Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #05 (Mania.com)

By:Megan Lavey
Review Date: Saturday, June 12, 2004
Release Date: Saturday, May 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Nobuhiro Watsuki
Translated by:Kenichiro Yagi
Adapted by:

What They Say
Isurugi Raijuta, a truly old-school swordsman, comes to Kenshin and requests his aid in reforming the state of swordsmanship schools, or kenjutsu dojo, in Japan. Although Kenshin is intrigued by Raijuta's ideals (chiefly, that there is a need for a nation-wide, unifying school), Raijuta's plan to "wwed out" the schools he deems unfit is not in accordance with Kenshin's deepest-held beliefs. Given the choice of either joining Raijuta's "Shin Koryu" movement or dying, Kenshin walks away, choosing neither. But Raijuta isn't willing to let Kenshin off the hook so easily...

The Review
Packaging:
Once again, we have the original Japanese cover with a different background pattern featured. Kenshin is the dominant image, and his violet eyes really stand out on this cover. He is inside of a white bar with Kaoru, Yahiko and Sanosuke standing outside of it and a feathered pattern on either side of the bars. It's a very nice picture and one I wish I had a bigger version of so I can frame it. The back keeps up the same feathered pattern as used on the bars on the front, and features a pretty shot of Kaoru from the Kenshin Kaden artbook.

Artwork:
The artwork has smoothed out and is not into the style that most people familiar with the anime will recognize. The reproduction is clear and the characters themselves are very expressive. The action is well-drawn and easy to follow, with some beautiful action scenes in here. Reproductions of original color pages also turned out well, making the transition to black and white beautifully.

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:
This volume keeps up with the previous style of using the original Japanese terms whenever possible. The characters tend to talk a bit more modern than you would expect, but this is something that Watsuki used in the original series as well, so there's nothing wrong with it here. This is the first volume where I didn't notice any empty bubbles.

Content:
This volume lacks the intensity of the two volumes dedicated to the Oniwabanshu story, but it serves as a breather as we start getting ready for the Kyoto Arc.

The first three chapters is a bonus side story centering around Yahiko. While working at the Akabeko, he meets a young waitress named Tsubame and becomes her champion. This is Yahiko's first, true fight and it's interesting to see how he's taken the principles that Kenshin and Kaoru instilled in him thus far and uses them to learn how to protect Tsubame. It's a pretty neat little side story, but unless you're a Yahiko fan, it's not going to stand out. Kenshin, Kaoru and Sanosuke all get their moments in here, though, and the cicada imitation the guys pull at the end is one of the funniest moments in the series.

The rest of the volume centers around a man named Isurugi Raijuta and his efforts to purify swordsmanship in Japan. The back summary of the book provided above really explains what happens up to the end of the volume, so I won't repeat it here.

What it failed to mention is how Raijuta takes a young boy, Tsukayama Yutaro, under his wing. He's suppose to be teaching Yutaro swordsmanship. Instead, he's using his father's money to bankroll his movement. Kenshin and Kaoru discover this when Yutaro demands to fight Yahiko. He can't even hold a sword properly! Kaoru decides to take Yutaro under her wing while Kenshin realizes that he will have to battle Raijuta.

The Raijuta story in the anime was never one of my favorites, but the way it plays out here is completely different and very surprising. The anime story takes the Kenshin-gumi (along with Megumi) to the countryside, where they encounter an orphaned Yutaro. Like in the manga, he is being exploited for his money by Raijuta, but this is to fund a new revolution and not to purify swordsmanship.

In the manga version, Yutaro's father is very much alive and has taken in Raijuta as a debt of honor after Raijuta saves his life. Raijuta then uses this position as the leverage he needs to begin challenging other dojos. My favorite chapter in the volume is Act 37, when Kenshin and Raijuta debate the different philosophies of swordsmanship. It's easy to see how both men are right in their own way and it comes off making Raijuta not seem like the one-sided villan he came across as in the anime. He actually has a point, as Sanosuke pointed out. It just happens to go against what Kenshin believes and what many people in the Meiji Era have come to believe. So, does this make Kenshin completely right? He believes that if Raijuta gets his way, then people will just randomly start killing others again - though, that really has never stopped. It's just done differently.

This is one of the reasons why I love Rurouni Kenshin. Many times, a character is brought in to be an opponent for Kenshin, but you sit and wonder if Kenshin is really right. Some characters, like Kanryu, were truly insane. But, you look at others like Aoshi and Raijuta and you really have to understand both sides of the conflict to get what's going on. Often, there is no clear-cut right or wrong. There's many shades of grey in here, and that's what makes this series so intresting.

Comments
The Yahiko side-story is your standard filler, but the Raijuta story is something that is worth sinking your teeth into and makes you wonder about the different philosophies of swordsmanship. While there is not much action going on in this volume, there is a lot of thinking involved. The philosophies bantered about in here is something to keep your mind on as we keep getting further into the series, especially heading into the Kyoto Arc.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.95
Pages: 196
ISBN: 1-59116-320-X
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left