Rurouni Kenshin Anime Review
Rurouni Kenshin - Meiji Kenkaku Rouman-tan
Wandering Kenshin - Romantic Tale of a Meiji Swordsman
US Release By
Historical Fiction, Comedy, Romance, Fighting
95 24-minute episodes
1996-01-10 - 1998-09-01
In the year 1867 the great war between the Ishin faction and the Tokugawa dynasty had come to an end. During this war, known as the Bakumatsu, there existed a perfect swordsman called the Hitokiri Battousai and was known only by his red hair, the cross scar on his left cheek, and his utter lethality. He became renowned as the strongest warrior of the age; however, at the end of the struggle this legendary assassin disappeared without a trace and his name was passed into legend. Eleven years after the fall of the Tokugawa Dynasty, a wandering samurai with red hair and a cross scar on his left cheek wielding a sakaba (reversed blade) sword is ambushed by a girl seeking the legendary Hitokiri. Such begins the tale of Himura Kenshin and Kamiya Kaoru.
This anime was the one that started it all for me. Even today I still love to sit down when I have some spare time and rewatch the anime. I love how this anime does not really define what is "right" or what is "wrong" and gives everything to you in various perspectives. Another thing that I loved about this anime was how it was serious some times and it was funny others but it always did it in proper proportions. For example, there would be times when fights would get really intense and they would throw a moment of humor in there just to lighten the mood a little and give you a 5 second breather before the action started up again. I liked that a lot as it gave me more time to think about the anime and consider what the characters were actually fighting for. Also there is no mindless violence in this anime and in fact at times you feel quite sorry for Kenshin because he just wants to be left alone while enemies are always forcing him to fight for various reasons.
Plot - 4.5/5
Because I am reviewing this entire anime my score is substantially lower than it would be if I could only review a particular segment. Plot-wise, Kenshin up until the end of the Kyoto Arc was superb. It had great character development, great action, great subplots, and it would have received a perfect 5 if I could only review that part; however, Kenshin begins to decline after that arc. The plot becomes a bit more obscure and in the end they bring the series from a superior anime to a weird far out thing with geomancers and divine medicine and lots of religion. The characters are still great and the plot is still interesting but it is just not as good as it could have been.
Characters - 5/5
The characters are what really define this series. They are all very dynamic and very unique. I liked the aspect that the anime would allow you to see things from each character's viewpoint as they progressed instead of only the main character. Even the villains were not "true" villains because the majority of them were not evil. They simply had their philosophies and their motives for their actions which happened to disagree with Kenshin's or the Meiji government's and so they were destined to fight. Of course Kenshin never wants to fight but he is sworn to protect the innocent whom his enemies always threaten. Also there is a lot of emotion expressed in this anime as Kenshin reverts to the hitokiri or tries to carry the burden of responsibility all by himself. At times you can see the pain that Kenshin has for his past and if you watch the OAVs you really understand the depth of that pain which makes Kenshin a deeper character and helps his philosophies have more meaning.
Animation - 4.5/5
The animation is pretty standard. It is very pretty but not necessarily breathtaking. It is interwoven into the anime very well and serves its purpose in supporting the plot and the characters. The only problem is that near the end you can see that the team was getting tired of their jobs (95 eps is a lot) and the animation begins to decline there.
Music - 5/5
The music in this series is absolutely superb. The various opening and closing songs are all very good and the music can stand by itself due to its quality. Also the songs in the series are very good and suit each character and each situation very well heightening the emotion of each sequence.
Overall - 4.7/5
I do have to subtract points for the less than perfect ending but nonetheless this series is a true classic. If you watch the series in its entirety (including the 2 OAVs and movie) you will gain a glimpse of what a truly groundbreaking anime can be. Although the animation is pretty standard the story is so well done that it will have you coming back for more and hooked until you want to know every tidbit about Kenshin and feudal Japan. This anime explores morality and at times can get pretty deep into politics and what not but it all ties in very well to the anime as a whole. This is truly a classic series.
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Notes and Trivia
US DVD Review
The DVDs are actually quite nice for early AnimeWorks releases. The video is passable, though not notably clean (some noise), and the audio is fine. More notable are the extensive language-related liner notes included on the discs, as well as character profiles, art galleries, and textless opening/endings.
Rated 13-up by AnimeWorks.
Violence: 3 - Although Kenshin never kills, some of his allies and enemies aren't so idealistic.
Nudity: 0 - Nope, no nudity whatsoever; though it is implied once or twice it is not shown at all.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Kenshin isn't very adept at romance... neither is Sanosuke.
Language: 1 - They never really cuss except on rare occasions.
Available in North America from AnimeWorks on bilingual DVD; 4 episodes per disc, 22 discs; they're also available combined into three economy box sets or, most recently, a jumbo set of the entire series. Was also available on subtitled and dubbed VHS.