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).
Let me start off this review by saying that I do not really like the battle shonen genre, as in I do not like the boring and predictable plot that most battle shonen have, coupled with a dash of mediocre characters and villains, and an average directing to go with those as well. With all of that being said and done, Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal, is a hidden gem that is floating deeply in the sea of bad battle shonen that I have encountered. Why? Because everything about it screams "Sweet and Tasty", it is that kind of Anime that is both a feast
to the eyes and to the mind of it's viewer. It is four short episodes of brilliant animation, epic fight scenes, a beautiful romance, an unpredictable plot, philosophical questions, well developed characters, no filler moments, and some tear jerking scenes as well. All of that contained in just four sweet and short episodes.
Story - 9
The story of this OVA is very sad, serious and unpredictable. It starts off with blood shed and killings and ends in blood shed and killings, so every scene in this OVA is weighted and gives the story this sense of greater danger that most other battle shonen don't have, every scene has a grand meaning and contributes to the plot. The story is not just mindless action and fight scenes though, as entertaining as those were to watch in this, the story offered some very tear jerking moments and some unpredictable twists as well. The story also focused on many things, it focused on a war between political factions, the romance between the two protagonists and Kenshin Himura's past. It focused on many different factors and executed them almost perfectly.
Art - 9
The art is dark and very beautiful to look at, and it honestly fits a dark story like this one. The character designs are all human and have this sense of seriousness oozing around their faces, which also adds to the serious tone this OVA was striving for. The character designs are done so masterfully, so much so that when some characters die, their eyes look empty and hopeless, devoid of any more reason to live. The expressions on some dying characters' faces look very realistic and will probably leave you crying alongside them as well. The fights are all animated beautifully, all of them containing blood and brilliant choreography, and never once was I not excited when a fight scene happened during this OVA. Comparing Kenshin Himura's face in this OVA to his face from the TV show, you will see how brilliant his design looks here.
Characters - 9
All of the main characters in this story are very well developed and serve the story's plot, and never is a character wasted or thrown aside during this OVA. Even some minor characters contribute to the plot and get some development. The main character, Kenshin Himura, is a deep protagonist that actually thinks about the consequences of his actions at all times, asking many deep questions about the nature of what he does and if it is actually right or wrong to do it. The wound Kenshin receives bleeds over and over again with each subsequent kill he commits for a while, possibly as a sign of his guilty subconscious, though it is suggested to him on a more superstitious level that the vengeful spirit of the dead man who gave him the scar is causing its continuous bleeding. The love interest, Yukishiro Tomoe, has a beautiful backstory that ties in with the story's main plot, and her relationship with Kenshin is well developed and well executed, she may look like an average character at first, but as the episodes go by she grows more human and complex. Aside from those two, the other characters, such as Katsura Kogoro, serve the story as well and have a great dynamic with Kenshin.
Sound - 8
The soundtrack was overall good, nothing really special or anything memorable. It served it's purpose and it served it well enough to make some scenes more epic than they already were, and some scenes more sad than they already were. The only song that somewhat stood out from the rest was In Memories, or Kotowari, which has this peaceful and somewhat sad tone going for it, and it really fits the scene it was placed in.
Enjoyment - 8
I found some of the historical background a bit convoluted and boring at times, and I really did not find myself caring all that much for the political war and "what this guy wants and what that guy wants." The scenes I really enjoyed were the fight scenes, which contained lots of blood, realism and brilliant choreography that was entertaining to watch. I enjoyed every scene between Kenshin and Tomoe as the dialogue was thoughtful and well written, and both characters were interesting enough to fit with one another, the growth between them was beautiful to watch. The mature and serious tone of this OVA, alongside it's plot twists and dark themes, made me feel entertained for the majority of it's run.
If you are tired of all those unrealistic, goofy and awfully written shonen, you can always head out to this OVA and watch it for a new and better experience.
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!