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Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen

a.k.a. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal

kenshinova1-2
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Fuji TV/SPE Visual Works
Format: 4 OVA
Dates: 2/20/1999 to 9/22/1999

Young, but raised by a master swordsman who once saved him from murderous robbers, Kenshin’s skills are put to the test as he decides to take side in the revolution currently raging in 19th century Japan. With his intense training in Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, this future wanderer first becomes the Hitokiri Battousai, one of the most feared assassins of the Tokugawa era. Warned by his master that killing men to salvage others would accomplish nothing except turn him into a tool for the power-hungry, Kenshin’s humanity slowly suffers the same fate as his victims… until the day he meets (you guessed it) a woman.

summary by Kjeldoran

 

Reviewed: 03/26/2002 by
Grade: 93% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Visual and acoustic treat; intense and riveting storyline; a good, healthy dose of Japanese culture

Lows: A few dents in the pacing; some deaths seem excessively gory

Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen is designed as a prequel to the television series, but can also be used as an introduction to the Kenshin world. Dark and deprived of any comical relief, these OVAs are certainly a big contrast compared to their television counterpart, but make for a perfect complement in terms of character background and entertainment.

This OVA series is a whole lot more than simply “how Kenshin got his scar”. Its rich storyline covers every aspect of Kenshin’s sinistrous past as portrayed in the original manga. The names and terminology may confuse the unfamiliar yet it’s nothing a second watching can’t clear up. Even though the violence at times seems excessive and takes a step back from practicality, the symbolism, historical references and frequent flashbacks put this one in the rare strain of action anime you need to concentrate to revel in.

Technically outstanding, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen delivers steady animation at a high frame rate in which every single cel is polished and detailed. It also displays a more solemn and down-to-earth art style than Rurouni Kenshin, which sets the mood flawlessly. Music certainly perfects the package, as well. Iwasaki Taku did an outstanding job composing and orchestrating what I have no reserve in calling one of the best original soundtracks ever made (you can hear more of Iwasaki Taku in Read or Die and Rurouni Kenshin: Seisouhen, the OVA sequel).

For people ranting over the blatant mistranslation of the Japanese title to Samurai X, the DVD includes a reversible cover allowing them to choose the traditional name. A Shakespearean drama at the finest, an ending that will leave you in shock for several days, first rate visuals and a brilliant instrumental score; what else can you ask for?

 

Reviewed: 04/29/2004 by
Grade: 95% av-Gatts

Highs: Excellent storyline; excellent presentation

Lows: Superimposed live action; not for the weak hearted

I first saw Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen at a local anime convention, and this anime served as my introduction to Rurouni Kenshin. It portrays a very emotional look at Kenshin’s past as the Hitokiri Battousai and succeeds at being brilliant in all aspects.

In comparison to the television series, these OVAs present a much darker, realistic world. Gone are the comic relief and unrealistic qualities found in the series. The characters are designed to look more serious and believable. Gorgeous animation complements the change in style and sets the tone for this portion of the Kenshin saga. There is only one imperfection in its visuals; occasionally, rather than having animated water or fire, live action shots are integrated into the animation. This technique works well in a few scenes, but overall it seems very out of place.

Tsuiokuhen presents an incredible and engrossing tale. It makes reference to many political factions and groups which may confuse people not familiar with Japanese history, but this does not hinder the experience (it is worth noting that for the domestic release, ADV Films removed a few brief scenes that served as historical background). Some scenes contain graphic and brutal violence, but these are not gratuitous and play a key role in developing Kenshin’s character. A second viewing reveals the clever use of subtle symbolism that greatly enhances one’s appreciation for these OVAs.

Finally, adding the icing to the cake, is Iwasaki Taku’s elysian musical composition. His instrumental pieces are amazing and truly create the mood. The soundtrack is a real aural treat. Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen is a masterpiece that all anime fans should see. It can serve as an introduction to Rurouni Kenshin or greatly enhance the enjoyment of fans of the series.

 

Reviewed: 04/29/2004 by
Grade: 93% av-Keitaro

Highs: Original and captivating story; incredible action scenes; powerful ending

Lows: Pacing issues; excessive amounts of blood

Anyone who has watched the Rurouni Kenshin television series knows that Himura Kenshin has a dark and mysterious past. While one gets bits and pieces here and there, details about his life remain a secret.Tsuiokuhen, an absolutely amazing OVA series, goes back to Kenshin’s childhood and his struggles for life and love.

This anime has it all, and simply excels in every category. The art and animation are easily some of the best I have seen, and the sword fights are extremely well done (extremely bloody, too). The soundtrack is wonderful. Best of all, the story is incredibly deep and just sucks one in. The characters are impacting, and I almost felt their emotions right along with them. There is nothing shallow about this anime. Heck, even the romance managed to fit in perfectly. On top of all of this, Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen has what may be the best ending ever.

Just trying to find anything wrong with Tsuiokuhen is a difficult task. I suppose there were some issues with pacing; a couple of scenes seemed to drag on a little too long. It would have been possible to tone down the gore just a bit without taking away from the drama. One little pet peeve I have is the integration of CG in with some scenes. I don’t mind a little now and again. Not that it really matters; I may not be a fan of CGI, but no amount of CGI could ruin this anime.

If you plan on watching the Rurouni Kenshin television series, watch this anime. If you have already seen Rurouni Kenshin, watch this anime. Even if you aren’t going to watch Rurouni Kenshin, watch this anime!

 

Reviewed: 04/29/2004 by
Grade: 92% av-Kain

Highs: Excellence in nearly every facet of visual storytelling

Lows: Prolonged ending; music overwhelms occasionally

If there has ever been an anime that embodies the word “beautiful”, it might as well be Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen. This is how I originally envisioned the Kenshin universe to be. Dark, melancholic, naked, raw… the unabashedly stark atmosphere that gives this anime a home to play in works in perfect unison with the characters, music, art, animation… everything. Speaking of which, the wonderful, vibrant visuals and stylish animation are truly a spectacle to behold. The background artwork is just so authentic and lush.

And despite the gory details in which the events of the Meiji conflicts unfold, Tsuiokuhen is very much a love story… probably the best one in anime, at that. That’s not to say that everything comes up roses; the characters undergo the full gamut of emotions from love to jealousy to rage. The expert camera positioning and direction allows the viewer to be right there with the characters.

I am in love with Iwasaki Taku’s haunting soundtrack for this anime, but there is just entirely too much of it at the wrong times. Even though I recognize the importance of a fitting soundtrack and how it can affect the mood of the story, I also recognize the importance of silence; some moments call for nary a word to be spoken or a note to be played. Most of the time, however, this wasn’t even a problem for me.

Like the ocean tides, my love affair with anime has seen its fair share of ebbs and flows. It’s anime like Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen that has kept the fire alive for all these years.

 

Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.

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