Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #12 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, May 15, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Translated by:Kenichiro Yagi
What They Say
As Kenshin continues his re-education at the hand of his master in Hiten Mitsurugi, Hiko Seijuro, he looks back also to the first, early years of that training...including the moment of his life in which he changed his name to "Kenshin." Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Juppongatana, or "Ten Swords," arrive in Kyoto, while the first phase of Shishio Makoto's plan for Japan finally gets underway. While Misao and the Oniwabanshu plan how to best pool their resources to stop Shishio from setting Kyoto ablaze, Kenshin, Sano, and Saito - now reunited - must consider their own next course of action.
Once again utilizing the original tankoubon art with a different background, we get a picture of Kaoru and Misao with Kenshin and Aoshi in the background. It's appropriate, especially given the relationships that develop in this volume. Kaoru stands over Misao like a protective older sister while the pictures of Kenshin and Aoshi slightly faded in the background represent that they are on these girls' thoughts. Aoshi is featured on the spine this time with a picture of Kenshin relaxing on the back. These continue to be some of the best-looking manga covers that you can find out there, and the English logo is integrated well with them. Extras include a glossary and ads for other Viz Media products, including an uncensored one for I"s.
Watsuki has come a long way from the beginning of the series and one of the things that Viz has done with it is to preserve the integrity of the battle scenes. Watsuki began to integrate more and more complex kanji into the battle scenes when the attacks are called that are tightly meshed with the art of the battle itself. Viz chose to not touch this artwork and left the kanji/fight scene intact and provides a translation of the kanji in a small box nearby.
The grammatical errors seem to be a thing of the past as there is a very solid translation throughout the book. However, one area isn't translated very well and that can lead to some confusion if you're trying to understand how Kuzu Ryu Sen works. The nine pressure point areas of the body are translated into romanji, but this is really a case where you need a full translation into English as well.
Content (may contain spoilers):
This volume opens up with Hiko reminiscing about how he discovered Kenshin as a young boy while waiting for Kenshin to return to consciousness during their training. When Hiko's storytelling fails to rouse Kenshin, he tries embarassing the living daylights out of him instead. That works.
Hiko issues a challenge to Kenshin - land one strike on him and he'll teach him the school's succession technique. Kenshin, through sheer will and dumb luck, manages to do this. Hiko then teaches Kenshin the final attacks of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu in a sequence that goes a lot faster than its anime counterpart. Really, the entire first half of this volume flies by thanks to these chapters. Meshed with the training itself are the flashbacks to Kenshin's childhood - also seen both in the TV series and the first OVA. Comparing the three, I like the OVA version of the childhood scene the best - and it's really the music that plays there that gives it a special meaning.
After learning the ougi, Kenshin rejoins Saito in Kyoto and discovers that Sano has finally made it to town. Almost too quickly, Kenshin figures out that Shishio is going to recreate the Great Kyoto Fire of the Bakumatsu and also launch an attack on Tokyo that resembles the coming of Admiral Perry's black ships in 1853 shortly thereafter. Kenshin notifies Kaoru, Misao and the Oniwabanshu and they help spread the word about the fires while Kenshin, Sano and Saito rush to Osaka to stop Shishio and discover that not only Shishio is more powerful than they thought, but so is Sano.
When it came down to giving a grade for this volume, I found it hard to do so. The first half went by almost a little too fast, and I think it's because I was used to the grand style of the anime - how the music and the pacing of the scenes is used to draw out the flashbacks and mesh them with the training. What I did enjoy greatly was how this cleared up some questions for me regarding how the actual technique is formed and the emotional realization that Kenshin must arrive at in order to achieve mastery of that attack.
When Kenshin rejoins the action in Kyoto though, I could not put the book down. Yes, I have seen the Kyoto Arc before in the anime. But as I was going through this volume, I felt like I was looking at the series for the very first time. You get sucked into the emotion and find yourself racing alongside Kenshin and the others to stop Shishio's Rengoku.
The Kyoto fire chapters illustrates what I love about this series - how Watsuki uses so many characters at the same time to pull off his plot. He bounces back and forth between them and you don't come away with a feeling that either side is neglected. A beautiful two-page illustration showing the entire cast (sans Hiko) really drives this point home. Although the series is called "Rurouni Kenshin," Kenshin alone doesn't save everyone and it isn't solely focused on him. That's what makes this series so special.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left