Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Media Blasters
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 125
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)
Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #13: Innocence & Experience
By Zubin Kumana
February 05, 2002
Release Date: December 04, 2001
Thirteen volumes of Rurouni Kenshin. Unless you do you web browsing from under a rock, you must be aware of this series in some way or another.
Menus. Media Blasters provides more of the same, with the same basic interface. You get liner notes and outtakes on this one, and they are about on par with the rest of the series in terms of quantity and quality.
Regarding the layer transition: my PS2 had trouble reading the disc after the layer transition. Thankfully, the X-Box was able to play it fine. I have repeatedly had problems with the PS2 and Rurouni Kenshin discs in particular, so I suggest that you consider this if that's your only DVD player.
Content. Well, we've got another five-episode disc here, and none of it is filler, so prepare for a lot of advancement in the Kyoto story line.
The first episode continues the previous volume, with Kaoru, Yahiko, Misao, and the Oniwaban group defending the Aoiya from Fuji, the Rurouni Kenshin equivalent of Trigun's Nebraska Family (although Trigun came later, I believe). The group is about to be decimated by the towering (admitted Evangelion-esque) Fuji when "Superman" shows up, attitude and all. Seijuro Hiko, fulfilling a promise to Kenshin, defends the group from Fuji's strike. He then continues by talking Fuji into facing him as a martial artist, having him give up his "Brains" and drop his monster-armor. Fuji agrees, as Hiko is the first opponent he has faced who treats him as a fellow human being. Of course, on these terms, Fuji is no match, and Hiko defeats him with relative ease.
The next three episodes deal with the long-anticipated match between Soujiro and Kenshin. Kenshin, badly wounded from his previous fight with Aoshi, must face Soujiro. Soujiro, not revealing his emotions, is a difficult read for Kenshin, and hidden is his repertoire are some fearsome techniques that are, to an ordinary man, lethal and unstoppable. Soujiro reveals his "Shukuchi", a footwork technique that gives him speed in excess of the Hiten Mitsurugi style. However, Soujiro is a sporting man, and gives Kenshin a chance by holding back for a while. Saito, in the meantime, takes advantage of the attention on Soujiro and Kenshin to move about the compound freely.
During this match, we flash back to Soujiro's past, to see what made him into who he is. We learn that Soujiro was a bastard child, taken care of by his father's legitimate children after his father's death. Mistreated and abused, Soujiro repressed his anger and sorrow, learning to smile when receiving a beating. This if course, resulting in even more terrible punishments at the hands of his family. One night, while forced to lug rice barrels, Soujiro happens upon Shishio killing several policemen. Shishio attempts to kill him, but becomes curious as to why the boy is smiling right before his death. Soujiro explains his willingness to die, and Shishio spares him in return for room & board. Shishio, upon learning of Soujiro's situation, offers him his wakizashi, and instructs him on his basic philosophy of life; namely, that those who are strong live, while those who are weak, perish.
Meanwhile, the police inform Soujiro's family of the reward for Shishio's capture. Suspicious of the time Soujiro spends away, and the missing food and bandages, Soujiro's family confronts him. Angered over the damage to the reputation of the family, they plan to kill him. Soujiro runs under the house to where he has hidden his wakizashi. As one of his half brothers chases him under the house with murderous intent, Soujiro acts. Once the line has been crossed, and seeing the truth in Shishio's words, Soujiro slays the rest of his family.
Returning to the present situation, Kenshin, while taking repeated cuts and beatings from Soujiro, begins to sense the uneasiness in Soujiro. The presence of Kenshin before him, all that he has done, and all that he stands for, raises questions in the mind of Soujiro as to whose philosophy is correct: Shishio's or Kenshin's? The mere existence of a protector of the weak does not make sense to Soujiro; as the battle continues, he wonders what strength is and what strength is for. The ultimate conclusion comes with all the climax you can handle; the two swordsmen attack each other with all their strength. And the winner is:
Kenshin, winning the match, proceeds to the Arena Room, where Shishio waits. The Arena Room is an open space with oil pumped to flares surrounding a towering platform, the top of which will be host to the final showdown. Meanwhile, the loser, Soujiro, retiring from the Juppongatana to begin a new life, gives Yumi one last tip to aid Shishio in the coming fight. In this episode we are treated to several flashbacks as Kenshin scales the stairs leading to the arena. Memories of Kaoru, Yahiko, Misao, and his "families" at the Kamiya dojo and the Aoiya return to Kenshin, and he weighs the gravity of the effect this fight will have on the future of Japan.
We do get a brief glimpse at the coming battle in this last episode, as Shishio shows off some his moves to a weakened Kenshin. Shishio has accumulated a lot of kills over his career as an assassin, and the fat from the bodies of his victims has saturated the scored grooves of his thirsty blade. This makes for a highly flammable surface, which Shishio puts to good use in a few opening passes at Kenshin. However, for the meat of this battle, we will have to wait for the next disc.
Thus ends volume 13. Now, we wait for Disc 14, the last volume of the Kyoto arc!
This disc is an excellent continuation to one of the best series out there right now. For a well-balanced mixture of war, politics, action, romance, drama, and humor... well, mostly drama and action I guess, but still, this is the series to beat. The development of one of the main villains expands the story, bringing a new dimension of humanity to Soujiro (and, surprisingly, Shishio - he's not completely a bad guy). Of course, it is late in the game, but this brings to the table added replay value, as watching the previous volumes with the knowledge of their motivations brings new light to the story.
Bottom Line: Don't stop now. If you've been keeping up, then keep on keepin' on. If you haven't, consider climbing aboard, because the ride is almost over.
Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft X-Box, 27" Sony WEGA FS12, Sony MHC-M630AV Sound System