In the final years of the Bakumatsu era lived a legendary assassin known as Hitokiri Battousai. Feared as a merciless killer, he was unmatched throughout the country, but mysteriously disappeared at the peak of the Japanese Revolution. It has been ten peaceful years since then, but the very mention of Battousai still strikes terror into the hearts of war veterans.
Unbeknownst to them, Battousai has abandoned his bloodstained lifestyle in an effort to repent for his sins, now living as Kenshin Himura, a wandering swordsman with a cheerful attitude and a strong will. Vowing never to kill again, Kenshin dedicates himself to protecting the weak. One day, he stumbles across Kaoru Kamiya at her kendo dojo, which is being threatened by an impostor claiming to be Battousai. After receiving help from Kenshin, Kaoru allows him to stay at the dojo, and so the former assassin temporarily ceases his travels.
Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan tells the story of Kenshin as he strives to save those in need of saving. However, as enemies from both past and present begin to emerge, will the reformed killer be able to uphold his new ideals?
#1: "Tactics" by THE YELLOW MONKEY (eps 1-12) #2: "Namida wa Shitteiru" by Mayo Suzukaze (eps 13-27) #3: "HEART OF SWORD ~Yoake Mae~ (HEART OF SWORD 〜夜明け前〜)" by T.M.Revolution (eps 28-38, 43-49) #4: "the Fourth Avenue Café" by L'Arc~en~Ciel (eps 39-42) #5: "It's gonna rain!" by BONNIE PINK (eps 50-66) #6: "1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou (1/3の純情な感情)" by SIAM SHADE (eps 67-82) #7: "Dame! (ダメ！)" by You Izumi (eps 83-95)
Rurouni Kenshin - an amazing anime taking place during the Japan Revolution - is an amazing story first written by Nobuhiro Watsuki in 1994 and first aired as an anime in 1996. If you're one of the older anime fans, chances are that you probably have seen this anime already and give it the respect that it deserves. If you are one of the younger anime fans out there and haven't heard too much about Rurouni Kenshin (also known as Samurai X in other countries outside of the United States), I urge to immediately to get your hands on a copy of the
anime somehow and start watching it, you won't be disappointed if you are into samurai.
The story is deep, intricate, emotional, and touching. Everything from romance, action, suspense, and even some thriller in included in Rurouni Kenshin. There are a total of 95 episodes to Rurouni Kenshin, however, only the first 62 (the first two seasons) are only worth watching because the third season is all fillers. The first two seaons depict the story of Himura Kenshin, also known as Hitokiri Battousai, and his motley bunch of friends in Sagara Sonouske, Myojin Yahiko, and Kamiya Kaoru. Without giving too much away, the first season is based on his stay with Kaoru Kamiya and how he keeps his vow of not to kill. The second season is where the plot develops and we are introduced to a little bit of Kenshin's past.
To some of the younger fans out there, the animation may seem a bit older and not as new as some of our recent anime like Death Note and Full Metal Alchemist, it still is drawn with very exceptional quality and after the first few episodes, you find that the style perfectly suits the time frame in which the story takes place.
Taku Iwasaki has done a beautiful job with the soundtrack to Rurouni Kenshin as during each and every part, there is the perfect song that fits the scene. This is especially the case during the second season as Iwasaki unveils a multitude of amazing pieces of music that you will undoubtedly look to download.
You will either hate the characters or love them. The character development during the anime is portrayed very well. An example of this is the development of Yahiko from an innocent child to an exceptional swordsman throughout the show. The only qualm people may have is the lack of romance between Kenshin and Kaoru. Though its hinted at very slightly during the first two seasons, there is not much between them. All of Kenshin's rivals also have unique personalities and Nobuhiro Watsuki has done an excellent job with them.
The only reason I advise you to avoid the episodes 63-95 is that they are pointless fillers. By the time the second arc had ended, the Kyoto arc, the anime had caught up to the manga. So as with all animes, they stopped animating the manga and aired fillers so the manga could develop. However, by the time the manga finished, the fillers were so terribly bad that Rurouni Kenshin had to be cancelled.
That is why after episode 62, I urge you to find the manga and start reading it from Volume 18 to enjoy the amazing story of Enishi and the Revenge Arc. It is there where the true story of Kenshin is continued and completed, and not with the later episodes.
I rate episodes 1-62 a 10/10 because they follow the manga very well..
I rate episodes 63-95 a 6/10 because even though they are pointless, some of the fillers do have good back stories and battle scenes..
A final overall rating of a 9/10 is due to the anime, Rurouni Kenshin (the manga I would give a 10 ^_^). There is no doubt in my mind that if you are looking for an anime with a little bit of everything and looking for an anime that involves mystic sword styles, amazing battles and an "oro-ing red-headed samurai," look no further.
