Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #28 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Translated by:Kenichiro Yagi
What They Say
As the feared assassin of the Bakumatsu, Himura Kenshin killed in the name of the new era. As the rurouni of Meiji, he wielded a sakabato<.i> to protect those who couldn't protect themselves, all along holding true to his vow to never take another life. Now Kenshin's fight wqith Enishi has entered its final stage, as has his quest for atonement. Will another life be required to complete the circle? The road to redemption has been a long one for the world-weary swordsman, but now that Kenshin has found the will to love, can he muster the strength to survive?
In one of the fastest releases for a long series that I've ever seen, Rurouni Kenshin draws to a close less than three years after first arriving on American shores - an event that many fans thought they would never begin to see.
As throughout most of the series, we get the original Japanese cover set against a new background. It's a lovely portrait of a relaxed and smiling Kenshin holding the sakabato with an equally happy Kaoru in the background. The logo is striped across the top and hardly interferes with the main picture. The back also features a calm and happy Kenshin along with additional logos marking that this is the last volume and announcing a preview of Buso Renkin. This entire book is shrinkwrapped, because Viz goes the step to include a rather nice poster that has one of the better-known early pictures of Kenshin and Kaoru on one side and the other featuring the cover of all 28 books, which only comes with the first printing.
The thing that takes this down from an A to a B is the inclusion of a sticker on the front cover that announces the poster inclusion. It is extremely hard to get off and on the copy that I acquired, it left a fair amount of residue. This is something we've been seeing on copies of Rumiko Takahashi's work, but for me, it seems particularly tacky to put a sticker like this on the very last volume of the book. With the volume being shrinkwrapped, there is no need to put this sticker directly on the book itself. It could had easily gone on the plastic wrap. You could had thought this one out better, Viz.
This is a series where the artwork changed dramatically from beginning to end. In the first volume of this series, I praised the gorgeous art with very sharp attention to detail. This attention to detail peeks during the Kyoto Arc, then begins to change. Watsuki's female characters - especially Kaoru - undergo a maturing and look much sharper and attractive from the beginning of the series. However, the men become more simple and it's really easy to tell in characters such as Kenshin himself, where a lot of detail used to go into his hair and now it's drawn simply. It's an art style that took my awhile to warm up to.
As throughout the series, it is unflipped and translated, but integrated with the artwork. Some of the text bubbles have the text slightly off center, but it's not that big of a concern.
I pulled this out because this book actually has quite a lot of extra material thrown into it. First of all is the poster I mentioned above in the packaging section. Then there is the story "Meteor Strike," a short story that Watsuki created during Kenshin's run in Shonen Jump and was a possible successor to the series. The final extra is one of the actual successors to the series - part of the first volume of Buso Renkin, Watsuki's recently completed series.
Content (may contain spoilers)
The final battle between Kenshin and Enishi draws to a fevered pitch as each man puts everything on the line for their beliefs and for what they perceive that Tomoe feels about them. Kenshin has finally found his answer, which adds an extra energy to his attack that hadn't been there before. Through supersonic means, Kenshin is able to use Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu to defeat Enishi, though how that happens steps into the realm of disbelief.
But, it's not over yet. One of Enishi's embittered henchmen comes back for a final attack, leading to an interesting moment among Kenshin, Kaoru and Enishi that shows how big of a heart Kenshin truly has, how deeply Kaoru cares for Kenshin and the scars that Enishi has carried for all of these years.
The bulk of the book is dedicated to tying up all of the loose ends. Sanosuke's actions back in volume 26 come back to haunt him, and Kenshin's own actions as a swordsman do as well. As Kenshin predicts, everyone parts to begin living their own lives and it gives a good and proper conclusion to the series with the one lingering question being what happens to Sanosuke after the end.
I am not a big fan of most of the latter Jinchuu battles because it feels that Watsuki is doing what he can to not repeat earlier battles and really not fall into the same trap that happens when Shishio was defeated during the Kyoto Arc. However, one of the things that mostly endeared Kenshin to me is that despite the supersonic attacks, most of the fights feel grounded in reality. Once Watsuki started going into high-pitched sound frequencies and ultra-sensitive nerves, I had to roll my eyes with a good bit of disbelief. It has too much overtones of Dragonball for me.
However, what keeps this volume at an "A" level is the character interaction. The final strikes between Kenshin and Enishi aren't so much the moves, but the entire philosophies that they have come to embody during the past decade. You have the calm Kenshin, ready to finally fight for life versus the beserk Enishi that part of you feels sorry for. Enishi's moment of redemption comes shortly thereafter and even though he doesn't intend for it to happen, you can see that there is hope for him to eventually come out the other side - much like Sojiro did.
The rest of the book deals with tying up all of the character storylines and gives us two interesting possibilities for sequels - one following Yahiko's adventures and the other following Sanosuke's. Unlike the anime, which completed its run while the Jinchuu arc was being written, everyone heads off toward a pretty bright future. Seeing the end of this series in the manga form embittered me toward the second OVA series because Watsuki said that as a shounen series, it needed to have a happy ending. And Kenshin does have a happy ending, even though his swordsmanship has finally taken a toll on his body. One of the primary themes throughout this work has been that of hope and perseverance, and those are the feelings left over when Rurouni Kenshin is completed. Kenshin obtains his atonement and finally has a full and happy life.
When I started reviewing this series, Rurouni Kenshin was my favorite manga series - hands down. Reviewing this series has caused me to step back and take a more critical look at it. Three years later, it is still my favorite manga series and one that everyone should try. It has its ups and downs like all other series, but the overall story is fantastic. Even though a lot of the story relies on the increasingly unrealistic and fanatical fights, it's the characters that keep driving this forward. The entire cast has changed from their initial appearances and Watsuki has done a wonderful job at ensuring that each character - from Kenshin and Kaoru right down to minor characters such as the police chief, Tae and Tsubame get their moments to shine and does an excellent job juggling different storylines while advancing the entire plot forward.
Viz has done an excellent job with this series overall, with the exception of a couple of snafus early in the run. The staff that took on this series has a great deal of love for it and it shows in this series. All that's left is Yahiko's Sakabatou - which will be in the next Shonen Jump - and Kenshin Kaden, which I hope will be published as well.
For those who haven't tried it, please pick up the first volume. Rurouni Kenshin is one of the best that the manga industry has to offer and I'm very grateful that we now have the entire series translated into English.
Mania Grade: A+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left