Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #01: Legendary Swordsman -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)

Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #01: Legendary Swordsman

By Chris Beveridge     July 25, 2000
Release Date: July 25, 2000

Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #01: Legendary Swordsman
© Media Blasters

What They Say
The Meiji Revolution marked the end of the rule of the Shogun and the Samurai in Japan. In Tokyo, where swords with blades have been banned, Kaoru bumps into the wandering Kenshin while looking for the man that is tarnishing the name of her fencing school. Saga 1: The Handsome Swordsman Of Legend While looking for Battousai the Manslayer, a vicious murderer, Kaoru bumps into a wandering swordsman and mistakes him for the killer. The wanderer claims that he cannot kill with his sword, which has the blade on the wrong edge. She offers the wanderer sanctuary at her school. Kenshin proves valuable when the murderer, a vengeful ex-student, comes to kill Kaoru…
Saga 2: Kid Samurai Kaoru’s school has been vindicated, but her students aren’t coming back. As Kaoru drags Kenshin out to eat and forget about her woes, the two bump into Yahiko. He has been reduced pick pocketing to repay the medical bills his late mother owed a yakuza syndicate – Kaoru decides to help.

Saga 3: Swordsman of Sorrow Police officers storm the Kamiya school looking for Kenshin. Kaoru and Yahiko, thinking that they are out to arrest him, try to stall for time. Meanwhile, Kenshin is busy helping the townsfolk who are being bullied and murdered by the unethical police force.

Saga 4: Bad! The Kamiya family eating out again, encounter some rowdy drunken rebels. A lone man puts them in their place and introduces himself as Sanosuke, fighter for hire. Later Gohei (a Battousai imposter) contracts Sanosuke to kill Kenshin. Hearing that Kenshin was the Battousai, Sanosuke challenges Kenshin to fight he cannot refuse.

The Review!
To start things off properly, Rurouni Kenshin is one of those series. The kind where it already has a sizeable fan base who've seen all of it, who are extremely passionate and defensive about it. The kind of series where no matter who it was that would eventually license it, would not live up to their expectations. After all, Sony itself disappointed many fans in their English language version that's made a showing throughout Asia as Samurai X.

So naturally when the series was finally licensed for U.S. distribution, the usual doomsaying was in full force. Thankfully it was a relatively short amount of time between the licensing announcement and the arrival of the first release, so the rhetoric didn't reach a truly high level for a length of time.

Having seen the first episodes now on this disc, I believe a lot of the fears should be wiped away. While a segment of the hardcore fans simply won't be pleased, this release should definitely go over extremely well with the rest of the fans and newcomers alike. While not a perfect release, it's a far cry from the travesty that many predicted it would be. So let's get into the disc itself.

Kenshin is presented with both Japanese and English language tracks in 2.0 stereo. The Japanese track sounded quite wonderful throughout our playback of it on both our home theater and through our office theater setup. Dialogue was crisp and undistorted. There was some amount of directionality throughout the episodes and we did not notice any kind of audio reversals. After having heard parts of Sony's original English language dub, I was hopeful for a good new dub from Media Blasters, and their dubbing studio, Bang Zoom! Entertainment, did a great job.

For those who've seen the original, nothing will compare to that perfectly chosen cast. The English cast makes some of the usual choices, with some of the secondary and background characters doing their overacting (such as some of the policemen or the sever at the restaurant who has a southern belle accent). The one change that will always get a headshake is the voice actor for Kenshin himself. Originally played by a woman, he's now voiced by a soft voiced male actor, but it doesn't come across quite the same. But then again, that's not the point of dubbing to begin with. I really liked Kaoru's voice actress, and Yahiko wasn't too bad. The nice thing with the kids was that they actually sounded like kids. Dub fans should be really pleased with this cast overall, and with more episodes under their belt over the next few releases, they'll hit their stride quite well.

