Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #04 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, April 05, 2004
Release Date: Monday, March 01, 2004
Translated by:Kenichiro Yagi
What They Say
Held captive and running out of hope, Megumi must face a life of suffering or a peaceful death. Meanwhile, Kenshin and the others continue their battle with the elite former guards who spit fire and throw poison darts.
After Watsuki attempts to commit seppuku on the first page of the book (his segments always make me laugh), this book picks up where book three leaves off and covers episodes 10 and 11 in the anime.
Packaging: Once again, we have the original Japanese cover with a different background pattern featured. It's not my favorite picture of the gang, but it's still pretty good. Kenshin is predominant on the lower half of the cover with Yahiko, Sanosuke and Aoshi behind them. I like how they handled the logo in this one, placing it behind the art instead of slapping it over the picture like it was done in volume 3. On the back, next to the jacket blurb, is a shot of Kenshin with his sakabatou drawn.
Artwork: Still gorgeous with further refinement in all of the characters. For the most part, they all now look like their anime counterparts. The scenes are still greatly lush and detailed and the fights...well, I don't think you'd want squeamish people reading these fights. They get quite bloody.
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. 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: Another excellent job handling text. We get more Japanese phrases and their explanations, such as "omitsu." I noticed an empty bubble on the second reading of volume three, but so far I've not seen any omitted text here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume concludes the Oniwabanshu arc and picks up with the Kenshingumi (minus Kaoru, who stays at home for this battle) facing off against Hannya of the Oniwabanshu once again in Kanryu's mansion. Kenshin manages to break through Hannya's attacks. One by one, each of the Oniwabanshu falls to Kenshin's group until Kenshin fights Aoshi himself for the title of "strongest." But suddenly, Kanryu appears on the scene, and the unthinkable happens... But when the fight's over, there are several people who will have to find the courage to keep on living.
This is the first volume in the series where a lot is crammed into one book. When all of this was translated to the anime, it only took an episode and a half to do. Fights span multiple chapters and everything seems to happen one right after the other until the arc climaxes and then resolves. This is the first semi-major arc of the series and the way it came to a conclusion satisfied me.
This volume also showcases more of Kenshin's fighting style and then allows Sanosuke to get into the action against Shikijo. You see the changes that Sano had to make to his fighting style and how he still needs to grow. But his spirit is impenetrable and that's what really makes you root for him no matter how bad he gets bloodied.
One of the things I love about Kenshin is how what seems to be magical can be grounded in reality. This is shown during the fight with Hannya, as Kenshin uses his sakabatou as a ruler to defeat Hannya's primary tricks. Out of everyone, he is the least likely to fall for what other people term as magic tricks. His street-smart sense, as we would put it now, is something that most likely came about from his life as a hitokiri during the Bakumatsu. It makes you wonder how Kenshin got that smart and that cynical to begin with, and you begin to wonder even more what his past was like.
Differences from the anime: Hannya's true face is revealed, and it's quite scary. I'm glad I didn't read that chapter right before falling asleep. And folks, I would not recommend his method of plastic surgery either.
Another big difference from the anime that I really liked is the additional history given to the omitsus who make up the Oniwabanshu. It becomes a lot more clear why they chose to join Aoshi and why they stayed with them. Some of their stories, as brief as they are, are pretty sad and nearly brought me to tears.
And finally, the ending of the arc is resolved in a slightly different manner from the anime. I think the manga handling of the conclusion, while more graphic, made more of an emotional impact on me than the anime did - with regards to both Aoshi and Megumi.
As mentioned in my last review, Kaoru did not come along for this ride. She doesn't even appear in the book until the very end. That is one of the biggest changes that the anime made was having her actually be involved in the fight. Having Kaoru witness what happened with Aoshi and the Oniwabanshu is something that became very important in the Kyoto Arc of the anime, and it'll be interesting to see how Watsuki handled that plot point when he originally wrote it in the manga since Kaoru wasn't at Kanryu's mansion in this version.
Once again, this is a solid manga and I am highly enjoying the series presented in the manga form. While there's a couple of aspects that are different from the anime, overall I'm still enjoying the manga better. I'm looking forward to volume four and watching plot threads dangle right and left that will eventually come back to haunt the Kenshingumi in the later volumes of the series. Very recommended.
Mania Grade: A
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left