Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #09: Heart of the Sword - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • 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. #09: Heart of the Sword

By Chris Beveridge     August 14, 2001
Release Date: August 14, 2001


Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #09: Heart of the Sword
© Media Blasters


What They Say
In the heart of the Japanese countryside, Himura Kenshin finally reaches the source of the fire that has been blackening his nation. It’s the historic first meeting of Kenshin and Shishio, the heralds of revolutions past and future....

Shishio sets Kenshin against Sonjou, a young man who always has a pleasant smile on his face, even when he is committing murder. Kenshin defends himself, but Sonjou’s ferocious attack splits the reverse-blade sword in two!

The Review!
Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no noticeable dropouts or other distortions. The music is the real beneficiary here, notably the ending song that just sounds fantastic. Sound effects make good use of the forward soundstage, giving various techniques a very strong presence.

Video:
The video quality continues to be tweaked here as the episodes continue to look better with each new release. Rainbows have dropped again, though there are still a few noticeable ones. Jagged lines show up in a few areas, mostly during camera panning sequences, but are also fairly minimal. If anything, some areas look somewhat grainy but looks to be part of the intended style of the backgrounds. Night blue skies hold up pretty well and there's very little color banding throughout.

Packaging:
A great looking blue is used to highlight the characters and the title for this release. Kenshin's the primary figure, but with him minimized our eyes are drawn more to Sojiro and Shishio more than him. The back cover provides a bunch of animation pictures as well as a good summary of what's on the disc. Episode numbers and titles are included and the bottom bar of features are listed in an easy to read format. The style of Media Blasters releases are getting better and better. The insert takes the artwork from the back cover and resizes them up alongside the chapter listings.

Menus:
The menu system continues the new style set forth since the Kyoto arc started. A 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, this is a nice change for this arc. The menus for this release have also eliminated the one thing that annoyed me with this setup, and that's the English bit of dialogue that shows up before the menu becomes useable. Thank you!

Extras:
The usual array of extras are included here. The first is another lengthy session of liner notes that continues to educate us on a lot of things from the series and this particular time in Japan as well as going into some of the troubles that can be found doing translations. The dub outtakes make another appearance, though the actors continue to have their roles down pretty good, meaning that most of the outtakes have them just rambling off in error at the end as opposed to the outright oddities they came up with in earlier volumes. Also included is the textless ending for the latest ending sequence that shows up during these episodes. Hopefully the new opening will get a textless version on the next disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Things only get more challenging for Kenshin. With an invitation from Shishio as delivered by Sojiro, Kenshin and Saito find themselves in the building Shishio is using for his "command" center for the village where so many people have now died. The meeting of the three is both tense and relaxed, as all three master swordsmen begin sizing each other up while verbally sparring about the future of the country.

Kenshin fully intends to end everything with Shishio here and now, but Shishio has other plans for Kenshin. With Saito simply observing, Shishio summons in Senkaku, the rather large and butt-ugly minion whose been in charge of the village for the past several months and is responsible for most of the deaths. Shishio and his woman watch carefully as Senkaku uses all his skills and weapons to try and eliminate Kenshin.

While Shishio and his woman make their way back to Kyoto where he wants Kenshin to come and fight in a grand setting and as the battousai that he really is, Kenshin takes on Sojiro in a rather tense and well played out match of styles. We learn some interesting bits about why Shojiro is the way he is from his past as well as how is style of fighting works. I actually started to like the Sojiro character more after his encounter with Kenshin.

A good bit of time is also spent with Sanosuke. During his travel to Kyoto, he continues to become lost. The number of times you could imagine him turning into a little black pig are numerous. While his self-training along the journey has been going well, he knows he's still fundamentally lacking in something. His mind drifts back to Saito's comments about his lack of defensive skills and the frustration only gets to him.

Things do turn in his favor though when he comes across Anji, a monk of sorts whose skill he observes undetected. Anji's concentration and focus into his primary skill allows him to smash massive rocks into dust with a quick movement of punches using his knuckles in a particular way. Upon seeing this rare skill, Sanosuke practically begs Anji to teach him this skill so he can have something useful to add should he ever make it to Kyoto.

Anji eventually agrees, and tells Sanosuke that if he cannot learn the secret technique he showed him within a month, he'll kill him. Anji mentions that it took him nearly ten years to master it, so Sanosuke shouldn't get his hopes up. Sanosuke proves his determination by telling him he'll master it in seven days so he can get on with his journey. The week of training is another good look into the character of Sanosuke and what drives him to what he does.

There's a fair amount of secondary information that comes up regarding the changes in Kyoto and some interesting revelations as Kenshin and Misao make their way into the city. The Kyoto storyline seems to be in a bit of a lull here, but there's actually a solid amount of action and revelations provided, but sometimes it just comes at a surprising pace. If you've enjoyed any of the Kyoto arc episodes so far, this is another winner for you.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner Notes,Dub Outtakes,Textless Ending (new)

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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