March 2003. That was when the Rurouni Kenshin anime first premiered on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block. I looked up the original year expecting to feel old, but somehow 2003 doesn’t seem that long ago. It’s actually almost exactly 13 years. I grew up on this show, and one way or another I’m willing to bet the same could be said of most people still visiting this MAL page. Rurouni Kenshin gave me the hope that I too could be a samurai in a modern world unsuited for one. That hasn’t worked out very well for me.
Rurouni Kenshin stars its titular protagonist, Kenshin Himura, a former
assassin who became legendary for his skill and body count during the Bakumatsu wars of Japan. Years later, Kenshin becomes a rurouni (an unemployed samurai) and wanders the country now seeking to atone for the lives he’s taken by helping others, and vows to never kill again. He soon meets up with Kaoru Kamiya, the manager of her own dojo. After Kenshin saves Kaoru’s life he’s given a place to settle down in and protect. The two are later joined by the young child of a family of samurai, Yahiko Myojin, and a roughish street fighter named Sanosuke Sagara who mainly battles with his fists. This main four accompany Kenshin as he fights other lost souls from the Bakumatsu who often seek to challenge the new Meiji government who threaten their archaic sword-wielding way of life.
With the manga beginning in 1994, Rurouni Kenshin became a flagship title of the “battle shonen” subgenre that was now truly beginning to acquire momentum, and the franchise is now considered a staple classic of the entire genre. Getting into Rurouni Kenshin now is rather interesting, as it holds this historical evolution inside of its own story. Rurouni Kenshin begins as not fully a battle shonen, being more like that earlier hybrid of action-adventure where fights were frequent but typically short, simple, and bookended by longer exposition or downtime. As the series progresses it changes and benefits from becoming increasingly about the fight themselves as special fighting abilities become more common, villains stick around longer and violent conflicts are hyped, and the pacing changes to nearly non-stop action as entire episodes become centered around the battle ahead.
One way of looking at this progress is that it means Rurouni Kenshin “starts slow” and doesn’t reach part of its full potential in the early stories. This would be true for the manga or anime, but it’s the anime that really suffers from this crawl. Given that the manga was still in development when the anime began, the producers started preparing filler material early on. Shorter stories and plot details from the manga were stretched out to get more of an episode out of them, and many original episodic stories were also introduced between following the manga’s events. Not only this, but parts of those original manga stories were arbitrarily changed, such as Kenshin’s fight with Sanosuke, and nearly always worse off for those changes. The anime also tries to appeal to a younger audience by censoring much of the violence and darker imagery depicted in the manga, an example here being Hannya’s back story.
Despite many of these frustrating concessions, the original storylines of the manga are present enough to still make the anime’s beginning engaging as long as you’re out of the stretches of original filler. The soft-spoken, peaceful Kenshin Himura is a very unique protagonist for shonen anime. The typical shonen protagonist is a young boy, or at the very least someone who begins weak but has a lot of potential to become more powerful or grow as a person. Kenshin is nearly the opposite of this, being a fully developed adult whose philosophies on life are already finalized by his vow to never kill again, and he’s instantly implied to be the best swordfighter in Japan and routinely demonstrates that fight after fight. Kenshin feels almost invincible at points and lives up to his legacy, but how does the action maintain dramatic tension if the match-up results always seem so obvious? The answer is by giving Kenshin two serious handicaps. One is that Kenshin fights using a blade where the sharp edge is on the opposite side so as not to easily kill his opponents and betray his vow, and the second is that vow itself. Kenshin is forced to hold himself back from full strength to prevent killing anyone, which levels the playing field somewhat between his opponents. As Kenshin is forced to face stronger enemies he’s routinely challenged to revert to his merciless killing ways to stand a chance. Because Kenshin does not change much as a person throughout the series, the progression of watching him is centered on revealing more of who he actually is. That is, his personality as a cold assassin. Kenshin also doesn’t spend the series learning new attacks but instead slowly reveals ones he already knows. Kenshin’s fights stay interesting as he’s forced to find openings to incapacitate his opponents instead of killing them, which would actually be far easier.
Kenshin’s love interest is very obviously and immediately Kaoru Kamiya. The original title of the manga was “Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story”, but anyone who recommends this series as a romance would have to be out of their mind. If anything, Kenshin and Kaoru’s relationship is the poorest major part of the storyline. Kaoru’s romantic interest in Kenshin begins almost right after they meet, and from then it doesn’t really evolve beyond this unrequited gushing of Kaoru over Kenshin and falls into a generic anime stasis. Kaoru struggles maintaining agency in the story because nearly all of her thought processes involve Kenshin in some way, and she is almost never, ever seen contributing to major fights. This only gets worse in the anime due to its countless light and comedic filler episodes revolving around Kaoru’s feelings towards Kenshin and his “hilarious” misunderstanding of them. She becomes almost annoying in the anime because of these additional jokes making her character even shallower, and her breakdowns over Kenshin possibly becoming the killer he used to be can cross over into trite melodrama. Given that Kaoru is trained in the art of the sword to the point of teaching it, it would’ve been nice to see a character who’s around at nearly all times actually contributing to the fighting around her. Instead she’s seen as too weak and is never really given opportunities to prove herself in the first place. This also would’ve given her more personal stake in what’s going on rather than nearly all of her actions being centered around Kenshin. It’s disappointing that one of our main characters is one of the show’s few females who can fight and she does nothing with it, instead usually being relegated to cheerleader status and an irritating ditz.
