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on January 22, 2001
The translator of this series says in his notes on the disc that this series is much the same to anime as Kurosawa Akira was to Japanese filmmaking. I find it hard to disagree as both draw from many of the same themes and styles.
The series, known to the rest of anime fandom as the "Rurouni Kenshin" OAV series, tells the background of the series hero Himura Kenshin who is a major (fictional) source behind the civil war at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the late 1860s to early 1880s. By the time we meet him in the TV Series, he is a wanderer who is dedicated to peace and has a past of incredible violence that he can never seem to completely live down. This series tells the back story for Kenshin. This disc is the second (of two) in his story.
Many themes of classical Japanese literature and film are found in the OAV Series - and especially in this disc - and the pace of it is highly evocative of movies like "Ran" and "Gonza the Spearman". The art is simply incredible - and done in large part with computer-generated animation. In many ways, the animation style is much like the early episodes of "Serial Experiments Lain" with a much brighter feel. The muscial score is lovely and does a surprisingly good job a steering clear of J-Pop like that which is found in the TV Series. While not totally classically Japanese, it fits well with the story - which is not totally classically Japanese either.
There are many reminders that the series is not a complete throwback to classic Japanese cinema. The romance, while maintaining a very classical twist, owes much to modern anime melodrama. The action sequences, while very impressive, are very indicative of what one finds in anime of the last five to ten years - not cinema of half a century ago. Likewise, the almost seemingly airbrushed images of fire, waves and falling blossoms give a modern anchor to this tale.
On the whole, almost nothing to fault in the series. It is simply a masterpiece of animation and can rightly be ranked with critically acclaimed pieces by Miyazaki and Ishii as well as cinematic works of filmmakers like Kurosawa. You do not need to have seen the TV Series to follow the plot and, in some cases, may find it a hindrance. For any fan of not just anime, but of film or Japanese culture, I highly recommend both this disc and its predecessor.
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on May 21, 2002
Whether you are an anime fan or not, the OVA series, Samurai X Trust (part I) and Betrayal (part II) are storytelling and cinema at their finest. The promise of Trust is completely fulfilled by Betrayal. All of the top-notch qualities that made the first set of episodes stand out (beautifully animated visuals, compelling characters, engaging story, etc.) is wrapped up in this last half as Kenshin, the assassin and Tomoe, a mysterious girl he rescued, barely escape Kyoto with their lives.
The third episode takes place while Tomoe and Kenshin hide out in remote Otsu, posing as husband and wife. The compassion and kindness that the viewer knows Kenshin possesses comes out as he happily adapts to a new life as a farmer and husband. For Tomoe it is a revelation since the only Kenshin she knows is that of an assassin, a murderer who brings the bloody rain. Her feelings for Kenshin become confused as she struggles with the reality that the peaceful husband she knows now also killed her fiance, her first love. She asks herself, "The first gift you gave me was death. How shall I repay you?" Their precarious peace is about to be shattered by the unexpected arrival of Tomoe's brother, who has news he thinks will bring Tomoe great happiness.
Episode four brings us to the stunning conclusion of Kenshin's story of which episode three was but a brief interlude. Tomoe has confessed her secrets, though not that Kenshin himself was the one who killed her fiance. She has also admitted to herself, and to Kenshin, that she loves him. As fate would have it, the traitor suspected in Trust is actively working to bring down Kenshin for his crimes and the bucolic interlude in the mountains has played directly into his hands. As Tomoe realizes, "My love for you will not be enough to save you from the consequences of your actions."
His tragic story plays out in an inevitable chain of events that will leave you heartbroken but strangely satisfied. In the end many questions will be answered, including the outcome of the battle between Tomoe's love and her desire for revenge, Kenshin's struggle between the killer he has become and the protector he could be, and most importantly how he wins the other half of his cross-shaped scar(which comes only at great cost to himself and others). A classic tale that will leave an indelible impression on your soul, much as it has left scars on Kenshin's face.
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This DVD contains the last two episodes of the Samurai X OVA, completing the prequel to the long running and justifiably popular Rurouni Kenshin series. These are set in the period leading up to the overthrow of the Shogunate and are a historical drama that tells the tale of one of the periods most deadly assassins, and a hero of the Meijin restoration. What happened in this story created the myth of a wandering samurai who fought for the people, and refused to use his sword to kill.
The first episode here, "The Previous Night at the Mountain Home" is a complete contrast to the episodes of the previous DVD. It picks up the threads of the relationship between Kenshin Himura and Tomoe as they live in exile. Exquisitely slowly, Tomoe finds herself growing deeply in love with the man who killed her fiancé. And Kenshin, emotionally distant as an assassin finds that rural life with Tomoe is teaching him the lessons about the value of life that his sword master was never able to explain to him.
