Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #14: Fire Requiem - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • 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: 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. #14: Fire Requiem

By Chris Beveridge     March 28, 2002
Release Date: January 15, 2002


Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #14: Fire Requiem
© Media Blasters


What They Say
In every war there will come a single battle like no other. It is a battle with no rules, where unlikely allies fight side by side until none have the strength to stand. The stage has been lit with fire and hate as the final players gather.

Kenshin Himura, Sanosuke Sagara, Saito Hajime, Aoshi Shinamori, and Shishio Makoto remain. Between these five men, the future of the Meiji Era will be decided. Kenshin has come a long way since he began walking the road to Kyoto. However, if he doesn't find closure to the tragic tale of the Battousai, he will never return home to Tokyo. The final battle has begun!

The Review!
The finale of the Kyoto arc arrives here, and you know it's a finale because that's the episode title halfway through. The build up of the past 60 odd episodes comes to a conclusion here.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show continues its strong sounding forward soundstage based mix with a lot of the music and ambient effects coming across nicely with a fair bit of directionality. Dialogue was nice and strong and the feel of the music was great. Unlike the previous disc, we had no dropouts this time.

Video:
For the most part, things look pretty consistent with most of the Kyoto arc releases. Colors are nice and solid though not terribly flashy by design. There's some cross coloration visible along the edges of some characters, more noticeable in the first episode or two here than the entire disc. A lot of this just comes from some of the tight line artwork that they've done.

Packaging:
Kenshin and Shishio make up the cover here but getting most of the attention, at least to me, is a gorgeous picture of Yume held close by Shishio. The artwork here looks great and gets you ready for what's inside. The back cover has some nice animation shots along with a brief summary of the episodes inside. Episode numbers and titles are listed and the special features below the production credits, though a bit hard to see with the black on gray with a white drop shadow. The insert resizes the images from the back cover to different shapes and lists the chapters for the episodes next to it.

Menus:
The menu layout is the same as the last couple from the Kyoto arc batch but with a twist of the hanging kanji banners now being caught up in flames and with the swirling flames underneath. The cover art makes another appearance here and looks even more lusciously vivid. The submenus loud nicely and the layout remains consistent with earlier volumes as well as having excellent access times.

Extras:
There's some interesting extras to be found this time around. The dub outtakes manage to get out of the slump they've been in with the past couple of volumes and produce some side splitting moments of laughter. The actor for Shishio seemed particularly hungry during these outtakes. We get two screens worth of liner notes, since there's little here outside of the combat sequences and the epilogue. But we also get a list of all the main characters attacks and what they mean. And in an interesting piece, we have some "Character Messages", which is a dub-only segment (presumably not done in Japan) where the voice actors have their characters thank the viewer for watching and encourage them to watch the next arc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The finale the Kyoto Arc is definitely everything that everyone who had seen it said it was.

Consider this entire review chock full of spoilers. There's no way around it.

Things pick up where we left off on the last disc with Kenshin and Shishio taking each other on. Kenshin's still visibly weakened after his battles with Sojiro and Aoshi, but he continues to put up a strong fight against Shishio. But even with all that he does, Shishio's barely breaking a sweat in this fight and manages to counter practically every move Kenshin makes. With Shishio's ability to master anything after seeing it, it doesn't take too long before Kenshin gets taken out and ends up laying on the ground in a near coma-like state.

This allows several others to try and take Shishio down. But come on, you know it's not going to happen like that. But it does allow for some serious posing moments and for the secondary characters to get their big piece of screen time. Saito appears out of nowhere and brings some real power to the fore as he and Shishio go at it. But he's weakened after his last battle and cannot handle Shishio. Even after revealing a new attack, Saito gets nailed hard by Shishio, leaving the field empty again, but with two bodies.

This is where Sanosuke gets his shining moment. With all that the character's been through since he first met and tried to kill Kenshin, seeing this much change in the character from then was great. Sanosuke talks about what he's learned in life since meeting Kenshin and how he can't let those dreams of a peaceful Japan end like this. He uses his skills as taught by Anji and used in his extreme battle against him and tries to take on Shishio. But again, no matter how strong or valiant, Shishio has seen the move already and flicks him back after letting him try to land a few.

And though it shouldn't come as a surprise, Aoshi arrives as well to finish out the deal he had made with Shishio. The leader of the Oniwaban group and Shishio prove to be just as dramatic a fight as the one Saito had with him, but it's during this time that we learn something's not quite right. Yume begins to panic as Shishio has been fighting for almost fifteen minutes, which is the limit his doctor has figured upon that he can work at such high levels before his blood literally begins to boil. Shishio then realizes that Aoshi is just playing for time, as the air begins to crackle with the spirit of a swordsman and Kenshin begins to pull out of his coma-like sleep.

The big real finale fight begins between the two and Shishio's swordsman's spirit also awakens here, but unlike Kenshin's which took the form of leaves, his is the crackling fire around them. But it's here where my problem with the whole arc comes into play. While there was foreshadowing earlier about Shishio's body temperature running higher and the possible implications, it's only during this disc that it's revealed about his fifteen minute limit. And at the very height of the battle between these two men, where the fate of the future of Japan lies, all Kenshin has to do is run out the clock until Shishio literally combusts. I've been told that, much like it says in the show, that the age chose the winner and wanted the peaceful future that Kenshin is fighting for.

I'll continue to get raked over the coals for it, but I felt this was a major copout. Kenshin's been pushed to be what he once was for the entire arc of this storyline, and when it finally comes down to the end where he has to make that decision, he's saved from it by this. One of the reasons that I enjoy anime so much is that they often don't do things like this, they have the characters make decisions that cause them to break vows and to do what they don't want to do. Even if they decided to not have him kill Shishio, I would have preferred Kenshin to have said so and back off and to bring a way for Saito to do it, to bring proper closure to this arc.

Even with all that's gone on, that still leaves two episodes after the battle ends for a good epilogue to be done. Kenshin and Sanosuke are definitely fairly well beaten up, and they take some time to recover at the Aoiya with the Oniwaban folks with Kaoru and Yahiko. Members of Shishio's fighting force that are still alive end up going in different ways, such as Sojiro heading off to rediscover his life and Anji turning himself in for a long prison sentence to atone for his sins. Most of the henchmen that are still alive though end up in service of the Meiji government where there skills are needed to secure the country. In its own way, this brings an interesting conclusion to the power struggle.

And thankfully, Houji finally got his. Truly an annoying character.

There's a number of resolutions for characters here as well, such as Aoshi and the girl he rescued who still loves him. Megumi has some serious words for Kaoru over her relationship with Kenshin and what she has to do for him and Yahiko asks some serious questions about his role in all of this as he struggles to grow up in the shadow of such powerful men. The majority of this disc was a real treat and had us on the edge of our seats, which is why we gave it the dual grading review. Just a few seconds of footage really changed how we felt about a particular aspect, but I'm willing to compartmentalize it and recognize how good everything else was and what it accomplished. I just don't have to like those few seconds.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner Notes,Dub Outtakes,Attack List,Character Messages

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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