Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #07: Shadow of the Wolf -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • 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. #07: Shadow of the Wolf

By Chris Beveridge     July 10, 2001
Release Date: July 10, 2001

Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #07: Shadow of the Wolf
© Media Blasters

What They Say
Kenshin, whose wish to live in peace proved impossible when faced with the threat of national revolution by an old friend, has decided to pick up his sword again and wander the Earth again. Leaving his life in Tokyo behind, Kenshin travels deep into the dark world of the Juppon Gatana, a collective of assassins and swordsmen who are plotting to overthrow the Meji government. Faced with a group of crazed killers, Kenshin must prevent the country from being taken over by these madmen.

The Review!
With six volumes leading up to here, the way of life the Kenshin has worked hard to achieve is given a greater meaning, as his past catches up with him in a violent and unexpected way. The Kenshin series takes on a whole new twist with this single volume.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. And compared to previous volumes, this audio track sounds a fair bit pumped up. The effects and music track has a much lower feel to it in many places and generally feels more alive than in the past. There's also a fair change in the music style, which also brings a more heavy feeling to the audio. Dialogue continues to be clean and clear and no distortions were noted. This is definitely a great sounding TV soundtrack.

The video transfer here is pretty much par for the course, based on what we've seen from earlier volumes. There's a fair bit of rainbowing during several sequences, and some that slip in around the edges of characters during some other scenes throughout. They're not as pronounced as earlier volumes though. The main problem that people may or may not see is the color banding, most visible in close-ups of characters faces or in the solid outfits many of them wear, such as the browns and blues. There dark blue night skies fare pretty well here, with only a few hints at artifacting, but otherwise looking mostly solid. There's a lot of dark colors on this disc, with many sequences taking place at night, and for the most part it looks pretty good.

With the darker turn of the series, the covers begin to change some with a new sublogo of Legend of Kyoto. This cover features the revolution mindset versions of Kenshin and Saito, weapons in hand and blood in their eyes. It looks pretty nice overall, and fairly dark. The back cover provides a number of nice screen shots and a decent summary of the four episodes contained within. While there is no volume number listed, the back does list both the episode numbers and their titles, which is a fair trade in my mind. The insert reproduces the back cover pictures in a smaller form alongside the chapter listings while the disc itself is silkscreened nicely with a variant of the cover artwork.

Continuing the changes, the menu layout also becomes much improved in style over past releases, while still retaining its fast access times and ease of layout. A similar black/red style from the cover is used here, with another Japanese styled layout for borders and lettering. The effect is definitely in tone with the show, and after having consistent menus for the first six volumes, is a welcome change for the start of this arc.

The main draw for the extras here for me continues to be the translation liner notes, which do a good job of describing key elements in more detail and providing historical factual tidbits to bring things into perspective. This is followed up with a new creditless ending as well as a new batch of dub outtakes of the show. Media Blasters was also gracious enough to include the original epilogue from the fourth episode here, which contains the original Japanese writing (the episode itself was provided clean, with an English scroll over done).

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The change in this show is apparent from the moment it really starts after the credits. Flashbacks to Kenshin's days as the Battousai during the revolution. The assassinations in the street, the blood everywhere, the completely focused look in his eyes.

When you have these images, and then return to his present day life, with the children playing ball around him, Yahiko practicing with Kaoru, and in general, his usual routine, it really sinks in just how much he's changed over the years. And that he's definitely a different person from ten years earlier.

This is when Saito, former leader of the Third Squad of the Shinsengumi, returns to Kenshin's life to remind him of everything he was in the past. Saito, working for a politico who wants to have Kenshin eliminated, plots far deadlier deeds that intended and has his own plan in the works. He spends time getting to know the area, as we learn through flashbacks, and then proceeds to take down Sanosuke when he arrives at the dojo looking for Kenshin. The speed and cool ferocity at which this incident occurs is shocking, and one attack in particular even had me let out a sound of anguish, something that I rarely do with anime anymore.

This leads up to the eventual encounter between Saito and Kenshin, which provides a number of very chilling moments for the surrounding characters who suddenly find themselves involved. The fight sequence lasted much longer than I expected, but was definitely choreographed well. The viciousness in the attacks, masked under their cold calculating facade was wonderfully done, providing a real feel for these ultimate killers.

Spoiler: One section that really got me, in both its beautiful but simple animation and its strong emotional push, is the final moments of the last episode with Kaoru outside watching the fireflies, when Kenshin returns. When he tells her that he's going to Kyoto, and she falls to the ground with waves of tears, the look and feel of this moment is very powerful. Not quite as much of an emotional punch as sequences from the Kenshin OVA's, but this is the first true emotional moment I've connected with in the TV series so far. End Spoiler

While I had enjoyed the first six volumes of the series, I know that by the seventh volume if things hadn't picked up in some way, I would have been tempted to drop it, especially if I hadn't known that this entire arc was coming up (and doing what I do, it's impossible not to learn many spoilers far in advance of shows even being licensed). But having finally made it to the start of the mythical Kyoto Arc, I'm looking forward to seeing what's coming instead of listening to "die-hard" fans moan and complain about how bad the episodes before it are. Things definitely look promising here.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner Notes,Creditless Ending,Dub Outtakes,Original Epilogue

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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