Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #19: Dreams of Youth (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, November 16, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2002
The fifth volume of the Tales of the Meiji series, Dreams of Youth features an entirely self contained arc about an old man and his young student. While a bit light on the action, this arc makes for an excellent story, tying the old man's past in with Kenshin's own experiences, all under the shadow of the revolution.
First, the usual:
Menus: Same as before: good, but not outstanding.
Packaging: This time we get a slightly unappealing shade of red as the background, with Kaishu Katsu, the main character of this arc, featured below the title. Surrounding him are his two students, Daigoro and Tetsuma, with Kenshin below them. Itsuko, Kaishu's daughter, is placed in the middle (in color, no less).
Extras: Liner notes, outtakes, and the creditless version of the new opening (which is the same as the old, with the Shimabara characters replaced with this disc's cast). The liner notes are, for the first time, completely inadequate, as there is only one page presented, when clearly, with all the historical events taking place in this disc, more are needed. Many historically relevant figures and places are mentioned in the episodes that, while I recall a few being presented in earlier volumes, should at least have been repeated here. The outtakes are about par, with nothing really inspiring laughter.
Video: While I doubt it has to do with the encoding, the quality seems to have decreased a little in regards to the clarity seen on recent 3rd season discs. Still, nothing to complain about.
Audio: Technically I found no issues. While at first the music seemed to be taking a more puerile direction, there are once again some brilliantly emotional pieces of music in this batch of episodes (of course, they tend to be recycled from earlier episodes).
Content: Jules Verne: an author known primarily for incorporating burgeoning scientific theory into his flights of fancy. Not a great artist, but certainly an influential one, inspiring dreams in the hearts of many. But these episodes aren't about Jules Verne: they are about the future and the past, the old and the new.
The episodes start off with Daigoro, a young bookworm, explaining to a crowd of incredulous onlookers how to travel from the earth to the moon. Kenshin and company happen by, and get caught up in a scuffle between a group of thugs and an old man. Kenshin and Co. rush to his aid, but Tetsuma, one of the old man's apprentices, shows up to scare off the gang leader in the nick of time. Kenshin and the old man exchange a look of recognition, before Daigoro receives a rebuke from his master for his failure to defend himself. In the end, Kaoru takes him in to the Kamiya dojo.
The old man, it turns out, is Kaishu Katsu, a man of some influence. A retainer to Tokugawa Yoshinobu, he was involved in the bloodless surrender of Edo castle, and this is the single event in his lifetime around which everything unfolds.
Daigoro, now training in the Kamiya Kasshin style of swordsmanship, is soon joined by Itsuko, Kaishu's daughter, who protests Daigoro's expulsion and rushes to take care of him (much to the delight of Yahiko and Sanosuke, as they get a break from Kaoru's cooking). Kenshin drops by Kaishu's house to let him know that they are both safe, and Kaishu asks Kenshin to continue to watch over Daigoro and Itsuko. While there, we are treated to a little moonlight exposition, detailing a little of Kaishu's past (including a flashback to the revolution of Kenshin lying in wait for him in a grove of trees).
Kenshin is later accosted by the Beni-Aoi, a group of former Edo castle guards who, after being stripped of their rank and exiled to poverty, have come for revenge, believing that the entire surrender was orchestrated by Katsu to get his hands on the Shogun's gold. The location of this secret stash is a mystery, and the Meiji government has been trying to get its hands on it. Indeed, the Beni-Aoi wish to use the money to raise an army to free the Shogun.
After a few lighthearted moments featuring Sanosuke singing and Kaoru trying to learn to cook, the plot thickens, with the suspicious involvement of Tetsuma in the government, a kidnapping, a (near) death, and a midnight burglary. In the end, the situation is eventually resolved, and the secret of the treasure remains hidden in the unknowing hands of the innocent.
Thus ends disc 19.
Despite the lack of any major action here, the story presented is a welcome diversion. This is a story of legacy, of the burdens the older generation bears to allow peace for the younger generation. While each main character is given a scene or two to shine, this is really a story about Kaishu, Daigoro, Itsuko, and Tetsuma. We know that Kaishu really cares a lot more for Daigoro and Itsuko than he lets on. We know that he is trying to protect Daigoro and Itsuko from these events; he sends Daigoro away for his own protection, so that Daigoro can tarry a little while with his youthful dreams before being inducted into the harshness of the world. Tetsuma isn't completely rotten either, just a little misguided in his ambition. Even Shibata, so eager for vengeance that he blindly accepts that Kaishu is to blame for his suffering, forgives and is forgiven in the end. While many of the revelations are predictable, the overall story is nonetheless engrossing, and the ending left me satisfied.
Bottom line: If you have come this far, take another step. I don't believe you'll be disappointed.
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: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
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)