Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 05, 2004
Release Date: Wednesday, October 01, 2003
Translated by:Kenichiro Yagi
What They Say
It is the Meiji Restoration, and the feudal system separating the classes has ended. By law, the samurai must give up their swords - symbols of their traditional power - but a few still resist the changing times. Many of these that refuse have honed their power and skill in such a way that it would make them a horrible threat in an otherwise, peaceful society.
Although... not all that carry a sword carry it with the intent to kill, as the wanderer, Himura Kenshin will show. Using an elite style of swordsmanship known as Hiten Mitsurugi, he wields a reverse-bladed sword and fights to repent for his past, defending the oppressed and aiding those in need - all without killing anyone.
After years of waiting, English-speaking fans are finally treated to an official copy of Rurouni Kenshin in English. And boy, has it been worth the wait.
Packaging: This volume is nowhere near the spec ad that was floating around the Internet a few weeks ago. Kenshin is the dominant art on this cover, looking over his shoulder at Kaoru. The background is a very pretty green pattern with a white bar in the middle, where the cutout of Kaoru is. The logo is across the top of the volume and "Shonen Jump Graphic Novel", author credit and volume number are along the bottom. The author's name is in black and is a bit hard to read, but the volume number is in red.
Now it's time for Megsie-chan's logo check!
The logo is a mixed bag for me. I can see where in a way, they're going for the rich text that the original "Rurouni Kenshin" logo used in Japanese, but it seems a shade close to too bulky. Nice touch with the sakabato going through the words, but the ribbon winding its way through it is too much. It'll limit what can be done with the logo later on. Unlike some of the other Viz titles I've seen lately, the original logo is not incorporated into this one at all. Viz does do a translation of the subtitle "Meiji Kenkaku Romantan" as "Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story" (accurate), but while it appears on the title page of the book, it does not appear with the logo like in the original Japanese. However, fans grabbing this title for the first time who haven't seen the Japanese will probably just notice the bulky letters.
The same green colored background is used in the back of the book. In a larger white space, there is a picture of Kenshin, gi sliced up, poised to slash with his sakabato. It's a good picture. The price, bar codes, etc. are along the bottom along with a reminder to read from right to left. Shonen Jump Graphic Novel appears in the green background along the top with a bubble saying "The world's most popular manga" - refering to Jump, not Kenshin. Along the bottom of the picture of Kenshin is the volume number, the Web site for Shonen Jump and the rating. Wrapped to his left is the summary and above that is the logo. A lot of stuff, but effective use of white space does not leave it crammed.
Artwork: Simply gorgeous. For a man who opens up the book admitting he did not know a thing about the Meiji era, Watsuki does an admirable job in paying attention to detail. From things such as the crowded Tokyo street scene, Kaoru's kimono, Sanosuke's Zanbato - the ordinary fan would had never known about Watsuki's lack of historical knowledge if the man hadn't admitted it himself on the opening page!
Orientation/SFX: Unflipped and translated. The translated SFX is integrated into the artwork well and I believe even those fans who did not want translated SFX will be pleased. A few things, such as the sign for the Akabeko, Tae's restaurant, is left in Japanese. And, as an extra bonus, there is a glossary of terms used in the back of the book, so if you didn't pick up on the footnotes or were confused about some things explained during the course of the story, just flip to the back and check it out.
Text: Kudos to Avery Gotoh, editor of this volume! A very well-translated read. The names, such as Himura Kenshin, are kept in the original Japanese order. Honorifics such as "Kaoru-dono" and "Tae-san? are kept in. And, yes, Kenshin does say "oro." In the Japanese, Kenshin speaks in an archiac way, saying "sessha (this unworthy one)" and ending his sentences in "de gozaru." The English simply has Kenshin speaking in a very polite fashion and it works. It is less awkward than how Media Blasters did, "that I am" in the anime.