The first 27 episodes of the anime are a mixture of filler episodes and mild to moderately altered adaptations of the manga’s arcs. The best of these arcs is the one that stays truest to the manga, which is the Oniwaban/Megumi arc. This is where the show’s transition to battle shonen begins, with a variety of opponents who use weapons other than swords and specific techniques rather than raw strength and agility. With the exception of the arc’s final fight against Aoshi and the subsequent climax these battles are fairly short and not that interesting, but they are fun to watch now that our opponents are intriguing and have surprising fighting styles to show off. Despite this satisfying arc, the rest of the first season ranges from average to downright boring. Its canonical manga stories are mainly short introductions to characters and the Meiji era setting and culture the series is set in, and we’re prevented from getting to the really good stuff by a bevy of terrible filler that threatens to destroy the quality of the series as a whole.
Rurouni Kenshin isn’t just full of filler, it’s full of some of the worst filler I’ve ever seen. Filler that’s so bad and mishandles the base material so much that it insults the characters and cheapens the surrounding canonical storylines. I’ve already brought up how the lighter tone of the anime and the filler’s focus on comedy relies on Kaoru’s shallower traits and develops her as a worse character than she actually is, but the same goes for everyone else as well. Yahiko is turned into a whiny spoiled brat because there’s more to work with there when it comes to comedy than a stubborn inspiring samurai, and Sanosuke may not be very bright but he’s turned from a badass into a doofus as he’s constantly insulted by Kaoru and Yahiko. The attempts at comedy are the most painfully generic and lazy jokes you’ll come across, as literally the same gags are spread out in filler across this 94 episode series. Kaoru is a bad cook! Yahiko is always complaining and calling Kaoru ugly! Sanosuke is a freeloader! All of this hundreds of times as you’re also forced to put up with extremely dull original storylines that can revolve around main characters being frustratingly stupid (Yahiko stealing Kenshin’s sword), or they revolve around simplistic, awful original characters that only show up once. The typical filler plot is some random helpless idiot needs to be encouraged by Kenshin’s group to not give up at doing whatever, and these episodes can involve the group trying to help a circus girl blast off out of a cannon or Kaoru pinching a sumo wrestler on the ass. And the filler villains are usually the most cartoonish, relentlessly evil brigands that would make a real serial killer look like a more reasonable guy.
The filler in Rurouni Kenshin fails to retain anything that made the original story captivating. For starters, the action (or any excitement at all) practically doesn’t exist in the filler. The series’ excellent ability to capture the grace of the time period its set in by its semi-realistic tone that contextualizes the super-powered characters into something believable is upended by the anime’s constant appeals to children with no regards to quality as it’s doing so. Rurouni Kenshin’s filler is almost always excruciatingly boring, and I’m almost stunned that the anime’s writers could even bear to write around 50 episodes of such trite stories for a living and would never be encouraged to try harder for the sake of their own entertainment. Even something like Dragon Ball Z’s filler sometimes tried to do the base material justice by making its own supervillains and staying close to what the main stories were about. If you’re wondering why I have this series as a 6, then it’s because the anime’s filler is actually what makes up a majority of it and it’s worth a 3 if not even less. But enough about numbers, because it’s time for the part anyone who’s seen the series before was waiting for me to get to.
After about 10 enjoyable episodes of manga adaptations and about 17 mind-numbing episodes about Kaoru being ugly and a bad cook, it’s almost (not) worth it to fully experience the revitalizing whiplash of the series instantly taking the kid gloves off. A mysterious man named Saitou Hajime shows up at the Kamiya Dojo searching for Kenshin. It turns out Saitou is a former member of the Shinsengumi and an old rival of Kenshin’s from the Bakumatsu. Saitou challenges Kenshin to see if his abilities have weakened since he’s settled into a more peaceful life. The anime’s production and sense of direction finally comes alive in this scene, as Kenshin’s warm crimson visage is dominated by the icy navy blues of Saitou that exude from his cold personality and cover the entire screen for the duration of the fight. Yahiko appropriately seems to mimic the perspective of the young audience during this fight as he shouts “I knew it! Kenshin can never lose! Kenshin is invincible!” right before his hero is cut down by Saitou with the same ease Kenshin has been defeating his previous opponents. Kenshin is barely spared, and Saitou insults him afterwards by saying Kenshin Himura as "the wandering samurai" will be of no use to him and the police in the upcoming battle for the nation of Japan. Another man said to be the closest to Kenshin in skill, or possibly better, during the Bakumatsu is raising an army to overthrow the Meiji government. The psychotic Makoto Shishio and his gang of underlings are threatening the country from within the city of Kyoto, and Kenshin leaves for Kyoto as his friends chase after him to make sure the Kenshin they know isn’t lost in the fierce battle ahead.
