Rurouni Kenshin OVA Vol. #1 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, May 12, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2000
Rurouni Kenshin was a huge hit in Japan when broadcasted. Some parts of the Rurouni Kenshin OAVs are based on historical Japan. Characters such as Okita of the Shinsen-gumi are based on real characters, and did die of tuberculosis. The first disc consists of the telling of origin of the Hitokiri Battousai since he was a little boy. As the first volume concludes, it set ups a great dramatic ending in the second volume. A must-see for fans of Rurouni Kenshin and of anime.
:: [ Video ] ::
Video transfer is great here. Only some minor spots appear, and colors (especially the blood) are very good. Great video transfer!
:: [ Audio ] ::
Watching Japanese audio/English subtitled is the only way for this anime to be seen as a masterpiece. Great audio, with clean noise and sounds. When the action starts and the music plays, the great audio comes to play. Only thing wrong with the audio is for the dub watchers. The translation is not good at all. The voice of Tomoe is a little too high-pitched and not suited for an emotionless character. This disc has a good audio track if you are not a dub watcher.
:: [ Packaging ] ::
ADV decided to go with a reversible cover which one side has the North Americanized version, Samurai X, while the other kept the original Japanese covers. The only thing wrong if you choose the Japanese side is the back cover color does not match the covers. Also, ADV decided to advertise this as "Samurai X" which made some fans mad. The disc itself has the aforementioned X also.
:: [ Menu ] ::
On the menus, we have a still picture of Kenshin and 'Shades of the Revolution' playing in the background. The menus are fast with a slicing sword cutting across the screen switching through different menus.
:: [ Extras ] ::
A Samurai X trailer included. Nothing extraordinary. Character profiles of all the characters on the first volume. A brief description of them, plus a short video clip of them, in English and Japanese audio. Also included is Historical Background. Scrolling text about the real Tokugawa in historical Japan. Provides some insightful information about what really happened.
:: [ Content ] ::
Other than the same trailers from ADV playing every time I play this disc, little is to be looked down upon here. Though the trailers are of decent series. (BGC 2040, Ninja Resurrection, Blue Seed, Gasaraki, Evangelion) Excluding Ninja Resurrection, of course.
Although released well after the TV series but before the movie, the OAVs are fitting to be watched after the Kyoto Arc. The first volume traces back to Kenshin's origin, including his childhood, learning the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu under Master Hiko Seijuro, his assassin work in the Tokugawa Shogunate and his first love, Tomoe.
In the first episode, the opening scene shows a young boy with a group of traveling mercenaries. On the roadside, they are all attack by bandits. The bandits show no mercy, killing all the women and men. At the end, only three women and a boy are left alive as the bandits finish off. This young boy is supposedly the protection for the women, but in turn, the women protect him. As two of the women beg to spare the child, they are killed instantly with no hesitation. Left with the boy and Kasumi only, the bandits approach them slowly. Katsumi wanted this boy to live, as he is still a child that has not live to see the world, protects him to her death. As the bandit ready his sword to kill the boy, Master Hiko appears, eradicating the bandits along way. Hiko saves the boy and deserts him, thinking he will and have to go on with his life. The evening after, as Hiko is traveling, he approaches a graveyard, with wooden crosses made for the death of the mercenaries and bandits. Hiko goes up to the boy and pours his sake (pronounced sa-kee) as an offering to the passed away. Hiko asks for the boy's name, and he replies Shinta. Hiko decides to make this boy his apprentice for swordsmanship, and renames him Kenshin (Heart of Sword).
The next scene takes place 10 years after, the Bakumatsu is occurring at this time. The Japanese government is in turmoil, with many people trying to overthrown. The first fight we see Kenshin in is against a politician and his two bodyguards. As Kenshin disposes of the first bodyguard and the old politician easily, the other bodyguard puts up a fight. Slicing Kenshin's left cheek in the process, the bodyguard is finally finished off by Kenshin. After the fight, Iizuka cleans up the mess made from the assassination.