Other words such as "Kamiya Kasshin Ryu" and "Bakumatsu" are kept in the original Japanese with discreet footnotes as needed. While most fans are used to the translation of "Hitokiri Battousai," it is spelled "Battosai" here. Other similiar spellings that normally have the "ou" are shortened down to the long "o" with the exception of "Rurouni." On chapter titles where there is vertical text, vertical text is used. All of Watsuki's notes (which are absolutely hilarious) are translated and give a lot of insight into how the story came to be.
However, as previously reported, there is a bit of an inconsistency with the spelling of "Rurouni." Most of the time, "Rurouni" is used. So far in my second read of the book, I've caught a few "Ruronis." There's also one instance when Kenshin does not use "Kaoru-dono" when he should. Sloppy editing on someone's part there. However, if you're the casual reader, you're not really going to pick up on the "dono" deal as much as the diehards.
My big beef about the text translation is the addition on every page they possibly could, "<
Review: 140 years ago, a violent revolution was fought to end the era of the Tokugawa Shogunate. As part of the revolution, fighting for the emergence of the new Meiji Era is a man known as Hitokiri Battosai. Battosai vanished as the revolution drew to a close and has not been seen since...until 11 years later in the streets of Tokyo.
A rurouni (wanderer) is suddenly stopped by a young swordswoman, who accuses him of being Battosai. He denies this, insisting he's just a simple rurouni. While they argue over this, the swordswoman overhears a fight and takes off to investigate it. They encounter a large man, who calls himself Battosai and the girl attacks. In the process, she nearly gets killed and the rurouni saves her and takes her home.
At her dojo, the rurouni finds out that the girl is called Kamiya Kaoru, and she is the sole survivor of the family who developed a swordsmanship called Kamiya Kasshin Ryu. While Kaoru's sword style is meant to protect people, Battosai has been using it to kill. Eventually, the two discover that a servant pretending to be Kaoru's friend is in league with Battosai and Kaoru is threatened by him over the land her dojo is on. During this, the rurouni saves Kaoru again and reveals himself to be the real Hitokiri Battosai, who has taken a vow not to kill. Enemy defeated, Kaoru begs Battosai to stay, saying she doesn't care about his past. But she does want to know his real name. It's Himura Kenshin. And his age? Well, give him a moment while he counts.
This is the groundwork for a manga journey that will span 28 volumes. In this volume, we're quickly introduced to the four major characters in this series - Himura Kenshin, Kamiya Kaoru, Myojin Yahiko and Sagara Sanosuke. However, you're not quite sure whether or not Sanosuke is a friend or foe as the book ends with the two of them about to fight. You also meet a few of the supporting characters such as Tae. It moves at a fast pace and has plenty of action and character development crammed into these six chapters.
For those who (like me) saw the anime first, there are some changes that makes reading the manga fresh. (Yes, the manga came out before the anime - roughly two years before.) The introductory chapter is different from episode 1 of the anime and Kenshin is more of a smart-aleck in the manga than his anime counterpart. One of the stories not animated goes into more depth about the principles behind Kamiya Kasshin Ryu and gives insight into Kaoru?s feelings towards her school and serves well to integrate Yahiko into the mix. Another change from the anime is that the original episode 3 in the anime is chapter 2 in the manga, therefore there is no Yahiko in it (who is introduced in chapter 3). It changes the dynamic of that particular story and serves to further the friendship between Kenshin and Kaoru in addition to Kenshin reaffirming his vow not to kill.
A nice addition to this volume is the original sidestory, "Rurouni," which is essentially the pilot for the current "Rurouni Kenshin." Watsuki explains in a sidenote about the publication of this original story, which served as the testing grounds for the latter version. The story plays out much like chapter one of the manga, with the exception of the heroine being a girl named Chizuru, who is the granddaughter of a man who hates samurai. Chizuru is very spunky and could easily be a Kaoru double, however the version of Kaoru that evolved has a little more grit about her. It's an interesting look at the evolution of Himura Kenshin.
This manga is highly recommended and has been treated very well by Viz. Kenshin diehards will be very pleased. For fans just getting introduced to the series, it is a great place to start and one you'll most likely be bragging to your friends about.
Mania Grade: A+
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left