In terms of the video presentation, I'm extremely pleased with the outcome. While not perfect, this is a great looking disc. Using the same masters that Sony did for their DVD release and hearing from a few folks who have the Japanese discs, things compare quite favorably. This release has some line noise in various areas and a hint of pixellation here and there, but otherwise looks great on our setup. The first episode looked soft in several sequences, but this is attributed primarily to the animation style used, which throughout parts of the series look a little dry colored. The opening sequence shows off many vibrantly animated and vividly colored pieces, which show up throughout these episodes as well.

Similar to what they did with Magic Knights Rayearth, Rurouni Kenshin has only one encoded opening and ending, which is loaded around each episode when you play it. Depending on how quick your players access speeds are, this is either not noticeable at all or there's a couple second pause/delay while it seeks out this video block to play. There are also two separate endings that are used, depending on which language you have selected. The Japanese language track pulls up the animated ending sequence and has only the Japanese song on it. If you're playing in English, you get the English rendition of the song (which I really liked!) and you get a black background with scrolling credits, including the English voice actor credits.

As time goes on, I hope to see credit sequences adopt what Bandai has done with Gundam Wing and ADV with Sakura Diaries. This is ideal and everyone is happy.

For several weeks before the release of this volume, several online vendors showed a piece of artwork that a lot of people really didn't care much for as the cover. With its release, we find that it's a completely different piece of artwork, and one that more people do like, myself included. The darker serious image of Kenshin coming through the floating leaves with the written language flowing down behind him is quite eye catching in that it draws your attention initially to the leaves and then centers in on Kenshin himself. The back cover doesn't fare as well, as there's so much text information to pass along that a really thin and small font is used, making it difficult to read. Or maybe I'm just getting old. Some animation captures and some artbook image is used for the back while the disc itself is silkscreened with a different image of Kenshin. Overall a very nicely put together package.

The menus are pretty straightforward for this release, with the main menu having episode selections, setup and extras. Hopefully in the future the episodes will have numbers beside them so you can tell which order they're supposed to be in. Selections are made quickly and access times are pretty fast overall.

In terms of extras, this disc scores very high with me. Frankly, any disc that includes liner notes as good as this will rate very high. While a lot of shows don't really merit extensive notes on the story, shows like Kenshin and others that deal with historical and cultural aspects of Japan are almost a necessity if you want to really get into it. With this show being steeped in historical references to the era, and Kenshins involvment with a change in government, there's plenty of references that will slide by most people. The liner notes in here help with both that and with various bits of dialogue and translations. The notes also give a nod to fans who have seen the show before, such as giving recognition to them when explaining about Kenshin's signature "Oro?" phrase.

In addition, there's about 18 pieces of cel artwork in the gallery with a few from an artbook (I'm hoping for more art book pictures in the future), a good character profile section and my second favorite thing in the extras section, a creditless opening. This is a definite plus in my book and should be a requirement on every anime DVD release.

The what they say section of this review pretty much covers the content of the disc. I won't be going into too much detail about the episodes, but I do want to talk about the show so far.

Since it's the first disc, in what could very well be twenty four discs total, the primary focus is to bring the principal cast into place, establish the setting and start rolling things forward. The story opens with a brief description of Kenshin at the end of the Tokugawa era, and a few hints at his involvement in helping bringing about the Meiji era.

As he has left that life and wanders around, he stumbles into an area where someone is claiming to be him and killing people. This brings him directly into confrontation with Kaoru Kamiya. From there, Kenshin ends up staying with her. It's not long there after (well, another episode at least) before they acquire their plucky sidekick in the form of Yahiko, the son of a Samurai whose died. Throughout these sequences we learn more and more about Kenshin's personality and background, as well as just how good of a swordsman he is.

The main draw for me with this show though isn't the swordplay, though it's entertaining to watch. Especially with Zanza and his big sword. It's the interplay of dialogue and reactions of the principal cast. It's watching Kenshin's confused look and his continual oro sounds.

Rurouni Kenshin is a well put together disc with a few shortcomings. The content is the main draw, and from our playback experiences the video and audio definitely make it enjoyable. I only have one huge complaint about this - I have to wait a month for the next volume. I want it now!

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Image Gallery,Extensive Liner Notes,Character Profiles,Creditless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.


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