This is the beginning of the Kyoto arc, and this arc is the sole reason why the Rurouni Kenshin anime has obtained classic status, and it’s a perfect beginning to boot. The creators address the audience and tell them things are going to be different. There’s going to be more violence and blood, and even major characters could die against a villain that’s said to be too much for even the man who just beat Kenshin to handle. The stakes and threat level are higher than ever before, and the new sub-villains are set up early on to give as much anticipation of their battles as Shishio’s himself. Aiding that anticipation is everyone in this arc having unique fighting styles which reach their full potential through more dynamic action sequences than seen before.
Kenshin’s journey across Kyoto introduces several new characters. The aforementioned Saito is a fantastic addition to the series and probably my favorite character period. Saito’s eclipsive moral compass makes him a great character to demonstrate the ethical borderlines of maintaining a samurai code of justice in a more rigid judicial government. He’s a true anti-hero in a series that had previously been defined by righteous do-gooders, and his complete misanthropic disdain for everyone else around him makes his personality starkly stand out and he has both some of the funniest and most dramatic lines in the series. His begrudging companionship with rival Kenshin and the less-skilled Sanosuke makes for a highly entertaining dynamic. The female ninja Misao also contains much of the series’ best attempts at humor, and her relationship with the Oniwaban group is an excuse to bring former opponent Aoshi into the Kyoto arc and make it even bigger. Misao is also never shown being as helpless as Kaoru, and even Kaoru and Yahiko get literally their one important fight of the entire series in the Kyoto arc. Kenshin’s former master Seijuuro Hiko is brought in to establish more of Kenshin’s past as well as some actual growth, and Seijuuro’s every action becomes significant as he’s a monolithic type who’s implied to be the strongest fighter in the series but prefers to stay out of the action as much as possible.
The Kyoto arc just does everything right and is exactly what Rurouni Kenshin had the potential to be. The pacing is brisk and the story filled with large obstacles the heroes must overcome at a moment’s notice, such as Shisho’s army advancing on the city of Kyoto or his heavily armored battleship threatening Japan from the seas. The growing cast is full of universally good additions, and they are divided evenly across this big adventure and are all given at least one special moment to shine. Later shonen works could take lessons from how to effectively manage a big cast of characters as well as Rurouni Kenshin does during the Kyoto arc.
The production team stops cutting corners here and adapts the manga more faithfully, and the increased amount of effort is palpable in the greater quality not just in the writing but in the animation as well. Fights are extremely dynamic with more constant camera movement that darts around the frame, and the characters themselves move very quickly and fluidly with no noticeable framerate skipping. The main reason the Kyoto arc is such a joy to watch is because everything’s always moving. There’s a kinetic soul to this entire production that the rest of the series completely lacks that makes this story, its characters, and its action breathe and come to life. When the studio plays with color like in the aforementioned Saitou fight, all of the story’s events feel more dramatic. The speed and intensity of matches is emphasized wonderfully, and Rurouni Kenshin’s Kyoto arc is the golden standard of 90s shonen anime productions and it even transcends the basic story it adapts from the manga. This all peaks exactly where it should in the final fight against Shishio which is a serious contender for the best match ever in a battle shonen anime. In addition to the scenes often rippling from the humidity caused by the torrents of flame surrounding the arena, the studio also plays with aspect ratio at parts to give a broad widescreen perspective that recalls Rurouni Kenshin’s original influences from samurai films and makes the scenes as intense as those classic film moments.
The Kyoto arc is full of the heart the rest of the series doesn’t have and then some. It has the courage to go beyond the original manga story’s quality and understands the story and its implications well enough to be able to successfully accentuate them into something more powerful but nonetheless faithful. The characters reach the peak of their established personalities and every single one of them grows in some way from the challenges they face. The action is enthralling and absorbing. Everything comes together in this big arc and none of it flounders to deliver a perfectly satisfying experience that deserves to stand the rest of time as a blueprint for a fully-realized battle shonen arc.
