Rurouni Kenshin OVA Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 18, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2000
NOTE: This is a double-disc review, and contains some decent spoilerage for both those who haven't watched the TV series nor these OAVs.
At last, I finally get a chance to watch and review these. Having only seen the first OAV fansubbed and never getting the chance to read the manga arc, this would be the first time I'd experience what many say far exceeds the TV series, and my first chance at seeing what kind of havoc ADV had done to this set, other than changing its name.
This is a prequel to the TV series, and really shouldn't be watched until one finishes at least the Kyoto arc (at this point, only available fansubbed, though Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend of Kyoto will be available from Media Blasters soon). The story starts off with Hiko finding a young boy named Shinta and deciding to train him in the ways of the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu.
Fast forward approximately a decade and a half. The boy, now named Kenshin, is fighting as an assassin for a group attempting to overthrow the Shogunate. A chance encounter with a target who seems to be fighting for someone other than himself sends Kenshin's life and thoughts into disarray, something that gradually gets worse as he continues. Then a mysterious woman named Tomoe shows up, and her presence helps Kenshin collect himself. However, Tomoe is immediately cast into suspicion as her presence also coincides with the beginning of setups, where it's apparent that someone on the inside has betrayed them. This first disc ends with Kenshin and Tomoe leaving to hide out in the countryside.
The second disc focuses on Kenshin and Tomoe's growing relationship, and particularly how Tomoe sees Kenshin. The characters continually develop, until the traitor(s) are revealed, and Kenshin goes off to fight for the one he realizes he loves.
(Note: Primary listening track is Japanese.)
The good: The Japanese voices are excellent (keep in mind that I'm no Japanese student, though), the music and sound effects are stunning, and just over all the Japanese track is an aural marvel. Some of the English voices are okay, and although I'm sure some people will disagree, Shannon Weaver and Richard Hayworth (from the TV version of Kenshin) sound fairly alike, if the quality of acting is different.
The bad: Someone shoot the dub script writers/director. There are so many changes to the English track that completely change the characterization (e.g. at the end of the series, Kenshin says something to the effect of, "if you don't follow, you will live" in the Japanese version, while he shouts something like "Stand back, or die" in the English version-- it might not seem like a major difference, but it shows a completely different mindset), and much of the philosophy that Kenshin is supposed to learn here and recite in the TV series...just doesn't happen ("The sword is a weapon, swordplay is the art of death" becomes "Go down there, brand yourself a murderer.") They alter the script so much, it isn't funny. Not only that, but names and Japanese terms are mispronounced. Someone lopped off the 'e' in Tomoe's name, and words like "Bakufu" have emphasis on the wrong syllables (Instead of BAkufu, we get baKUfu.) Also particularly strange is the fact that someone translated "Mibu-rou" (Wolves of Mibu) as "Nibu wolves." Both the dub and sub script constantly refer to "Nibu" instead of "Mibu," although in the manga and anime (as well as the Japanese dub track) it's pronounced "Mibu."
The ugly: Most of the English VAs' performances. Not all of them, but most of them.
The good: Spectacular. The video transfer is gorgeous.
The bad: The bar has been raised for other companies.
The ugly: Well, I DO wish they had at least left the original Rurouni Kenshin opening logo instead of using their own Samurai X logo. Or maybe Alternate Angles.
The good: The artwork chosen for the Samurai X covers are done so nicely. (Disagree as you will.) The fact that the cover can be flipped (and should be done so) to get the original Japanese coverwork.
The bad: The text on the backside. Couldn't they go with a more normal font? It'd be much better like that. (At least they remembered to switch "Samurai X" with "Rurouni Kenshin" for the back blurb.)
The ugly: That damn Samurai X logo is everywhere.
The good: Good interface, transitions. All episodes are present and accessible from the first screen.
The bad: The same damn music plays in every menu. Not that it's bad music, but they could've used some other pieces for different sections. Hey, Media Blasters did--you should be able to, too.
The ugly: The X selection cursor on the chapter selection screen.
The good: Actually, there were a decent number of extras, and they were pretty good. Character Intros was a nice idea, giving a profile of some of the people in the cast as well as linking to small clips (either subbed or dubbed) showing what the character is like. Very nice trailer, and the fact that they included notes (historical notes for disc 1, translator's notes for disc 2) is a nice touch.
The bad: The notes scroll Star Wars style, and do so far too quickly. They should've just used menupages instead...would've made it a lot easier to read through.
The ugly: It's the same trailer on both discs, but one ends on the "Rurouni Kenshin" logo and the other on the "Samurai X" logo. Why bother?
Other notes: There are few ways to make this DVD better, but I'll offer some suggestions anyway. One, put all four eps on one DVD. Two, shoot the English dub scriptwriters and just go with Media Blasters' people.
Overall: You have no reason NOT to buy this DVD. Buy it, NOW. Once you do, IMMEDIATELY tear open the packaging and flip the cover. While the clerk's looking on. Observe the reactions. (Mine was applause and a thumbs up.) Then go home, settle down, and enjoy watching the Rurouni Kenshin OAVs. In Japanese, preferably.
Dell Dimension XPS/350 w/RealMagic Hollywood Plus decoder, TBS Montego and Sennheiser HD470 headphones.
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: C-/D(Dub)/
Video Rating: A/A+
Packaging Rating: B-/C(SamX)
Menus Rating: B-/B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)