When mankind's savagery surpasses his fear of death, there is little hope for those who wish to live honest lives. Beneath a full moon, a young boy witnesses the murder of the bandits who had enslaved him, and is then christened with a new name by the man who rescued him. This boy is Shinta, now known as Kenshin Himura, and he is destined to become a swordsman. The softness of his heart does not befit the occupation, but his desire to protect the innocent is absolute.
Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan - Tsuioku-hen details the origins of the man who would bear the name of Hitokiri Battousai long before he swore his oath not to kill and before he earned his reputation as an assassin. The young man’s heart is divided between justice and corruption, while the fate of a nation rests on his actions.
There's a universally accepted truth as far as anime shounen stories go: nine times out of ten, the manga is better than the anime adaptation. While that is the case with Rurouni Kenshin as a whole, what Studio DEEN did with Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen can be called nothing short of a masterpiece. In the manga, Nobuhiro Watsuki describes Kenshin's past that's full of strife and hardship, but with a touch of comedy to help tone down the entire seriousness of the situation. Studio DEEN abolished what little comedy Watsuki went with and, along with flawless animation, a unique art style, and a beautifully composed soundtrack
by Taku Iwasaki, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen is an ideal example of as close to perfection as one can get.
Art/Animation - 9
Taking a step away from the style of the Rurouni Kenshin TV series, Tsuiokuhen takes a darker and more grim approach to its presentation. The first and most notable change from the TV series is the depiction of the various sword styles and their employment in the scenes, as well as realistic blood splatter. While the TV series emphasizes the effect and abilities of the techniques of these styles, Tsuiokuhen brings realistic swordplay into its story. Another noticeable changeover is the expressions of its characters: although in the TV series these characters are serious but still have comedic tendencies, all this is removed in these OVAs, leaving a serious tone for its story. In addition to these changes, Tsuiokuhen also has more of an emphasis on its setting through its animation. It is undeniably Japan under the Tokugawa Regime, the banners of the Samurai, rags worn by the slaves, and everything down to the buildings and clothes.
Sound - 9.7
This anime’s music soundtrack is both beautiful and intense. In addition, combining sword fights that sound like real sword fights, attention to sound effects, and the voice actors chosen, Tsuiokuhen’s sound is nothing short of brilliant. The voices of the characters are just another reason as to why this anime has a grim depiction as many are cold and basically emotionless, while other characters have either normal voice expressions or even upbeat tones. With such great story, characters, and animation, Tsuiokuhen could have easily loosened the reigns in the sound department, but instead this show doesn't stop short. The great sound selections really finalize and add polish to an already great show with the final result being a true masterpiece.
Characters - 10
Tsuiokuhen provides the foundation for what becomes one of anime's most likable and well developed characters in Himura Kenshin. A focus of this anime is Kenshin's growth as he transitions from adolescence to adulthood and his struggle as he comes to terms with his role in the world. Newcomers to the Rurouni Kenshin scene will be introduced to a wide variety of unique characters who play a prominent role throughout Kenshin's life. Fans of the historical/samurai genre will see familiar faces in Soushi Okita and Hajime Saito of the Shinsengumi. The swordmaster Seijuro Hiko also serves as a counterpoint to Kenshin's idealism with his jaded take on life and his belief that a sword is merely a tool for murder. Those already familiar with Kenshin as the vagrant samurai with a reversed blade sword will be treated to a glimpse into the background of the Hitokiri Battousai, his relationship with Tomoe, and the events that shaped Kenshin and gave direction to his life. Cameo's by Makoto Shishio and Enishi Yukishiro will seem more noticeable and somewhat nostalgic for those who have seen what they become and the role they play in Kenshin's future.
Story - 10
The story of Tsuiokuhen depicts the past of Himura Kenshin and how he became known as Hitokiri Battousai, all the way to the origin of his cross-shaped scar and his vow to never kill again. It shows Kenshin's trials and tribulations during the Bakumatsu and, as readers of the manga are familiar with, his relationship with both Yukishiro Tomoe and her little brother, Enishi. The beauty of what Studio DEEN has accomplished here lies within the dark, brooding and emotional way they went about narrating the story. Contrary to the aloof way the TV series was, Tsuiokuhen went with a more mature outlook, easily evident with the excessive blood and gore shown in all of the battles. And with telling the story in only 4 OVAs, the story never seems to slack, but stays intriguing from start to finish.