Things were looking good for the Rurouni Kenshin anime now that the team was taking it more seriously, but the anime had now gotten too close to the manga to have anything new to adapt. You know what this means: more filler. But after a few episodes of the same terrible junk from the first season, something promising is done as the team decides to write more serious original storyline arcs. They clearly learned something from covering the Kyoto arc and putting so much more effort into it, and I was open for the possibility that the team could finally write filler that did the base story justice even if it didn’t reach the same heights. There’s very little information on Rurouni Kenshin’s post-Kyoto arcs so I had to find out for myself if they were any good. As it is now, most people haven’t even seen anything past the Kyoto arc and still shower the series with perfect scores (this ought to be a federal offense). The anime also makes a strange decision to change the animation and art a bit after the Kyoto arc, but it’s so minor and subtle that its “uncanny valleyness” just makes it even more off-putting whenever the changes stand out. Regardless of how minor the style change is, it’s lower quality than before and these final filler episodes are full of a lot of very still frames with little movement.
Rurouni Kenshin’s first filler arc is… actually tolerable. The storyline come up with here is about the religious persecution and exile of Christians from Japan and their return to take revenge on the country. It’s actually an extremely clever way to stick to Rurouni Kenshin’s historical setting but not settle on the same stories of swordsmen alienated by the new government. It’s another story of disenfranchisement caused by old grudges but with different motivations and different types of characters. The main new character is Shogo Amakusa, a sort of prophet to the Christian movement who claims to have sword skills blessed by God. He fights using the same style Kenshin was taught which makes him an acceptably threatening follow-up to Shishio, and there is ethical conflict regarding their religious motivations as Shogo and his group are willingly taking advantage of their followers’ beliefs for the sake of revenge, even though it may be justifiable for their religious freedom.
Shogo is accompanied by his own gang of villains similar to Shishio, and they also each have distinct character designs and powers. Where this arc particularly falters though is the action goes back to being very simple and dull. The choreography is basic again, the animation goes back to being cheap, there’s no tricks with color or perspective to give the fights that same energy, and the fights don’t build up suspense as they’re all settled in 3 to 5 minutes. It’s a massive disappointment that shows the team hasn’t abandoned their laziness, even if the basic promise of these qualities is more than they’ve done previously. The actual plot is somewhat interesting as Kenshin is given a very serious handicap I won’t spoil, and most of the villains this time around are victims who need to obtain religious freedom but don’t want more violence. Sanosuke is actually the best part of this Christian arc, as he becomes an actual deuteragonist and a major player to the plot with his (actually somewhat touching) relationship with Shogo’s sister, Magdalia. He’s actually focused on in a bigger ratio here than he was in the Kyoto arc. While this arc is ultimately rushed (for literally no reason since they just make more filler after) and doesn’t execute well the same things it copies from the Kyoto arc, some parts of it actually work to a degree and there’s a basic foundation for a good story set up which is more than I can say for the rest of the filler. It’s by -far- the best filler story in Rurouni Kenshin, but that’s less of a testament to how good it is and more of an example of just how little the rest of the series tries. I got a baseline enjoyment out of this arc but as a stand-alone story it’s not good enough to the point where I would recommend anyone watch it.
At this point I was relieved to see any improvement in the filler quality and thought the team might continuously evolve in future filler arcs, but instead the exact opposite happened. Subsequent arcs got increasingly shorter and the characters even worse. After several stupid comedic episodic filler like brought up earlier the team decides to make one of their terrible two filler ideas into a mini-arc. This time it’s the one where Kenshin and co. encourage some pathetic sap to achieve his goals, so you get several episodes of a wimpy nerd crying about swinging a wooden sword being too hard. There’s no threatening villain in this part or anything, just a total bore and flavorless story.
The next arc begins immediately as a group from Europe called the Black Knights have come to Japan seeking an ancient treasure called the Divine Elixir which is said to be able to cure any illness. Ignoring the fact that putting a magical MacGuffin in a historical setting at this point is stupid, the Black Knights are basically the illuminati with a medieval fetish who secretly plan to control the world from the shadows with the money they get from the elixir. The Black Knights we see are a main trio that wield a lance, an axe, and rapier each. This is actually a very solid idea that the original manga itself could’ve used, as the characters being western is a perfect excuse to bring new weapons and fighting styles into the series. Don’t get your hopes up to see any of those fights brought to their potential though, as like in the Christian arc every fight in the Black Knight arc is short and unexciting to watch (though the final is borderline okay). The Black Knight arc isn’t a total pain, but it’s quite worse than the Christian arc because the plot has no momentum whatsoever. Many of the episodes focus on adventure and exploration over any action, and there’s a lot of the characters just wandering around and trying to figure out clues to the elixir. And as we expect, the filler writers are not good at creating entertaining dialogue to carry these slow moments.
