Mania Grade: A_
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: A+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: F
- Age Rating: 17 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 120
- 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: Trust & Betrayal Director's Cut
By Kaoru Miyazaki
June 05, 2003
Release Date: May 20, 2003
Since this particular Rurouni Kenshin OVA is my favorite anime ever, I felt compelled to buy the Director's Cut edition of it, even though a certain disc review on a certain anime website said that you'd have to be an anal retentive fanboy to buy this version on top of the original release. That review was right. What I got was my favorite anime of all time with a few nice additions and a truckload of disappointments.
I only have the most basic setup, so I can only say that the audio sounded clean. The dub is pretty much the same as the OVA version, which means it's pretty bad. Maybe it's because I'm a native Japanese speaker, but I can't stand ADV's dub for this series. Nothing exceptional here.
The video is clean, and there weren't any obvious flaws in the video itself that I could pick out. However, the letterbox format that they've shifted to for this particular release is horrible. This anime has great artwork going for it, but putting it in letterbox cuts off parts of the picture and gives the picture a less dynamic feel to it. Maybe if I had a widescreen TV, my opinion might have differed.
The packaging is great. ADV once again gives us a reversible cover for the case with the front side having the Samurai X logo and the backside using the original cover from the Japanese release. For the OVA release, the Samurai X side was completely plain looking compared to the reverse side; for this version however, both the Samurai X side and the Rurouni Kenshin side looks great. The clear case that it comes in is also nice, as it lets you see both sides of the cover, whether you choose to flip the cover or not.
The menu is pretty simple, with a red and black image of Kenshin serving as the background. I like the picture used here and it's easy to get around, but you can just tell that ADV didn't really care that much about this release. It seems very little work was put into the menu. Also, the scene selection is very weak. There are a total of 8 scene selections. One of these is the ending. If I remember correctly, each episode of the OVA had 4 scene selections, including the ending. Thus, ADV has gone and cut down the number of selection points within the anime itself from 12 to 7. Why would they do such a thing? This makes navigating a teeny bit more of a chore.
There are no extras. Well, there is the ADV previews, but that doesn't count. But the OVA release had a ton of extras, including historical notes and character profiles. It boggles my mind as to why ADV coudn't include these already-made pieces of extras into this release. Rurouni Kenshin is very heavy on historical references, and I personally felt that the amount of historical notes provided in the original release wasn't even enough. So the total omittance of historical notes is a punch to the stomach. Thus, I have given the grade of F to the Extras.
This anime is the prequel to the anime series "Rurouni Kenshin". It narrates the tale of how the protagonist, Kenshin, earned that name, learned his sword techniques, became an assasin working to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate, and how he came to realize that what he is doing is wrong. It's a story filled with violence, betrayal, love, and tragedies. I can't emphasize how much I love this anime. There's plenty of reviews and spoilers abound on this website and others about what actually happens in the anime, so I'll refer you to those for a narration on what the story is about. Instead, I will focus on the several changes were made to this anime in the Director's Cut version and one major mistake that ADV made in presenting this show in this new release.
The one good change that they made to this is the added animation. I personally enjoyed seeing Kenshin fight through a swarm of adversaries in an added sequence at the end of the feature. However, most of the added animation will go unnoticed, as they're little bits and pieces to help the story flow smoother. I also feel that connecting the 4 episodes that comprised the OVA into 1 "movie" was a good idea. I mean, how many of us who watched the OVA actually watched them on 4 different sittings? All the people that I know have seen through all 4 episodes of the OVA in one sitting. It's that good. Thus, it makes sense to combine it all into 1 "movie", "episode", whatever you want to call it.