Enjoyment - 10
Tsuiokuhen manages to combine a high level of violence with a very dramatic historical storyline, which is quite an accomplishment since many shows often go overboard on either the gore, the action, or the narration. Here Studio DEEN has done a great job portraying the story in a very gritty, down to Earth style that lends seriousness to the historical and dramatic aspects of the show. At the same time, the violence is very raw, brutal, and shocking to the senses, but while there are fantastic sword fights, the focus remains on the purpose behind them. Combined with a subtle but chilling soundtrack, this lends an air of maturity to the show and contributes to the tumultuous and unsettling environment Kenshin has become a part of. While this OVA isn't very lighthearted, it is a very unique blend that will likely please most viewers and makes Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen a must see for any anime fan.
OVERALL - 9.74
This review is the final result of a review team composed of members from the "Critics and Connoisseurs" club. The team members were:
BlackMagic - Who wrote the Character and Enjoyment sections and combined the individual review parts together into a whole.
BURNlTHElPRIEST - Who wrote the Art/Animation and Sound sections.
vindemon64 - Who wrote the Introduction and the Story section.
Here are their individual scorings for the Anime:
Category - BlackMagic, BURNlTHElPRIEST, vindemon64
Also named: "Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal", this is a prequel to the anime series 'Rurouni Kenshin."
One word for this anime: Amazing! It's so good that it's hard to decribe. This is one of the only anime series that will make the viewer's jaw drop to the floor and be filled with emotion. Those who are Rurouni Kenshin fans will love it; those who are new to the series will still like it. It's a drama and may not be as interesting among younger viewers and is more mature than the anime. Those who are sensitive to extreme violence and blood may want to turn
their heads during some scenes.
The first episode is a little jumpy as it skips from past to present, which to non-Kenshin fans may be confusing. Besides the jumpiness, the plot is excellent. For a drama, the pacing isn't thin and slow and is perfect for the setting. The story to Trust and Betrayal is far more enjoyable than regular series. (which is enjoyable to begin with) The characterisation is somewhat shown in the series, and could be developed further. One learns that Kenshin is turning into a merciless manslayer when he slices a man in half, killing for the first time, and shows no emotion after. However, the other character's personalities aren't as developed.
The artwork is realist compared to Nobuhiro Watsuki's original concept, but is artwork at it's finest. Those who aren't into realist artwork will still find this series interesting to watch. They used computer three-dimension graphics, mostly in the backgrounds, but still kept unto the traditional animation. For traditional animation, it's one of the best.
The music will make one go in awe with it's use of a fulll orchestra. It creates moods and themes that also make the viewer full of emotion. The music is a main factor in making this OVA unbelievable, but it was already magnificent to begin with.
They hired the best actors in both casts for this anime. The Japanese Kenshin voice (Mayo Suzukaze) is a little too girly for the role and the English Tomoe voice (Rebecca Davis) is too emotionless it sounds like she is reading the script. The voices have a different tone than the regular anime series, which is a nice change. The OVA voices are realistic and set the drama tone, while the anime has exaggerated voices that are too cartoony. Even the Kenshin voice is different, but it's hard to decide which voice is suited better. (J. Shannon Weaver in OVA, Richard Hayworth in anime) The Landlady had the best acting performance in the English dubbed, but the acting was still great. More emotion could be used in characters, but the voices matched the characters.
This OVA has to be the most underrated anime known in the anime world. It was never a "fad" or a trend as most popular series start out, which is somewhat sad because this anime deserves attention. (Although fads are always hated in the end which shouldn't happen to this OVA) Everything about the OVA is wonderful from the music to the artwork. Anyone involved with this OVA worked extremely hard in putting effort and it clearly shows. This OVA should be on every anime fan's shelve.
Surprising though it may be, it’s really incredibly rare to find a samurai anime that is actually good. As far as the samurai genre goes, Akira Kurosawa pretty much closed the book with 1954’s “Seven Samurai” and since then, is seems as if whenever anyone attempts to tackle the genre, there exists a mysterious force that compels them to strip away any and all sense of authenticity and add in superpowers, vampires, aliens, or hip-hop (not that that is necessarily a bad thing but it certainly gets tiresome). That’s one of the reasons why Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen is so refreshing, it daringly tackles the story
of young samurai-turned-assassin Himura Kenshin in the turbulent era of the Meiji Revolution with such bleak realism and solemnity that it’s really hard to believe it originated from a shonen manga. In short: Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen is a masterpiece in the sincerest sense of the word; a true work of art that not only shatters the boundaries of the samurai genre but also what it is possible to achieve in an animated work.
