the fight to his woman while riding off on a horse. The two both adopt a battoujutsu stance, and draw at the same time, ruining both swords. Soujiro leaves and catches up with Shishio.
Meanwhile, Eiji contemplates his need for revenge on the now-unconscious Senkaku. Of course, in the end, he doesn't kill him (we get a few humorous comments from Saito about the fate that lies in store for him). Saito, not wanting to take the little bastard with them to Kyoto, offers to leave the kid with his wife Tokio (about which the very mention of her existence brings some humorous responses from Misao and Kenshin). Thus, Saito and Eiji go one way, and Misao and Kenshin continue on to Kyoto.
The next episode catches us up with Sanosuke, who we last saw beating up the local flora a few episodes back. Lost and low on food, Sano happens upon a fallen monk, Anji, who is training himself in the middle of the woods. Anji has developed a special technique. You know, fer killin' things real good. Sano asks for Anji to teach him this special technique. Anji eventually consents, after agreeing that if Sano should fail to learn the technique in seven day's time, he will be destroyed. Sanosuke trains long and hard, but only after conversing with the ghost of Captain Sagara on the eve of the deadline does he master the technique. Anji and Sanosuke part as friends, but just like a M. Night Shyamalan movie, it ends with a twist.
We also catch a few minutes of Yahiko and Kaoru practicing on a ship bound for Kyoto. Just so we know the storyteller hasn't forgotten about them.
In the final episode on this volume, which features new opening and closing animations and songs, Kenshin finally arrives in Kyoto. He moves in with Misao's "grandfather", Okina. Okina offers to help Kenshin prepare for his fight with Shishio. The first order of business is to contact two people: one is the swordsmith responsible for building the sakabatou, for the purpose of obtaining a new one. The other I'll let you find out (He doesn't appear in this episode anyway). Kenshin and Okina visit the now-deceased swordsmith's son. Now a pacifist, he will not agree to build a new sword (due to listening to too many lectures by Miss Relena, no doubt). He later mentions to his wife a final sword made by his father before he passed away. This tidbit is overheard by Shishio's spies. When repeated to Shishio, Vash the Stampede, now apparently in the employ of the Juppongatana, decides to fetch this sword (he calls himself Chou the Swordhunter for some reason. But don't be fooled... big red trenchcoat, brown leather straps, tall pointy blond hair... It's the humanoid typhoon alright.) Vash visits the swordsmith and terrorizes his son until they reveal the location of the sword. Misao overhears, and sends a message to Okina and Kenshin. Kenshin reaches the temple where the sword resides before Vash, and the two face off. Ordinarily we'd have to wait until the next episode to see the fight, but luckily the animation is included in the new version of the closing credits, so at least we get a good preview of what's to come.
Thus ends volume 9. Now, we wait for Disc 10!
These episodes are, I say again, excellent. I'm not even going to bother comparing it to previous volumes. It belongs on your shelf and in your player, NOW.
Bottom Line: Why are you still reading this?
Sony PlayStation 2, 27" Sony WEGA FS12, Sony MHC-M630AV Sound System
Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: N/A
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: N/A
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)