Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #22: End Song (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, November 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, September 24, 2002
At long last, we've come to the end of Rurouni Kenshin's TV run. Is the last volume worth the purchase?
If you just want the answer to that question, then let me get it out of the way: Yes - by all means, go out and buy it.
If you want to find out a little more, please, read on.
Menus: The menus for Rurouni Kenshin have been consistently good. They have not been spectacular (no animations, music on only some screens), but in the end, they were nothing to complain about, and at the very least they were consistent.
Packaging: As an individual volume this cover ranks among the better ones: the burnt red color is pleasant, while the layout with Kenshin in the foreground and Rei-sui on the left in blue and Jinpu on the right in purple makes for a striking cover. As the last four episodes of the TV series deals with these characters, I suppose it is appropriate, but as the last volume in the series I was also hoping for something with a little more finality (e.g., a group shot). Still, it is a good cover, and with the promise of BOXES coming next year, they have another (better) opportunity for a group shot.
Extras: Liner notes and outtakes. The liner notes are pretty detailed, containing many terms regarding the government and mysticism. The outtakes are about average length - and there is a sandwich comment.
Video: Looks good. Also looks like they put the layer transition in the middle of a scene where Sano rides his horse across a plain. Dammit!
Audio: Great. For these episodes they have drawn from the entire library of Kenshin music, and pull out several older themes I haven't heard in a while. Nice to get some other BGM in rotation. The voice acting (dub) is also great, as we've come to expect from the main cast, but here the supporting characters, especially Jinpu, Rei-sui, and Inspector Kawaji deliver solid performances (although I wasn't too keen on the sound of Kawaji's voice, the acting was good.)
Content: After crapping out with the German Arc, I was in serious doubt as to whether the series could pull off ending on a better note. Fortunately, the Feng Shui arc, while a departure in a sense due to its heavy reliance on mystic powers, is a surprisingly well written and engaging story. To top it all off, we get the unaired final episode, featuring a "day in the life" story involving all of the regulars. But first things first.
Things start where they left off, with Jinpu coming to the rescue of Kenshin and Company, who were facing Shiki ("spell creatures" - those bums who attacked everyone with rulers) at the Akabeka. While this set-up made it look like everything was going the way of the German arc, thankfully things cleared up while retaining the suspense. Jinpu relates the nature of the danger Tokyo is facing, and requests Kenshin's help in stopping Rei-sui in his plans to direct the negative flow of energy in Japan into the center of Tokyo.
The targets and purpose of the Water clan is slowly revealed, through the investigations of both Inspector Kawaji and Tsunan Tsukioka. Kaoru is injured by Rei-sui with a mystical wound, but Jinpu and Kenshin are able to retrieve the antidote. In so doing, they come across the Dragon Path, the line of energy that Rei-sui wishes to use as a weapon. Their search to find a way to stop him leads them to several shrines, where they search for lost artifacts of the Tokugawa. Meanwhile, Sanosuke gets to have some fun busting up some statues.
In the end, after everything comes to a head and the requisite betrayals, surprises, and last chances have come into play, the heroes part ways, and the story ends.
The last episode is a quiet little episode about a trip Kenshin and Kaoru take to a grave (the owner of which is never mentioned). The trip takes them on a long path along the beach, where they stop and reminisce about the time they've spent together (Only six months? I would have figured it was longer than that...). On their return trip, it starts to rain, and the two seek shelter. Having been delayed, they stop by a house on the road to ask for a room. Assuming that the two are a couple, they are given a room to sleep in together, but Kaoru is unsure if she is ready to sleep in the same room as Kenshin. As Kenshin is about to leave to go sleep outside, she chides him for his rudeness in refusing his hosts' hospitality, and Kenshin aggress to stay. Kaoru dreams that Kenshin will leave her to continue his wanderings, and when she wakes, finds him gone. In the end, she realizes her feelings for him and runs to find him standing on the beach, as he catches her in his arms.
In the meantime, Sanosuke goes over to Megumi's to hang out, and we are treated some nice character scenes where he asks Megumi for lunch. She agrees, but makes him chop firewood in return. When it starts to rain, he comes in for a bath, but while he is bathing, Megumi ponders burning his trademark "Wicked" shirt. He comes out in one of Dr Gensai's bathrobes, looking for his lucky shirt, unaware that it is hanging outside, having been freshly washed by Megumi. All in all, it's a touching little aside in a very emotional episode.
Ultimately, I am happy the Feng Shui arc came along to wash out the bad taste of the German arc. While I understand the nature of these episodes may at first be off-putting (swords vs. rulers? Luopans shooting blasts of energy?), the underlying story is one of clan rivalry, with the clan that fell out of favor trying to make a place for itself again after many years in exile. The added dimension of the waning social attitude towards mysticism (signaling the end for the feng shui way of life) as Japan moves into modern times gives the story more poignance. This issue is focused and magnified by the comparison of Jinpu and feng shui with Kenshin and the way of the sword (a connection that is overtly made; indeed, Jinpu offers Kenshin advice on this very issue several times; this underlying parallel binds the two of them more than any other issue). In this respect the Feng Shui arc prepares the audience for the end to Kenshin's story; the end we know will someday come.
On the other hand, the last, unaired episode is more of a coda than an elegy; it is more a swan song for the creators than the characters. While it officially ends the TV run of Rurouni Kenshin, things are essentially unchanged, and (if the Studios are willing) could be picked up where they left off. Still, it is a heartwarming, touching episode that every fan should see.
Bottom line: It is the last volume. You should have already made up your mind. But this time, you are definitely getting your money's worth.
Microsoft X-Box, 27" Sony WEGA FS12, Sony MHC-M630AV Sound System, Samsung DVD-Rom
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
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)