Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 17 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 60
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)
Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection
By Chris Beveridge
March 10, 2003
Release Date: March 25, 2003
Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection
What They Say
© ADV Films
Rurouni Kenshin is a wanderer, a lost soul, cursed to seek atonement for his life in the bloody trade of the samurai. During the long war to overthrow the corrupt government, he was known throughout all Japan as the Hitokiri Battousai ("sword-bearing master assassin"). But the end of the war has brought no peace to Kenshin, despite a vow to draw his sword only for the protection of those in need. Now his wife Kaoru steadfastly awaits his return, mourning his absence as well as that of their son, Kenji. Will Kenshin return before she dies of grief? The past meets the present fifteen years after Kenshin first left.The Review!
With the large success of Kenshin in the U.S., it was no surprise that Sony would go back to the well to try out a couple more OVA’s to see if they could recreate the magic. Largely, I think they’re rather successful.Audio:
Having followed all of Kenshin’s adventures in Japanese so far, it’s only natural to continue with that here. The track is a solid and rather nicely immersive stereo mix that provides some good depth in many areas, such as the ocean sequence right at the start or during the swordplay scenes where you can hear the blades coming towards the screen. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions. ADV also went to the extra effort in their English mix by providing both a stereo mix and a new 5.1 mix.Video:
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and encoded for anamorphic display, the transfer here looks very solid with only a few areas being mildly problematic. For the most part, the transfer looks just as gorgeous as the original OVA’s did but with more detail visible. Some of the outdoor exteriors though, where it’s very busily drawn, suffers from some shimmering when the camera pans over it. It happens in only a few areas, but proves to be distracting during an emotional scene. Colors are vivid, cross coloration is non-existent and the depth of the blacks is fantastic. Most people will just love how this looks.Packaging:
It’s all good here (though far too many variants have shown up online) with the clear keepcase and reversible cover. The primary cover, which has the Samurai X logo, has the half face shot of Kenshin and a gray background with the world “Reflection” providing simplicity. The back cover provides a full half face shot of Kaoru with the simple text providing a brief summary and a listing of the discs extras and languages to the left of her (though again, ADV continues to not advertise their 5.1 mixes on the packaging). The production information and basic technical information line the bottom. The reverse cover provides the Japanese Kenshin logo with the English text below it. The artwork is much more somber as you have Kaoru looking off into the distance set against an image of her and Kenshin by the shore, all done in a purple hazy color. The back cover has several pictures from the show and the same text and features listing. The insert has the Samurai X cover on one side while the reverse has the Kenshin cover and the chapter stops.Menu:
The main menu is a nice piece that takes the two halves from the cover and displays them here meshed together while the end music softly plays. The layout is nicely done and moving about is easy, with fast access times and pretty logically setup submenus.Extras:
The extras section is nicely rounded out for this release. There’s about half a dozen interviews with the Japanese cast that was done on the two Japanese releases where each of the actors talk about reprising their roles or other aspects. They run varying lengths, but seem to average about five minutes each. There’s a textless end sequence, which is really just watching the waves roll in at this point as well as a two and half minute video gallery of production stills.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the end of the TV series, I wasn’t sure if I could get back into the Kenshin world again after experiencing that much of it. I had seen the first of these OVA’s raw back when it came out in Japan and just marveled at the visuals. With the knowledge now of the end of the TV series and having a translated version here, I’ve found myself to truly look at this volume as the proper end of the Kenshin mythos.
The two OVA’s, produced some three years after everything else had been completed, brings us to a different point in time in the lives of the cast we know so well. It’s well over fifteen years later, as Kenshin and Kaoru are now married and they have a fifteen year old son named Kenji. But the life from where we left off didn’t go in the happily ever after road that most people hope stories do.
We learn through flashbacks that even after all these years, the Meiji government still relies on Kenshin. Coming to him again, they ask him to go the continent to help out with the war there. So many of the soldiers of the day grew up in a relatively peaceful country that they don’t know quite what to do, so they need the leadership of one of the most violent men from one of the most violent times. Kenshin agrees to go, as he knows he’s needed and it’s another chance for atonement, but he goes not to wage war but to help others.
Kenshin’s left a lot over the years, as we learn again and again through the flashbacks. Kaoru waits for him patiently each time, and finds herself at the docks whenever a new ship arrives. But this time is different, as Kenshin has been lost at sea for quite some time, especially as we see him falling under in the first minute of the show. But Kaoru waits, as the two have a bond and a promise to each other. But as Kaoru waits, she begins to fall ill, an illness that Kenshin also has as the two have shared their burdens over the course of their marriage.
Through her illness, we take a trip back in time to when she first tried to hunt him down and through the Kyoto arc. We see Jin’e kidnap her and the events that follow that. A good portion of the two episodes in places are flashbacks to things we’ve seen in the series but done up in the OVA character design style, giving it a new freshness. They also expand the dialogue for these scenes, providing new bits before and after that help flesh out the inner turmoil of Kenshin and the understanding nature of Kaoru. The depth of their unspoken relationship at this stage becomes all the more apparent through her eyes.
There are plenty of new bits of course. The Jin’e section provides some extremely gorgeous visuals as the two fight it out. And the big draw is the Jinchu piece where Enishi kidnaps Kaoru to draw Kenshin out over a blood vengeance he’s sworn for many years. It’s entirely too short and you know it’s missing a lot of valuable information, but it still plays out beautifully here for its short time. But in the end, the focus here isn’t really on the battles Kenshin has fought, but on the relationship between him and Kaoru. During the last large segment of the second episode, as you know the world is changing around everyone and Japan is continuing to enter another age, you almost can’t help but to get emotional over the very simple romance of Kenshin and Kaoru and just how connected they are. It’s this connection that needed to be much more visible during parts of the series to bring it up even more.
Rurouni Kenshin: Reflection is both exciting and sad. While the emotions don’t run quite as high as the original OVA series with Kenshin and Tomoe, the interconnectedness of it all and the drawing of the curtain on this particular tale helps to bring it up above quite a number of OVA series out there. I still hope for the remaining epics to be animated, but I am also quite content to see this as the final close.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean closing animation,Production sketches,Interviews with the original Japanese voice cast
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.