Aug 5, 2013
Huntsman (All reviews)
"The moon peers down on a diseased world. There is no cure for the disease, an entire race walks mindlessly into destruction. Not even a man of colossal power, would be able to prevent the inevitable."

Every choice has a consequence, and every action will cause a reaction that will impact you whether realize it or not, and the decisions by the characters in Trust and Betrayal, but by more importantly the legendary Himura Kenshin will shape a nation for years to come, and cause a great deal of pain and suffering in his own life. For those of you unfamiliar with the character Himura Kenshin, he is the creation of acclaimed Japanese manga artist and author Nobuhiro Watsuki. Nobuhiro Watsuki likes to use real life characters and events for his stories, and very loosely basis Himura Kenshin on Kawakami Gensai. Himura Kenshin is a former Choshu assassin said to be the greatest swordsman every, who mysteriously disappeared right after the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867. The Manga takes place eleven years later in 1878 with Kamiya Kaoru searching for the legendary manslayer that has been killing innocent people and saying he was using the Kamiya Kasshin-ryū style of swordsmanship. She accidently runs into a wandering swordsman with a reverse blade sword who has taken a vow to never kill again. Watsuki creatively combined the real world of late 19th century Japan with his story, and through his twenty eight volume manga, and Kenshin and Kaoru's memorable journey together Watsuki creates one of the best manga story lines ever along with some of their most well written characters ever, so it is not surprising that Studio Deen would be interesting in creating a Anime series based on the manga, which gave life to the wonderful ninety five episode anime series Rurouni Kenshin. Still there was lots of interest in Kenshin's past before the Meji Restoration while he was an assassin and Trust and Betrayal gives viewers the insight into Kenshin Himura's early years.

The quote above by the character Hiko Seijūrō is a fitting quote for the mid-19th century Japan. The Tokugawa Shogunate had basically had absolute control of Japan for over two hundred years ruling by fear and hostage taking. That is the simplistic version, but it gets the point across. The Shogun was the voice of the Emperor and there was no dissention ever with any dissention leading to imprisonment or death. In the 19th century things began to change with the class system and the restrictions the Shogunate put on each class began to boil over, and then there was the Shogunate's policy of isolationism. Outside of the Dutch, Japan refused to have any dealings with the outside world. That quickly changed in the 18th century with Imperialism. England was had defeated China in the first Opium War, Russia was encroaching on Japan's territory and then there is the United States which had its eyes on the Pacific and Japan. This would lead to the infamous "Black Ships" and the arrival of Admiral Perry who forced the Shogunate to open the country to all foreign nations. This embarrassment and insult would lead civil war and the collapse of the downfall of the Shogunate as many different sides and factions fought for control of Japan, which is when Trust and Betrayal takes place.

At the outset of Trust and Betrayal we follow a group of travelers traveling down small road when they are brutally attacked by bandits leaving just a small child alive, and it looks like the child will be killed along with his fellow companions when Hiko Seijūrō who easily dispatches with the bandits, but does not help the boy just basically saying this is life deal with it and walks away thinking nothing of the boy that is until Seijūrō finds the child standing in front of freshly buried graves where the boy has not only buried his companions, but also the bandits as well. Seijūrō agrees to take the boy on as his disciple and asks the boy his name, and in reply the child says his name is Shinta. This is the first defining moment in Shinta soon to be Kenshin's life. Through Seijūrō and his Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū style of swordsman ship would lead Kenshin to become one of the greatest swordsman and killers ever. The second defining moment of Kenshin's young life takes place a few years after he has left Seijuro Hiko's tutelage to try and make a difference for the people and Japan where Kenshin ends up working for the Choshu clan as their best assassin. Through them he encounters Kiyosato Akira a young samurai guarding a local shogun official, and though Kenshin is victorious in killing the official and Akira, Kenshin is left scarred and the consequences of his actions would come back to haunt him. That theme is carried out throughout the OVA and impacts not only Kenshin, but all the characters in the anime. How our choices we make may not think wrong or won't impact anyone else may leave lasting and even devastating impact on those affected by those decisions along with the ones who made them. Kenshin is socially awkward having physically grown up, but not emotionally, and though he knows about the harshness of the world Kenshin is also naïve when it comes to interacting with the world and trying to change it, which Seijuro tries to point out to his young pupil. Katsura Kogorō the leader of the part of the Choshu clan regrettably takes advantage of this fact. The third defining moment that would influence perhaps be the greatest influence on his life and lead to his vow never to kill again is when Kenshin falls in love, but I will not give anything more away about what happens later in the OVA for those who haven't read the manga any of the anime series or films, but like Nobuhiro Watsuki did with the manga Studio Deen and writer Masashi Sogo creates a beautiful Greek Tragedy that again creatively combines historical events in Japan with the story of Kenshin to create a tragic, heart wrenching and truly emotionally satisfying anime OVA that can stand against any live action or anime film, TV series or OVA.

The animation is somewhat outdated by todays standard of animation, but it isn't that noticeable and Trust and Betrayal is beautifully animated with great painstaking detail put into each character and scene. The action in Trust and Betrayal is riveting and violent, which is a testament to Studio Deen's historical detail, and the scenes were brilliantly planned out and animated. The OST was created by Taku Iwasaki who compiles a dramatic and movie score highlighted by "The Wars of the Last Wolves" and "In Memories 'A Boy Meets the Man'" that compliments and the action and emotional moments of the anime scenes, and creating one of the most beautiful anime soundtracks around. I am not really a big fan of dubbed anime films or films in general as I prefer subtitles, but the English voice actors do a relatively good job with the film as did the translators, so I don't think it will effect anyone viewer if they watched it dubbed or with subtitles.

There are many quality anime films, series and OVA's around, but few have true meaning behind their stories or successfully delivers their message. I can think of a few like Now and Then/Here and There, Kino's Journey and Fullmetal Alchemist to name of a few. Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal is another. The historical OVA perfectly blends the turbulent times of mid-18th century Japan and fiction to create an exceptional heart wrenching tale about the consequences of our actions and how killing isn't the answer to resolving conflicts, and how death slowly eats away out the soul of the killer, and that along with dated, but still wonderful animation, great action and beautiful music. You don't have to know anything about the character Himura Kenshin or have read the Manga as Trust and Betrayal is an origin story, which makes Trust and Betrayal a must for any anime fan or anyone who is a fan of cinema, for you must experience the birth of one of the greatest and well written characters ever created.