After one brief filler episode that’s actually okay just because it dares to develop a certain main character without the manga’s guidance, another mini-arc begins that’s the finale of the series. And what a finale it is, because this is the worst one yet and the most egregious core concept. The Feng Shui arc revolves around magic. Literally magical spells that control dragons made of water and sudden blasts of wind. What an insult that so close to the end of this series they throw in magic that betrays the historical setting like never before. Rurouni Kenshin has always crossed the border of reality into fiction, but it made an attempt to disguise it with its serious tone and convincing explanations for its ridiculous powers. There’s a guy who breathes fire, but oh he does it by carrying oil in his stomach and using flint on his teeth as a spark. It may be total bull, but the idea of it is constructed out of the materials of the setting so that it doesn’t seem too out of place despite being a fantasy. There is no justification for magic because its very definition means it’s conjured from a place outside of reality, and it’s so fitting that the final idea to come out of the filler would remind of us of how poorly the series was understood. It’s not worth covering this arc more other than to mention there are no real fights and the final confrontation is two guys trying to overcome each other’s spiritual force or something like Dragon Ball Z. The anime series ended up being so mishandled that they didn’t even get a proper final episode done in time and the story abruptly ends after this boring arc. They could’ve cut these five episodes and come up with a better ending. They could’ve cut this entire “third season” and the series would’ve ended better. What’s even the point of doing filler if you’re not biding time to adapt the rest of the manga?
The series’ music is pretty solid all around. It’s often anachronistic with its frequent use of electric guitar, but it doesn’t sound out of place because the modern instrumentation doesn’t draw attention to itself. Guitar chords are slow and smooth, almost sounding like a flute and very organic. I think I still would’ve preferred to see a more classical score with more folk instrumentation that matches the setting, but they didn’t screw the pooch from the choice they made and the compositions can be quite nice. The opening and ending themes are good all around too, but only having three openings across 94 episodes is kind of tiring. I do like how they changed the second opening’s animation to include new characters, and the opening during the Kyoto and Christian arcs is especially cool because of the “flickering flame” effect over the arc’s antagonists. I grew to like it even more than the first opening, “Freckles”. Siam Shade’s "1/3 Pure Heart Emotion" is fucking awesome too, especially with its accompanying graffiti art animation.
For those not already familiar with it, the English dub is well done. The casting is what mostly stands out, particularly because I feel the same way about Mayo Suzukaze as Kenshin as many people do about Masako Nozawa as Goku. I realize Kenshin is meant to be effeminate and has a relatively small constitution, but he's definitely not an 8 year-old boy. I find it impossible to take Kenshin's original voice seriously, especially during his violent "battousai" phase, and it's enough that I'd take any dub over the original. Sorry folks. Richard Cansino carries a similar light, gentle tone with him that's more suitable for Kenshin's age. Not to mention his starker, sterner tone when Kenshin's personality switches stands out far more and further emphasizes the difference between each of his two halves while also being more threatening due to his more mature tone. The line delivery isn't always perfect depending on the assigned actor, however. Dorothy Elias-Fahn as Kaoru can be irritatingly shrill, and Lex Lang can be somewhat monotone as Sanosuke despite being a perfect voice. But Philece Sampler is hilarious fun as Misao.
When everything's said and done, Rurouni Kenshin deserves better than what this series gave us. Outside of the Kyoto arc, even the material it adapts from the manga is weakened. The filler is an insult to the canonical storylines and setting as well as being downright painful to sit through. If you want a number, I’d gladly slap an 8 on the Kyoto arc alone, but I’m not rating the Kyoto arc. I’m rating all 94 episodes. Even the score I’ve given it is generously curved in the Kyoto arc’s favor because of how the amount of terrible filler dwarfs the length of the Kyoto arc. With this recent trend of manga re-adaptations giving worthy revivals to old manga that was mishandled, I hope to the bottom of my heart Rurouni Kenshin will get the treatment it truly deserves. Funny enough, the outlier in how incredibly well the anime adapted the Kyoto arc here and made it better than it was before with remarkable animation, dynamic perspective, and color theming, makes me think a newer anime would be unlikely to match this series’ adaptation in quality. It’d be worth doing the manga in its entirety again however to improve the pre-Kyoto stories and finally take on what’s after them. Will it happen? Who knows, but I’m waiting patiently.
Maybe we who haven’t gone back and finished this anime until now have prevented a new one from happening. It seems like many people are perfectly satisfied with their memories of this show that’s actually extremely troubled, and it frequently ranks on “best of all time” lists. Ultimately though, this anime as a whole is not a classic, and I recommend no one watch it in its entirety. If you want my advice, then read the manga up to the Kyoto arc, watch the Kyoto arc, and then finish the manga. You could watch the pre-Kyoto stuff too because it’s not -that- much worse, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Let’s let it be known that Rurouni Kenshin needs to come back and become the anime series we wanted it to be.
Based on the actual Meiji Period of Japan, Rouruni Kenshin is a Shounen, Action, Adventure about a wandering samurai, "Kenshin". Even though he is a kind and friendly person, he carries a bloody past he wishes not to return to. This shounen anime starts of like any other as we are introduced to the characters the story revolves around (Kenshin) and we learn quite a bit about them. Also like the typical shounen anime, once all the main characters are together to form some kind of fighting team, it starts of with couple short random adventures. There's plenty of action and comedy here but it
lacks substance and it is not until later on in the Kyoto Arc. That is when the story becomes truly interesting, with even more intense battles, drama and a decent array of characters to back it up.