Tsuiokuhen tells the story of Himura Kenshin, detailing his rise to infamy as Hitokiri Battousai during the Bakumatsu period and ultimately tracing the origin of his cross-shaped scar and his vow never to kill again. The beauty of the story lies in its raw, ominous execution. Contrary to the manga and the TV series, Tsuiokuhen faces the brutality of the Meiji Revolution with a mature clarity that really draws you in, and exhibits an emotional rawness that will leave you in pieces. The story never slacks and, despite being told over four OVAs has more of the feel of a movie, remaining unified and captivating from start to finish.
Tsuiokuhen is particularly enjoyable character-wise having already watched the TV series and read the manga, but the character of Himura Kenshin as presented in the OVAs is well-shaped enough to stand on his own and still be a tour de force of character design. The focus of this anime is the period of Kenshin’s life as he transitions from adolescence into maturity amid the turmoil of the Bakumatsu and his struggles to uphold his idealism while continuing to commit acts of violence in the name of a brighter future. The splendor of the character designs throughout the OVAs is in how convincing each character manages to be, each action is believable and sympathetic, further drawing you into the story.
The darker and more realistic theme can also be seen in the animation, which, despite being made in the late 1990s, is remarkably sharp and dismally realistic. The animation is fluid and the action is raw and brutal. The comedic edge to the animation style that existed in the TV series and manga is completely gone, furthering the serious tone.
The music is dark and intense in the same manner as the story, and there is great attention paid to realism in sound effects. The voice actors each give magnificent performances (particularly, in my opinion, Mayo Suzukaze’s darker interpretation of Kenshin). Overall, the sound just adds onto what is already a brilliant work.
This is a must-see for pretty much anyone who enjoys anime, particularly those with an appreciation for accuracy in the portrayal of history and fans of the samurai genre (as well as anyone who watched the TV series or read the manga).
The word masterpiece is used too much these days.. I haven't seen anything that deserves that title as much as Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen. While the original Rurouni Kenshin is meant as a typical shounen (comedy, action, a bit of romance?), this is a serious historical drama. Those words might turn you off, but you'll be surprised how well it is done: never is Tsuiokuhen truly slowpaced, never will the action be disappointing, never will the animation cease to amaze you. And the music. Ah, the music. Taku Iwasaki at his best.
Story - 10.
A serious, sad story. A romantic drama. Or is historical a better word?
After all, this isn't just the story of the Hitokiri Battousai. While the focus lies on his actions, the overall story is that of the Bakumatsu and the bloody war before the Meiji Restoration. The OVA beautifully plays with this legendary battle, not pushing it to the background, but not letting it take the lead either.
Art - 9.
The art may seem too dark at first but it is in fact quite fitting. The characters look serious, mature and their emotions are clearly visible on their faces. The setting is especially beautiful: the backgrounds, buildings, even the crowds you see on the streets, they all look real. The same goes for the swordfights. Typical shounen anime defy all laws of nature or show only flashes of light. There is not a single fight in Tsuiokuhen that doesn't make sense. Perhaps that is the best part of the fights - blood, wounds, exhaustion, they all seem real.
Character - 10.
Every character truly matters. The smallest side characters are crucial to the plot. This may be because it's a short OVA.. but what if a story is so well-written that you can see the story from every character's eyes? By focussing on a character's face just a little too long, their (side)stories will grab you when you least expect it. The historical characters, for example Soushi Okita and Katsura Kogoro, aren't ignored either. Every single character influences the storyline, and by that adds something to Kenshin's life - be it a good or a bad thing.
Sound - 11.
I wish I could give an 11/10. I already was a bit of a Taku Iwasaki fanboy but now I am convinced that there are no better composers. The voice actor's are fitting (serious voices for serious characters), the sound effects are great (especially in fights), but I was too distracted. Well, not really.. but the soundtracks give me shivers if I just think about them. The music get's intense at the right moments but never loses it's beauty. Nothing sounds synthetic or unfitting. I almost want to say: 'It's as if the OST was made for this anime'. Hehe.
Enjoyment - 10.
A romantic, historical drama that never ceases to amaze. You will feel the chill run down your back when a fighting scene starts, if your volume is high enough. You won't be bored by too many historical aspects, and while every fight is bloody, the gore isn't so much that it becomes too much to handle. Serious themes like death, hatred and betrayal aren't shunned.. and it doesn't stop there. A mature OVA that didn't let go of me for quite a while.
What would make a man with a cross-shaped scar on his cheek devote his life to end bloodshed and make him vow to never kill again? Watch this. You'll find out.
One of the most recognizable traits of any anime is obvious - the unique anime eyes. With the wide array of beautiful examples available, its is practically impossible to narrow it down. And yet, we've done it! See if your favorites made the cut in this collection of 15 beautiful anime eyes!