The most succinct way to describe Shin Kyoto Hen would be: "glossed over." What else would you expect from a two hour retelling that attempted to cover 27 episodes of the original series? That's not to say, however, that the OVAs are entirely without merit.
The environments are strikingly beautiful. The characters are modernized: cleaner and redesigned to better suit the current aesthetic, but unfortunately look washed out and unfinished when set against the detail of the backgrounds. Cinematography is done very well; the usage of color and light, particularly contrasting Kenshin's meetings with Misao and Shishio, is a nice touch.
Animation was hit
and miss. Where the TV show would use light and sound to indicate a superhuman move being performed, Cage of Flames impresses with full animations; noteworthy in Kenshin’s confrontation with Misao and battle with Chou. The fights in Song of the Light, however, lack the impact of those in the series. (Saitou’s evaluation fight with Kenshin comes to mind.) An argument can be made for the finesse of Kenshin vs Soujiro’s shukuchi duel, but the gatotsu and the futae no kiwami just don’t have the same raw explosiveness.
The soundtrack is still excellent. While the renditions lack their predecessor’s quaint appeal, they are more intricate in timbre and more “cinematic.” Familiar themes are used accordingly and don’t fail to accentuate the mood of a scene or remind us that this is indeed Rurouni Kenshin. Just don’t expect something as amazing as Tsuiokuhen’s OST.
Much of the gag humor and lightheartedness of the series was omitted in favor of a serious tone that accurately reflects the gravity of the arc. Studio Deen was aware of the age of the RuroKen fanbase, and thus had no qualms about showing the brutal reality of the fights and Shishio’s world; things that were implied and understood but not displayed by the series. This is where Cage of Flames truly shows its potential, setting all the scenes for conflict, building tension, and acknowledging all the right events from the original anime.
As if discouraged by the nostalgia-biased criticism of OVA1, the staff seemed to give up in Song of the Light. Sloppy animation aside, every character seems deflated. Both writing and delivery are unnatural given how little the development of their camaraderie is depicted. (I did like the more mature Misao, though; more convincing for the role of Okashira.) Aoshi and Shishio, obviously keeping their desire to strike in check in the first OVA, never demonstrate that catharsis, wasting all the anticipation.
As for how everything plays out... The absence of so many things (and members of the Juppongatana) completely overshadows the version of the story they attempt to tell.
Kenshin and Sanosuke never meet up; Sano is instead exclusively partnered with Saitou.
Sano’s parallelism with Anji is not explained.
Hiko’s arrival at the Aoiya is far less grand, because Yahiko never proves himself against Henya or demonstrates his impressive spirit.
Soujiro’s internal struggle to reconcile Kenshin’s and Shishio’s philosophies is barely there.
Saitou does not show his loyalty to Aku Soku Zan & police fighting Usui.
In fact all the duels that are glossed over don’t take place in Mt. Hiei, even though it was shown in Cage of Flames. I can go on, but the greatest wtf of the OVA and absolutely unforgivable omission is that Kenshin never uses his ougi…every major fight is won handily and anticlimactically. The conclusion of Watsuki’s Kyoto Arc is fundamentally altered and weakened.
*One thing did pique my interest: Saitou didn’t disappear in the blaze; he escapes with Soujirou. What might happen should the prodigy be taken under the wolf’s wing?
And so our heroes return (heroes being Kenshin and Aoshi, wtf happened to Sanosuke?) While Studio Deen apparently forgot how to make shounen/seinen fights epic, they do reunions passably well. (Kaoru finding Kenshin in OVA1, Misao welcoming Aoshi back.)
TL;DR Longtime fans of RK, Cage of Flames is worth checking out. Song of the Light is a waste of the va’s reprising their roles. Newcomers, don’t bother, watch the series, but feel free to stop before the Christian Knights and FengShui >_>
First thing is that if you haven't seen the Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai x's serie, you can enjoy this OVAS, but surely will not understand much of the things that happen. Second thing, I noticed that people were disgusted with the OVAS because of difference between the original and this one's, but I don't see it like that since this are, again, OVAS, not the remake of the arc or anything else but a great scale ensemble of the Kyoto arc events within another more dramatical point of view and story, that personally love it.
Ok, here I go:
I rate the story as very good because,
though it isn't the same as the original story and have some discrepancies, I perceive it as a more dramatic close up than the real story was, and certainly was something I enjoy. The same but with this realistic touch of the end of the bakumatsu tension that everybody may know.