The characters are great and well developed, which is the sort of thing you'll expect from a shounen action series, of this calibre. But the character that truly stands out is "Kenshin", with his 3 contrasting personalities; dopy Kenshin, noble protector Kenshin and manslayer Kenshin and it is interesting how all of this is crammed into a single character. However there are a few brat-like characters that can get quite annoying at times but it doesn't take much away from the show.
There were two things I had to consider when looking into the quality of the animation; the time it was made and how well it depicted scenes. The animation quality of RK is exactly what you'd expect from something made in the 90s however when it comes down to it, it is really good especially during the action sequences. It is able to show the true intensity of the intense fights however those kinds of fights happen to rarely in RK.
The music on the other hand isn't all that special and there are only a few noticeable good tunes that go well, with the situations. The OP and ED themes are a range of catchy and annoying tunes however you'll definitely find some of them really enjoyable and hard to get out of your head. Another thing I just have to mention is that RK is one of those few anime that even a Sub anime fan like myself, actually prefered viewing the Eng. Dub version (uncut).
Overall RK is definitely one of the classic Shounen anime series that every shounen anime fan must watch. There a great deal of action, comedy and drama; with a superb story to back it up. The characters are also well developed and bring forth some really emotional moments but some are just plain annoying. Also little things like stupidly thought-up enemies and the huge number of cheesy moments reduce the overall quality of this fine anime. Another thing that badly affected the series was that it ended with a bunch of fillers but if you don't get bothered by all this, then you'll definitely enjoy RK.
Ahh, "Rurouni Kenshin", one of first really long series that I'd watched. A series that at times epitomises the best of fighting shounens while at other times perfectly demonstrates the pitfalls of adapting popular, long running shounen manga.
"Rurouni Kenshin" is the story of Himura Kenshin, a wandering Samurai with a dark past. One of my strongest first impressions of this series is how similar it is to "Trigun", a show I'd already watched. In particular, there are strong parallels between Kenshin and Vash, the main protagonists from their respective shows (no prizes for guessing which is from which). They're both insanely strong vagabonds who refuse
to kill, and who like to hide their strength under an air of goofy incompetence. There are stylistic similarities too, like the heavy use of electric guitar in the sound track (although "Trigun" took this further). But since "Trigun" came after "Rurouni Kenshin", if there's any ripping off going on, it certainly isn't "Rurouni Kenshin" that's doing the ripping.
But enough about "Trigun", lets talk about "Rurouni Kenshin" instead. "Rurouni Kenshin" is split into three parts. The first part, subtitled "Wandering Samurai", sets up the show as a promising one; "Legend of Kyoto" sees it rocketing into a terrific and stupidly addictive show... only to have it come crashing back down earth in "Tales of the Meiji". In many ways, its rise and fall is quite characteristic of long running shounens.
"Wandering Samurai" gives the show a good starting point, introducing a cast filled with interesting, infectiously likeable characters. I did however, find one aspect of it to be particularly irksome - its goofy humour. I know that Kenshin is trying to hide his true strength, but still, his whole act of going goggle eyed and uttering "Oro?" every couple of minutes wears thin rapidly. It gives the series a silly feel it could have done without.
In addition, the action for the first few episodes are boring. They generally involve Kenshin jumping high into the air, followed by a flash of light, and then a scene showing his opponent(s) lying on the floor knocked out cold. But after a while, they improve, as more skilful opponents appear and the fights become more than just a matter of Kenshin one hit KOing cannonfodder. The mini arcs that span several episodes are especially good, as they generally have the strongest adversaries for Kenshin, and also longer and more complex plot, usually involving a couple of exciting cliff hanger moments.
As the series progressed, "Rurouni Kenshin" becomes more and more like something that's not too distant from a show of the superpower fighting genre. But it seems reluctant to join this genre completely, and tries to find middle ground between over the top special moves and pseudo-logical explanations behind them, and I'm not too keen on the result. I mean, some of the explanations behind the techniques on display are bordering on absurd. For example, there's one guy who swings his sword so fast he creates a vaccum with which he can cut people without actually touching them.
But anyway, by the time the "Legend of Kyoto" arc started, I've gotten used most of those minor irritations. With the start of this second part of the series, "Rurouni Kenshin" kicks into a much higher gear. Triggering it all off is a showdown between Kenshin and Hajime Saito, an old adversary from the shadows of Kenshin's dark past. Hajime Saito is one of the most badass characters ever, and that explosive encounter is one of the best choreographed fights ever, certainly the best in the series.
