The most feared swordsman in 19th century Japan, the Hitokiri Battousai helped spearhead a revolution, killing many in the process. The pungent stench of death soon became intolerable to Himura Kenshin; he decides to atone for his sins by living a life of peace and virtual anonymity. Adopting the sakabatou (a non-lethal sword with a reversed blade) rather than a katana, Kenshin sets forth on a journey to maintain peace rather than promote death. Ghosts from his past come back to haunt him, however, and he must fight to save his friends and his soul.
summary by Kain
Highs: Superb animation and artwork; rich character insight and development; the middle episodes are a roller coaster ride
Lows: Mediocre beginning and ending; requires a good knowledge of Japanese culture to fully comprehend
The definitive anime that involves swordplay (and believe me, that’s a large genre in Japan), Rurouni Kenshin is a rich, involving story that throws you for an emotional loop… at least for the middle portion.
Truthfully, I wasn’t too impressed by the first dozen or so episodes. The animation was so-so, and the pace was slow as characters were introduced. After that, however, is when I fell in love with this anime: the artwork and direction received a huge shot in the arm, the breathtaking action sequences were a spectacle to behold, and I started actually caring about the characters. The latter was probably because the theme took on a serious note, and I heard less of those dreaded oro‘s.
The ending felt more like a cooling period after the wild middle section; I wasn’t entirely disappointed by this because I knew it was inevitable. And while the series tried to break what I guess they perceived as “monotony” with interspersed comedic elements, I really didn’t care for it. The heart of this anime is the relationships and interaction between men of honor (and lack thereof). It’s also hard to recommend this to those not even remotely versed in Japanese culture and history because some moments will be lost on these people.
To really get the full Kenshin experience, I would recommend watching the Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen OVA prequel, as it offers foreshadowing and showcases amazing animation and music. If you’re prepared, make haste to pick up this title. Just avoid the dub like the plague.
Highs: Great characters; good soundtrack; interesting plot
Lows: Some terrible filler episodes; episodes after the Kyoto Arc
This was a difficult series for me to grade. On one hand, it has excellent characters and an engrossing plot; but on the other hand, horrendous filler episodes and a disappointing, lackluster conclusion plague the series. Luckily though, the pros outweigh the cons, and Rurouni Kenshin stands as a topnotch action anime.
The first arc of the story serves mostly as a prelude where the main protagonists are introduced. The cast is an interesting and well developed bunch, but there are a few characters who really steal the show. For the duration of the Kyoto Arc (the second season), the series is brilliant. With the introduction of a few sinister villains, the plot really begins to thicken and is truly a great, action-packed experience. As an added bonus, the production values for this saga increase tremendously, especially in the animation department.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and in Kenshin‘s case, this occurs well before the finale of the series. After the Kyoto Arc, the anime is completely different from the manga and simply isn’t as captivating. Rather than concluding on a high note, the series’ ending leaves a bitter feeling that is hard to wash away.
Ultimately, Rurouni Kenshin is an anime that shouldn’t be missed. Despite its flaws, it is worth viewing because of the interaction between characters, excellent plot, fast-paced action and great musical score.
Highs: Deep characters; great music; well animated
Lows: Way too much filler; fights can drag on; “Monster of the Week” theme
Even if you are just getting started with anime, you have probably heard of this show. It is easily one of the most popular and recognizable anime ever. Rurouni Kenshin blends action, comedy and great characters together for one memorable experience.
I really appreciated the quality of the animation in the battle scenes, but overall the fights weren’t very entertaining. They reminded me of Dragonball Z in both length and predictability. There was also a “Monster of the Week” theme, especially in the earlier episodes. Luckily this problem seemed to fade away during the second season. Another gripe: this series just picked a terrible time to end. No, it didn’t finish too abruptly nor without any closure; in fact, it was the exact opposite. Instead of ending after what was easily the best part of the series, an entire season of filler was tacked on. By the time I was done, I was so bored out of my mind and just trying to get the episodes over with. There were a few entertaining filler episodes here and there, but overall it brought down the quality of the entire show.
Having said that, Rurouni Kenshin has a ton of redeeming qualities. The music, for example, always fit the mood perfectly. Of course, there is the best thing of all about Kenshin, the characters. Not only were they extremely well designed and thought-out, but they also had deep personalities and grew immensely as the story progressed. Everyone was interesting and served a purpose to make the show better. From each member of Shishio’s Juppon Gatana to Himura Kenshin and his group of friends, everyone bursts with personality. Take them away and this would be one extremely boring series as a whole.
There is action, suspense, deep characters and relationships, and great music; a little bit of something for everyone. Even with the slow parts, Rurouni Kenshin is a very memorable show.
Rurouni Kenshin can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.