I'm not the kind of person who loves the much more simple style of now a days drawings in animation, but can't say I didn't enjoy the sceneries and felt more connected to the time in which the story is supposed to be in. Still, the designs of the characters from my point of view, were awful.
It's one of the best parts. The background music in this OVAS was simple but in the part when you find a fight, that music guide you through those scenes amazingly.
Ok, they were ok, I mean, the whole thing was extra dramatic and showed us a deeper image of the characters as they wouldn't manifest in the main series and I like it but due to the time, we also lose part of the personalities from all. AND *spoiler alert*, there was something I really really disliked, at the last part Kenshin may leave the Rengoku without even caring about the others, ie Yumi, Soujiro or Saitou nor the tripulants, this also applies to that last blow to Shishio, leaving all the "not to kill, save all the lifes you can" philosophy go down the drain... really not like Himura.
Watching OVAS of a show you thought was lost and remembering all the funny and incredible adventures with that sense of "grown up" made me feel happy. Truly a sea of memories for those who used to watch the cartoon years ago.
I’m not going to use any arbitrary numbers because that won’t provide an accurate representation of what I just watched. One thing I’d advise before ever picking this title up is be sure you watched the original Rurouni Kenshin series prior. If you don’t you might be completely undone before you get to some of the juicier bits of this two part series. For everyone whose unaware of the story surrounding the New Kyoto Arc in Kenshin these films(?) are hard to follow and don’t convey enough of what made the original run of the arc so satisfying.
Now I’m not going to waste time arguing
what was done better in the original versus this adaptation, I’ll just get straight to it, it’s fast. The beginning of this series plunges you into the action of the story (with exposition, oh boy) and doesn’t really take its time to explain why the characters are all jumbled around, why Kenshin abandoned his friends, whose dead, whose not and that’s because it had to sum up the 30+ episodes that made up Rurouni Kenshin’s major arc in (give or take) 90 minutes. The soundtrack captures our wandering spirit (with a tinge of that sweet violin) just like the good ol’ Kenshin and Studio Deen’s fight choreography is great when Shishio and Kenshin finally get to have it out in [undisclosed location to avoid spoilers this time], so watch it for that even if it’s brief (the other fights are good too). Like any good fight scene though, context is necessary to drive emotions home and these films(?) don’t have time to provide context. Or at least not enough to make everything that’s happening feel justified.
Who am I recommending this to? People who watched (and/or loved) Rurouni Kenshin, because they’re the only ones who’ll get the whole picture. It’d be a pretty confusing watch otherwise.
what's the point of this?
Every five minutes or so I had to wonder that. Why would you have the sword collector and not give him swords? Why have over the top techniques and not show the name painted across the screen? Why reanimate and exclude the animation intensive scenes? Why have Kaoru and Yahiko if you take out all their scenes? Why have Kenshin's master and super fast Soujiro if there is no secret super fast final technique? Why have Soujiro loose his calm over a moral issue if you don't show whis moral issues? Overall this feels like someone with a plot synopsis
was asked to highlight the plot points on their first read without take backs.
(For example you'd assume at first that Chou is filler, and he originally was, but his character developed enough to put him in charge of the epilogue. Actually, all the characters that earned an epilogue are no longer part of the story.)
Ruroken always had some rhythm issues with Watsuki improvising way too much along the way. The artwork of the manga and some great episode directors made the originals work, but if there's a remake that changes events they could had fixed a lot of stuff.
So, what's the point of it? Was there really a need to do it this way? I think they wanted to capitalize on the live action films to promote the original, so they took out some sort of middle ground to motivate people to check it out. But the movies can do whatever they want because they are for a new audience and being live action you have a lower limit to push the fights before you lose the audience. There's nothing gain in this adaptation of an adaptation.
I would had been happier with 90 mins of the final fight, but that would make it exclusive for fans who still care about it and are willing to rewatch it. Maybe a retelling from Shishio's perspective would had been attractive to people who watched the anime/movies while being significantly shorter. But Ruroken without fights is just really boring, and there are literally no fights for more than an hour. And the ones there are after that fall flat because the motivations are said out loud 2 minutes before being refuted if there's any build up at all.
Usui constantly cock blocking Shishio was probably the only extra content that I sincerely loved. All historical elements were taken out (the burning of buddhist temples, prostitutes officially being defined as farm animals, the british economical control through Hong Kong, and so on) with all the great dead scenes. How do you dumb down an action show for 12 year olds? What's even the point?