The "Legend of Kyoto" comprises a single, long story about Kenshin being sent after Shishio, a man who is linked to Kenshin's past despite them never having met. This arc is a prime example of a fighting shounen at its very best: the story is full of twists and turns, the build up of tension before the fights are incredible, and the fights themselves are seat gripping stuff. The whole arc is ferociously addictive, and I found myself going through perhaps the highest number of episodes of anime I'd ever watched in a day (while procrastinating on the thesis I was supposed to be doing for my MSc).
Perhaps it was because I watched too much in too short a period, but I found my enthusiasm starting to wane ever so slightly towards the end of "Legend of Kyoto", and its end nearly came as a relief. Part of this is probably due to the fights - they'd started to become repetitive and formulaic at that point. Fortunately, the arc ends without it becoming too much of a problem. UNfortunately, it wasn't the end of the problem, more like the beginning of the end, the beginning of the crumbling of (what was up to that point) an awesome show.
And so we come to the final part of "Rurouni Kenshin", "Tales of the Meiji". For me, along with like 99% of the shows fans, this part single handedly killed the series. But "Tales of the Meiji" actually made a good start, throwing out some quietly entertaining, episodic stories that brought about a refreshing change of pace from the long, exhausting intensity of the previous arc. The main problem is with the multi-parters - they were just poor re-hashes of the last section of "Legend of Kyoto"; it's almost the opposite of "Wandering Samurai", where the longer stories outshone the single episode ones. The worst problems with these long stories are the dull stories (they're more like set ups rather than proper stories) and even duller battles. Since towards the end of "Legend of Kyoto", Kenshin has been incessantly abusing this one overpowered attack of his; one that seems to work in pretty much all situations. Good for him, but bad for viewers. It's akin to some guy playing a fighting game and spamming a single broken move over and over again while his opponent is yelling "cheap!" at him repeatedly.
So why did everything go so horribly wrong? Apparently, it's because the anime followed the manga up to the end of "Legend of Kyoto" only. It's a classic case of the anime catching up with the with the manga, then, having run out of material and unwilling to let go of such a popular hit, started making up stories of its own. You can tell something is different about "Tales of the Meiji", and it's not just that it's sh*te: most of the stories in this part of the series involve people from foreign lands; Kenshin's opponents went from a bunch of swordsmen/ninjas to a bizarre mixture of knights, feng shui masters and God knows what else. There's also a glaring inconsistency when it comes to the battles themselves. The anime started introducing increasingly imaginative special attacks for the villains in order to make the fights more difficult for Kenshin. As a result, the attempt to retain a tenuous link with reality by way of some flimsy explanations on how the attacks works is often abandoned, especially since the nature of the new attacks don't lend themselves well to explanations, even absurd ones. Everyone just start pulling off exotic attacks because they CAN, and this doesn't fit very well with how the show worked previously.
With all the inconsistencies and staleness creeping in, "Tales of the Meiji" was a struggle to get through, especially the last few episodes. The final episode is confusing, as it comes out of no where, and goes nowhere as well; it's a rather random episode that just pulls out some flashbacks and highlights from the series. On a good note, it brought back memories of old skool "Rurouni Kenshin", and reminded me just why I loved it so much at one point. But apart from nostalgic value, the last episode seems kinda pointless and anti-climatic.
On the art and animation side of things, the style of "Rurouni Kenshin" can be a bit goofy and overuse the super deformity style at times, but it's great when it gets serious. Kenshin's transformation into "battousai mode" is very cool, as is the character design for Saito, who comes off as cold and deadly, especially when he gets into his various combat stances.
The opening and ending themes of "Rurouni Kenshin", although mostly catchy (I especially loved "It's Gonna Rain"), all feel out of place. The one exception is the ending track "Heart of Sword" which, in addition to being catchy, also energetically captures what the show is all about. The background tracks are not only easy on the ear, but also adds tremendously to the mood. The exquisite accoustic instrumentation combines surprisingly well with the electric guitar sounds, and the combinations give the OST quite a unique flavour.
At its best, "Rurouni Kenshin" is a great anime. It has a memorable, colourful cast, some awesome storylines and intense battles. But ultimately, it became a victim of its own success. It's sad to see the series suffer the slow and painful fate of "death by being overly milked as a cash cow". Adaptations where anime studios stray from the source material and comes up with good original material of their own do exist (the original "Full Metal Alchemist" comes to mind), but they're few and far in between. "Rurouni Kenshin" is a much more typical case of what happens. If you've seen this series, I'm sure you'll agree that the result isn't pretty. For those who haven't seen it, I strongly advise you to just watch up to the end of "Legend of Kyoto" arc, then stop and pretend that "Tales of the Meiji" never existed. Trust me, you won't be missing much, and this way, you won't be wasting away hours of your life just to look back on "Rurouni Kenshin" with a sour aftertaste in your mouth.
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