Rurouni Kenshin Movie -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)

Rurouni Kenshin Movie

By Chris Beveridge     March 27, 2001
Release Date: March 27, 2001

Rurouni Kenshin Movie
© ADV Films

What They Say
Rurouni Kenshin is back!

His exploits powered 97 episodes of the popular TV series and his legend has created millions of fans. But only this feature-length epic can tell his final, long-awaited adventure. The war against tyranny ended years ago, but demons for the assassin’s past have returned for revenge. When death challenges him to a final duel, the only thing he can do is draw his sword and fight to the death.

The Review!
Taking place sometime after the Kyoto arc of the TV series (in other words, not a direct follow-up to the OVA's released by ADV), the Rurouni Kenshin movie is an interesting if somewhat repetitive piece of work. Just don't expect the same kind of animation as the OVA's as this was designed to flow with the TV series.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this movie in its original language of Japanese. Though this is a movie, it was originally done as a stereo mix, so don't expect a 5.1 mix. For a stereo mix, it's pretty solid with plenty of directionality throughout the fight sequences and several good uses of directional dialogue. We didn't notice any issues with the quality of the track at all.

There's some definite mixed results in here, though it's a source problem. During parts early on, there's a fair amount of grain that was pretty distracting. Throughout the show there's a fair number of rainbows, but again, they're more prominent post-opening credits than they are towards the end, but they're still there. Colors are nice and vibrant with no noticeable bleeding, but there were a few jaggies pretty apparent here and there. I did take the disc for a spin in the Apex player on the 19" TV/VCR and the grain was much less visible and the rainbows, while still apparent, were less apparent as well. Your mileage may vary.

One area we noticed some problems is with the subtitles. On our Pioneer 414 player, there were about a half dozen places where an extra line of subtitles would show up that looked like Morse code along the very edge of the bottom of the picture. Unfortunately I couldn't duplicate it on two different DVD-ROM drives or on my Apex player, but it shows up each time on the Pioneer deck.

My main complaint with the disc, and it's one that very very few people will have, is the same as I had with the Slayers movie. While I did not expect an anamorphic disc as the Japanese release is non-anamorphic as well, the subtitles have been placed both over the picture and into the subtitle. This will not bother 99% of the population. For those of us who have 16:9 capable sets, and for many who have the Toshiba widescreen sets, there's an option to enhance and zoom in on non-anamorphic material, eliminating the letterbox bars. This presents a nice looking full image on the set. Unfortunately it also cuts off half the subtitles due to the placement. As I said, this is something that won't bother a lot of people, but in the next couple of years when people start getting more of these sets, these kinds of complaints will be a bit more vocal. Forward thinking is a must!

The front cover sports a slightly peeved TV version of Kenshin with his main opponent yelling in the background. It's not a massively eye-catching cover, but it's not a horrible one either. Pretty middle of the road. Unfortunately, the first pressing run of the disc had the wrong covers inserted and the reversible cover isn't here. Plans are in the works to correct this for those who get the wrong cover and want to have the reversible one with the Kenshin logo on the other side. The back cover has a brief summary of the show as well as a few pictures while the insert duplicates the front cover.

The menus are pretty minimal, with only a bit of animation and audio along it. There's not much to the disc besides the movie, so the layering is minimal but fast and effective.

The only extras included are the trailers for the movie and the OVA's.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you haven't seen any of the TV series and just the OVA's, you're likely to really not enjoy this show. The movie takes place a substantial amount of time past the OVA period when Kenshin lived the life of the manslayer and used his deadly abilities to their fullest. The TV series deals with his redemption from his past actions. Kenshin no longer kills, instead living his life to defend the weak.

With many new fans having seen only the bloody and violent Kenshin in the OVA's, they tend to not adapt well to this "wussy" version as he's been called. For those who've seen only the TV series, everything falls right into place, even though it takes place fairly far ahead in the series.

Fans of the old Kenshin aren't completely left out though. The story tends to drift back to his younger days. During one particularly violent conflict, we see Kenshin defend a house with his master inside against a group aiming to eliminate them and move into more power. The conflict though fast is furious and with deadly results.

Fourteen years later, we catch up with Kenshin, Yahiko, Karou an Sanosuke arriving by train into Yokohama to view the way the world as changing, as the city begins to embrace western architecture, dress and lifestyle. The images of Kenshin and friends in their outfits in contrast with the western suits of the 1880's is pretty drastic and helps to underscore some of tensions between those who want to continue with tradition and those who see westernizing as the future.

While visiting Yokohama, a young woman begins to fall prey to some out of town sailors who intend to show her what a good time really is. Before Kenshin can even think of helping out, another dressed in similar garb steps in. Shigure helps out the woman who is actually his friend. The sailors call to more friends from below, which Kenshin helps out in dealing with along with Sanosuke.

At the end of the encounter, when the police are finally arriving, both Kenshin and Shigure size each other up visually, realizing each is more than what they seem. Indeed, as we begin to learn, Shigure takes care of the young woman whose brother died many years ago, which he blames himself for. The pasts of both men begins to show through as each encounters each other, checking on the young woman and with Yahiko becoming fascinated with some of the men in Shigure's employ.

Mixed in between all of this is the arrival of the first visiting British diplomat under the new government. Various factions are playing against each other, as well as those who've infiltrated the government ranks in attempts to gain power for their forces through subversion and sabotage. Friends and enemies tend to be interchangeable here, but in the end the important players are all ones that are standing up for what they believe in.

The only real problem with the storyline is the dependence on replaying the fight sequence from the opening. It's flashed back to around three times, with a little bit more information played out each time and sometimes from a different perspective, but by the last one I was practically rolling my eyes at it.

Visually, the movie is pretty nice. The fight sequences are where things tend to be the most fluid, but there's enough darkness and just clanging swords to offset their budget a bit. The main characters animation, having gotten used to doing them for awhile with the TV series, is pretty spot on. Though once in awhile it looks like Kenshin's neck may have been changed out with that of a giraffe.

I did listen to portions of the dub while writing the review, comparing it against the subtitles. Chalk one more dub that I won't be watching anytime soon as too many lines just seemed to be completely different and losing their value. Motives of some of the characters, especially in strong dialogue scenes, are almost radically different.

Having enjoyed the OVA's and what I've seen so far of the TV series, the movie was pretty enjoyable but felt longer than it needed to be. I'm sure we'll revisit it once we finish the TV series and can take in everything with all the nuances we may have missed.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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