All of the other changes, including the change to the letterbox format that I mentioned earlier, are bad. One of the most noticeable change is the musical score. Another highlight of this anime is the great music by Taku Iwasaki. Yet, in many of my favorite scenes, such as where Kenshin meets Tomoe for the first time and where Kenshin kills Kiyosato, the highly memorable music that I've come to associate with those scenes are completely missing. These scenes now play out in silence with a few random background noises such as a dog barking. I can see what the director was trying to accomplish here - to make these scenes more omnious serious, and realistic... but I don't like it at all. It's like George Lucas taking out the Imperial March from the appearance of Darth Vader in Star Wars. On top of that, the added scenes mess with the perfectly timed music that existed in the original release and makes the music in some scenes sound off-synch. A prime example of this is !
the whole ending sequence with Kens
Finally comes my biggest complaint of this review. I had always felt that ADV's subtitling of the original release of the Kenshin OVA was terrible. They were way too liberal with their translation and entire lines of dialogue were sometimes lost as they took two sentences and spliced it into 1 sentence that didn't even equal the length of one of the original sentences. On top of that, the translator had missed the historical context of the anime on several occasions. Most of you who watched the original release of this anime probably didn't realize it, but you missed a LOT thanks to the translation for the subtitling. So naturally, I had been hoping that ADV would go and re-translate and re-subtitle this OVA for the Director's Cut version. My prayers went unanswered, however, as ADV just went and used the same script that was used for the original release. I was both disappointed and annoyed, so I'm going to point out some of the major mistakes made in the translation:
When Iizuka tells Kenshin where the clan meeting is (where the Shinsen Gumi raid is occuring,) he says in the subtitle "Sanjo Kawara-Machi in Ikeda-Ya!" Does that line make any sense to you? Ikeda-Ya was an inn located in the third block of the Kawara-Machi district in Kyoto. A Shinsen-Gumi raid actually did occur here, there's a monument to it in present-day Kyoto. Throughout this anime, the translator takes a lot of liberties and oversimplifies many of the lines. However, in this instance, they leave it just as it is said in Japanese. No simplifications or explanations. I don't see how anyone without an advanced knowledge of Japanese history could figure this out. At least a historical note or a translator's note should have been included in this release.
Earlier in the anime, Kenshin's master tells him that the Hiten swordsmanship is the "Black ship of absolute power that sails the land". A historical note here would've once again been very appropriate. Seijuro is referring to Commodore Perry's black steamship that arrived in Japan from America to get Japan out of its isolationist policies. The steamship and its cannons were extremely powerful in Japanese standards at the time and made a strong impact on the Japanese people of the time, and thus this reference is made. How many people, on thier own, actually figured out why Seijuro would say such a thing? Maybe a die-hard otaku would know, but I think it would've been nice if they could've included notes to teach a casual anime viewer of this fact.
One of the biggest translation error made in this release is when Kenshin first starts fighting the Shinsen Gumi during the raid on Ikeda-Ya. One of the Shinsen-Gumi speaks and it is translated as "We are the Shigesuke Heima trained in the technique of Hokushin Itto-Ryu!". What's actually being said, however, is "I am Shigesuke Heima of the Hokushin Itto-Ryu style!". Basically, the translator mistook the guy's name as the group's nickname. It was very common for a swordman back then to name himself and his style before engaging in a duel. It was a sort of an etiquette. That is why towards the beginning of the anime, when Kenshin kills Kiyosato, one of the bodyguards screams for Kenshin to "Name yourself!". On a sidenote, in the manga, Kenshin actually names himself and says "I am Hitokiri Battousai of the Choshu Clan." This is supposed to be a professional work here... it hurts me to see such a blatant mistake.
My last complaint comes from when Kenshin is fighting Okita at the end of the anime. Okita calls Saitou "Master Saitou". This is a mistake because Okita was the captain of the 1st battalion of the Shinsen-Gumi. His position was higher than that of Saitou, who was the captain of the 3rd battalion. Okita is saying "Mister Saitou" here, not "Master Saitou". All of you out there who has watched a lot of anime will notice that Okita is saying "Saitou-san" and not "Saitou-sensei" or anything that could be remotely translated as "Master Saitou".
With all these mistakes and more going uncorrected in this release, I was very disappointed with ADV's efforts, or the lack thereof. In conjunction with the negative effects brought about by the changes made to this version, I cannot recommend this version of the Kenshin OVA at all over the original 2-disc release. If you've never seen this before, I would most definitely buy the OVA version and not the Director's Cut version. The only reason why you might want to buy this version would be if you're 1. A collector, 2. Very short on money, or 3. Unable to go on without seeing the approximately 2 minutes, max, that comprises the new animation.
jWin JD-VD200 + Panasonic 27" TV