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 is one of the more well-known 90s anime series out there, and I'd heard lots of great things about it. On that premise, I decided to begin watching it.
RK can be divided into three major parts. The first part, the first 30 or so episodes, is basically an introduction-type of thing, where we get to know the characters and learn about them. It's not any continuous story here, just a new event every episode, or maybe small 2-3-episode arcs. Every time, Kenshin and/or Sanosuke ends up saving the day, or Yahiko manages to prove himself just a little bit more. It's not extraordinary in this part, but it's still very good - I'd give it a 9.
The second part, which is from episode 28 to 62, is where the story finally begins to develop. Now it's a continuous story, much like what most shonen anime series does. It is in this part that Rurouni Kenshin shows its best side, and there's a lot of pasts to look on, tons of emotions and resolves to change, and great action. Te pacing is just right too; it's not too fast, nor too slow. Everything about this part is perfect story-wise, if you ask me. This part also has an ending (since the remainder of the show is filler), which you may or may not like. Everyone, including the bad guys, get their story wrapped up, and for me, that's fine, but not everyone may share my opinion. All in all, I'd give this part a 10, and the story ends on a 10.
The remaining 32 episodes are filler as far as I've heard, and I haven't watched them yet. I don't think I will, since I thought the story ended so nicely; it'd kinda ruin the end if I watched more.
The animation is very good - considering the time it was made, that is. The coloring is a bit dull, and drawing style of the eyes and hairs of the characters is a style I don't really like a lot. However, aside that it's really good - the environments are lovely, and at times the animation is really smooth, even when comparing to anime of today. Lighting effects are good too, but I noticed one or two failed attempts in that department. One more thing - during sword fights, I got a bit let down every now and then. They don't always show when the sword hits someone. Instead, a a blue beam of light is shown and the character who's been hit is flying from the impact. It may create a "final blow" effect, but I didn't like it that much, really. All in all, I'm settling on a 8 score for the animation.
Character-wise, Rurouni Kenshin is a real masterpiece. The characters - even some of the bad ones, have pasts which have deeply affected how they act in the present. These pasts which serves as a motivation for their present actions adds depth to the characters, and it's easier to sympathize with them - even the bad ones. In addition to that, there's tons of character development; Yahiko evolving as a swordsman, Sanosuke turning from a fighter-for-hire into a person for fights more for his friends, bad guys questioning their being bad, and not to mention, Kenshin fighting against his past as a manslayer. I'm pretty much tied between 9 and 10, so I'll leave it at 9.
The soundtrack is, in my opinion, awesome. The background music is moody, fits right in with the setting of RK, and the songs are awesome. However, this is highly subjective, so you'll have to experience it for yourself. Unfortunately, the fansubs I watched didn't have the OP and ED themes included, so I just had to listen to them on Youtube. None of them really appealed to me, but you might think otherwise. Again, it's subjective, so you'll have to listen for yourself. Sound effects are good; from explosions to swords clashing against each others to cicada chirping. The voice acting is very good too, and I really enjoyed Kenshin's voice and his "gozaru". Due to not liking the OPs and EDs, I'll settle on a 9 (I've only heard them once, so for me it wasn't a big problem).
All in all, I really enjoyed RK, and take my word: If you like shonen, RK is a must-see for you. Which means, most of the anime fans out there should see RK.
To 'Not Helpful' voters (and you 'Helpful' voters too): Feedback greatly appreciated =)read more
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. read more
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.
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.read more