Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #10: Between Life and Death -

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Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • 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. #10: Between Life and Death

By Chris Beveridge     September 11, 2001
Release Date: September 11, 2001

Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #10: Between Life and Death
© Media Blasters

What They Say
Kenshin's swordsmanship has always been the strongest, but he is not a true master of the Hiten Mitsurugi Style. As a young revolutionary, Kenshin abandoned his martial training prematurely, in order to become a killer and tread the dark path of the Battosai.

Finally, Kenshin is determined to finish what he started, and is reunited with his former master, Seijuro Hiko. But his new trial will not be easy, and the odds are stacked against him. Ice and fire join in an unholy alliance, as Shishio strikes a deal with none other than Aoshi Shinamori....

Is Aoshi is willing to throw his soul away for a chance to defeat Kenshin?

The Review!
The Kyoto arc goes strong here by taking a bit of a flashback to Kenshin's origins and provides some of the more humorous moments of this arc yet.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Throughout the presentation, we had no noticeable distortions or dropouts, though there were a few moments where the show went silent and I thought it was a problem, but really just a stylistic choice. Dialogue continues to be very center channel heavy, but the action sequences are doing a good job of making use of the left/right channels. The opening and closing music also make great use of those channels, causing us to jack up the volume for both.

There are a number of gorgeous looking sequences in these episodes that just shined here. The transfer is pretty solid overall, with the only problem being some muted cross coloration showing up (notably along hair edges) at different levels. There's some slight pixellation in a few places, but pretty negligible overall. Colors looked solid outside of a few slightly rough looking blue skies. There was enough good looking things to this disc that I noted less problems as time progressed through it.

The cover this time around has a great striking visual look to it with Kenshin taking the secondary lower position to Seijuro's overpowering larger image behind him. The artwork looks great and the colors looks good on it though there's a bit of (intentional) bleeding with Seijuro's cloak. The back cover provides a few shots of animation and a summary of things to expect while listing the episode numbers and titles. It's hard to believe this brings us up to episode 43! The insert rearranges the artwork from the back cover and provides the chapter stops while the disc is silkscreened with a partial image from the front cover.

The menus follow the same design as other previous Kyoto arc discs, with its striking colors and general look and feel. The layout is the same and access times are still nice and fast.

The first and continually best extra included here is another couple pages worth of liner notes that go into detail on more of the things that help build up your knowledge of the time and place that these events are taking in. The next extra is the dub outtake section, which runs just over two minutes. What's become unfortunate about the dub outtakes is that as the actors got better and got into their roles more and used the names more, there are less genuinely funny outtakes as opposed to lines that just end in garbled junk. Of course, we're not asking for actors to intentionally flub lines for better outtakes, but maybe it's close to time to retire it for the Kenshin series and do something like a series of video interviews with the actors, now that their characters have evolved so much.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Where to even begin?

There's a lot going on here, just as in the past dozen or so episodes as well. The show picks up pretty much where it left off in the last episode, with Kenshin taking on the Vash-reject who wants the last sword and has the baby as his hostage to get it. Being the cutthroat that he is, he wants his duel with Kenshin first, especially knowing that Kenshin has no blade. But even without a blade, Kenshin proves himself to be quite dangerous with just the scabbard alone. With friends looking on, the dead swordsmiths son begins to understand what his father had done during his life and what he was trying to accomplish with his blades.

This gives him the courage to try and do something as opposed to just watching his child dangle helplessly and he races to the temple to get the sword. Kenshin manages to defend him and distract his enemy enough that he's soon thrown the sword. The Vash-reject is dealt with swiftly as Kenshin shifts full into his Battousai mode only to learn he has not killed - the final blade of the swordsmith was a reverse blade sword. And the original one no less, the one Kenshin's was made from. This new blade is superior to his previous one by its design and will definitely prove useful to Kenshin.

That's not to say the bad guys are just sitting around waiting for things to happen. Taking a view of people walking around town, we see a lot of the recruited people who serve Shishio are now arriving and mingling, we see Aoshi making his way to the Oniwaban group in Kyoto, we see Kaoru and Yahiko looking for Kenshin, we see Saito arriving and finding Sanosuke already in jail, and amusingly, we find many of them walking right by each other unknowingly.

This gets almost comedic, but doesn't quite reach there when Misao, searching for the now disappeared Kenshin, ends up running into Karou and Yahiko, and they figure out that the other knows Kenshin. This leads to the amusing and somewhat unnerving event of having the Oniwaban group having the two as guests in their place, with Karou knowing what's gone down before with its members and leader.

So where's Kenshin during all of this? He's managed to get the location of his old teacher, Seijuro. Living the life of a pottery maker, he appears to have given up the sword and is now a ripe old age of 43 (and we learn that Kenshin is now 28). Kenshin has come to his original teacher to learn the final secret move of his style, a move that will give him an edge over Shishio.

Seijuro refuses on many levels, essentially belittling Kenshin for what he's done with his life in the past 10 years, for his becoming a wanderer, for not doing what needed to be done. The interplay between these two is not what you'd expect, with it providing a number of moments of levity. Seijuro is actually something of a sarcastic jokester, to the point of even mentioning with his deadpan delivery when Kenshin last wet his bed.

Did you expect that comment during a tension building training phase? Well, when Seijuro finally does agree to teach him the move, expect comments like that and a heck of a lot more. The entire time the two are together is actually quite hilarious, with many comments similar to that showing a stark contrast between the training and the flashbacks to Kenshin's past, when Seijuro first found him and took him under his wing. This is the section where things get some deja vu if you've seen the OVA's as released by ADV Films. I'm still not sure which is best to watch first.

This volume of Kenshin thankfully doesn't end on anything similar to a big cliffhanger, but it does leave you wanting more. There's a number of revelations and changes for almost all of the characters here, especially for ones we didn't even mention so as to not give anything away. Kenshin continues to be a very strong series as the Kyoto arc continues and this disc is no exception.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Dub Outtakes,Liner Notes

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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