Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #06 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, August 09, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, July 01, 2004
Translated by:Kenichiro Yagi
What They Say
Kenshin's battle with Raijuta to decide the fate of the Meiji Era swordsmanshop is coming to a head. One fact is quickly becoming apparent: Raijuta will stop at nothing to ensure the supremacy of his own school of sword-fighting! Reunited with a member of the former Sekiho Army - that doomed civilian unit - Sanosuke runs into trouble of his own. Old alliances are challenged when a plan to topple the current government by any means necessary is shared...and as his friend puts it, Sano's either "in," or he's "in the way." Plus a bonus installment containing the first story Nobuhiro Watsuki ever published!
We get the original art of Kenshin holding up a large, red cloak set against a new background. It actually works a bit better, because the red on top of red on top of a red background would had looked horrible with this cover. Kenshin's moved more into the middle and enlarged somewhat. It's still a striking image. The back features a small shot of Megumi from the Kenshin Kaden book. The choice to feature her surprised me a bit, considering that Sanosuke played a much larger role in this volume.
Watsuki has settled into the art style that will carry us through most of the series. Gone is the overly-poofy days of Kenshin's hair, and Kaoru lost her baby fat. One of the unique things about Kenshin is that it heavily incorporates people's reactions to the battles into the battle scene itself - instead of just having fight, then reaction. The layout is a bit complex to navigate at times, but that's only during the battles.
Viz's excellent translation of Rurouni Kenshin continues with this volume. Honorifics and attack names are kept, and even obscure references (such as the Doraemon reference that Watsuki tosses in at one point.) There's not much here that I haven't mentioned in the reviews of the first five volumes.
Review (please note that contents of a review may contain spoilers):
I'm sitting here listening to the music from the Kyoto Arc on my iPod, which lets you know where my mind is at.
But, we're not in Kyoto yet. Volume six marks the end of the Tokyo Arc by winding up the Raijuta storyline, then adding in an extra side-story for Sanosuke.
Much of the focus shifts back to Yutaro in the second part of this storyline, but we also get the climax to the battle that was setting itself up in volume five. I found myself mostly comparing this to its anime counterpart (and appreciating all the scenes of mostly shirtless Kenshin), and while it was entertaining, I just did not feel very drawn in. A lot of it has to do with me not caring for Yutaro that much as a character. The second is that all of the philosophy bantered about in volume five is dropped for the actual battle. We don't learn anything about Kenshin that we don't already know. We already know that he's extremely smart and resourceful, and he puts those skills to use here once again.
However, when comparing this to the anime version, it is a much tighter story and easier to get through. It's more enjoyable seeing this in a Tokyo setting and Yutaro is given more of a concrete reason to want to become a good swordsman. I enjoyed the final moments between him and Yahiko, which shows the potential that Yahiko has as well. Other cute moments include Tae and Tsubame, who were forsaken in the anime since this was set in the countryside there.
We then move into the three-part side story dedicated to Sanosuke's reunion with his friend from the Sekiho Army, Tsukikoa Katsuhiro, known as Katsu. One of the things I immediately noticed is that the Katsu is here a much darker, depressed character than the one I remember from the anime. The way Watsuki draws him reflects this well, with heavy lines and angry expressions. The anime fleshes this out by adding in flashbacks that were not in the manga and also adding in a completely unnecessary battle with Kenshin.
The absence of the Sano vs. Kenshin battle surprised me. As I was reading this, I turned the page expecting their fight to come up...only to find out that Sano wound up setting everything up to prevent Katsu from carrying out his plan. Once I got over the shock, I got a deeper appreciation of Sano's character. This side story really shows how much he's grown since he first faced Kenshin. Not only that, but it shows the trust that he places in his friend. The anime eradicates that in place of another fight between Kenshin and Sano - and in turn, makes it look like Sano doesn't trust Kenshin. I know that the anime added in the battle to pad out what is otherwise a dry climax to the story, but it does change the tone of the relationship between Kenshin and Sano. Watsuki's notes here are interesting, pointing out that the story was shortened in order to start the Kyoto Arc on time.
The book concludes with a love story set in the Sengoku Jidai, Watsuki's first work ever. There's a lot of ground set here that will become the future Rurouni Kenshin story - including one of the characters being Hiko Seijuro and he uses Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu. This is acknowledged in Rurouni Kenshin itself, as Kenshin says he uses a sword style that was originally created in the Sengoku Jidai. It's a pretty good standalone story, if somewhat repetitive.
As we finish the Raijuta story and Sanosuke gets his own tale, we get another round of solid storytelling. Still, other than showing us how much Sano trusts Kenshin, we don't have anything that advances the characters any. But, that will change with the next volume coming out. The end of the volume features our first glimpse of Saito Hajime and gives a hint that everything is about to change...and with Rurouni Kenshin now going monthly, it won't take us as long to see all the action.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left