A lot of the scenes from the first episode are flashbacks, events that lead up to where Kenshin is. In one of these flashbacks, we see Kenshin and Hiko arguing on a mountain top. Kenshin wants desperately to use his swordsmanship to protect the people who are suffering everyday. Wise and experienced, Hiko tells Kenshin that one man cannot change the world. Kenshin disobeys his Master, and leaves the mountain to protect those in need. Hiko knowing Kenshin is stubborn, leaves him be, and continues on with his life. We learn that after Kenshin leaves, he joins up with Takasugi and his Kihei-tai. Takasugi has an illness called tuberculosis, but is not named in the anime. Katsura, a politician who is planning to overthrow the Shogunate, is in need of an assassin. He visits Takasugi and is surprised by Kenshin's sword strength and chooses him. Knowing Katsura's plan for Kenshin, he makes Katsura never draw his sword again. Kenshin wants to help people, and Katsura's goal is that. Kenshin being only a young man, he learns to kill his enemies with no emotion or regret.
After his first assassination, Kenshin meets Iizuka. Iizuka becomes his only 'friend' and solemnly talks to him. The scene when they are both on the street, we see the Shinsen-gumi, the force on the radical Ishin Shishi side. First Captain Okita and Third Captain Saitoh of the Shinsen-gumi are the main 'villains'. Since both groups are fighting for what they believe in, there are no villains or heroes. On this street, Kenshin also notices a young lady whose perfume is the scent of sweet plums.
Later on, we see Kenshin returning to his inn after another assassination. He is confronted another assassin sent to kill him. Kenshin kills the assassin but with the young lady we saw on the street earlier seeing all of the killing. Kenshin must decide to kill her for seeing this, or letting her live and revealing his secret. The lady who is drunk, suddenly faints into Kenshin's arms and there ends the first episode.
In second episode, the plot continues to develop. Questions about the mysterious girl are answered. First scene we see Kenshin returning to the inn with the fainted girl. Next morning, Katsura visits him telling of the arguments between him and Miyabe. Also, Katsura suspects a spy within the group as only a few know of Kenshin's existence with the attempted assassination. Katsura asks Iizuka to check up on Tomoe, the girl who Kenshin brought to the inn, and see if she is a spy. Iizuka reports she is a wandering girl who lost her family and was sold into prostitution. While at the inn, Tomoe helps the landlady for letting her stay.
We then see several killings of members of the Shinsen-gumi and Captain Okita and Saitoh now realize a highly skilled assassin is in their midst. Another attempted assassination, Iizuka notifies Kenshin he will ask Katsura what to do. Later on, we see Katsura come talk to Tomoe. Katsura wants Tomoe to be a sheath for Kenshin. He wants her to help Kenshin from losing his insanity by killing so many people at such a young age.
Later, Tomoe asks Kenshin to drink sake with her on a night of festival in Kyoto. Meanwhile, ties between Katsura and Miyabe have been cut. Miyabe plans to burn Kyoto to the ground that night, and move the Emperor to Hagi and restore the government there. The Shinsen-gumi is notified of this and plans to kill all those at the meeting. Back to Kenshin, Iizuka tells Tomoe and Kenshin about the events and tells them both to go to the meeting. While the Shinsen-gumi kills all at the meeting, Miyabe commits suicide and Kenshin confronts some members there. As Kenshin is about move Tomoe aside, she clutches his arm, saying she is his sheath and she wants to see his killings with her own eyes. As Kenshin tears through his opponents, he is about to confront Captain Saitoh and some members. As he moves forward, Tomoe holds him, not wanting him to kill anymore. As Kenshin and Tomoe escape, they return to the inn and meet Katsura there. Katsura tells that things are under heavy fire, and that they must leave Kyoto at once. He directs them to Otsu, and to live as man and wife to avoid suspicions. He sends word through Iizuka later. That ends the second episode which sets up the climatic conclusion for the next volume.
Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai X were my first ever anime DVDs. I bought them at the anime exhibition I attended last year. Rurouni Kenshin OAVs is still my all-time favourite. I've watched over ten times, and have not gotten bored one bit. I love the artwork, the story, and the characters compared to the TV series. One of the best romantic/action/historic/drama ever, Rurouni Kenshin belongs in any anime fan's collection. This volume is the beginning to a masterpiece.
27" JVC Television, Pioneer DV-444 Interlaced (Secondary Equipment: Compaq DVD-ROM GD-2000, 17" Color Monitor, Matrox 32mb G400, JBL Pro Speakers, WinDVD 3.0)
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: A
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)