The final episode, "The Cross-Shaped Wound," brings this phase of Kenshin's life to its inevitable conclusion. When an assassin struggles with the meaning of his life, tragedy must ensue. Kenshin faces a last attempt on his life hampered by his doubts. Sworn to protect Tomoe, she protects him instead, completing the second cut of his scar, and starting the painful healing process.
Delicate film values mark these episodes, which repeatedly echo the illustrations of Japan's contemporary artists, while the formal dialog evokes classical Noh drama. All of this is carefully balances by scenes of extreme violence. Strangely evocative of Kurosawa's style. After going through the episodes multiple times, I have become convinced that this is one of those rare cases where the dubbing comes closer to the essence of the Japanese than do the subtitles. This is quite a victory for Lowell Bartholomee, since writers of English language scripts for anime are not noted for successes.
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on June 24, 2002
I'm not going to tell you what it's all about, since you probably know already if you're considering to buy this.
I'm just here to help you make the decision. So I'll just skip right to the point: this is the most beatiful piece of animation I have ever seen. Even though the animation doesn't resemble that of the Rurouni Kenshin tv-series I can assure you that once you start watching it, that won't bother you a bit. The OAV is a lot more serious than the tv-series, as it is about Kenshin's past. It masterfully captures the feelings of the people in it and it really helps you understand Kenshin and his actions. I wasn't able to take my eyes off the screen during the four episodes, because you get to witness such awesome fight scenes and experience such strong feelings(especially in the end).
The only recommendation I have is tfor you to watch it with the Japanese voices and english subtitles, since the english voice acting really is nothing compared to that of the Japanese, they truly put their heart and soul into it.
Hope you enjoy the OAV as much as I did =)
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on January 25, 2002
Well, it's my favorite . . . as a historical drama, classically Japanese-styled film, and an action anime, the Rurouni Kenshin OAV is certainly the best example of the anime OAV format I've ever seen.
This 4 episode mini-series, for me, stands well on its own apart from the Rurouni Kenshin TV series' Kyoto Arc, though many of the finer details are better appreciated by fans who've seen the TV show already. I feel that these four episodes should have been a single film--if it were, I think it would stand proudly alongside the classic live-action Japanese samurai films of Kurosawa and other directors. For one, the script is nuanced, poetic, and filled with evocative Japanese flower metaphors, and it tells a simple, tragic story that honestly could have come from Shakespere or any other classic drama. The animation, particularly in the sword duels and fight choreography, is stunningly fluid (though bloody). The depictions of the pre-industrial Japanese landscape achieves a level of detail and vividness seen only in the very best of Miyazaki's work, such as Princess Mononoke. Visual symbolism abounds as well, complementing the literate script. And I must mention the score: alternately deeply melancholy, intense, thrilling, and romantic, it accompanies the scenes perfectly and stands as wonderful music on its own. It's the best score not written by Yoko Kanno I've heard in any anime. The acting on the original Japanese vocals stands out for its emotional restraint tinged with heartfelt sorrow--Kenshin and Tomoe's voice actresses in particular do a great job. (The dub in English is not nearly as good: changes have been made to the script, the voices are often woefully inappropriate, and everything is usually overacted in the typical American fashion. Avoid at all costs.)
Above all else, the story deeply moved me, in finding out how horrible a childhood the laughing, contented adult Kenshin of the TV series came from. In fact, the main problem with this OAV is that it so completely overshadows the TV series. If you start with this OAV and then move on to the TV show, you'll almost sure to be disappointed--the TV show, while often funny and lighthearted, never quite achieves the weight and significance that this OAV strives for and fully accomplishes.
This OAV is an example of anime as genuine Japanese cinema in the tradition of Ozu, Kurosawa, and others. Recommended for all, except for young vieweres as the violence is graphic and the mood unrelentingly grim--though it never feels exploitive or self-consciously gloomy. Rurounki Kenshin OAV is a work of true art.
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on December 2, 2002
This DVD presents the last two episodes (30 minutes each) of the Rurouni Kenshin OVA (miniseries), not to be confused with the theatrical film or the main television series.
This DVD (and its companion, Trust), presents the backstory of Kenshin Himura (hero of the RuroKen series), during the years of the Imperialist Revolution against the Tokugawa Shoganate (i.e., more than 8 years before the start of the main series).
This particular DVD tells of how the Imperialist assassin, Kenshin Himura, becomes a simple farmer of a small town, while hiding from the Shogunate soldiers who are tracking down the scattered rebel forces. The first (3rd) episode is very tranquil and pastoral (aside from some brief establishing flashback sequences), and shows how Kenshin slowly heals his soul, living with Tomoe as husband and wife, first as merely a cover (they don't share the same bed), and then later as reality. It is extremely romantic and tasteful; the one love scene is very moving and understated, and contains no obvious nudity. The second (4th, final) episode shows how a betrayal within the rebel forces puts Kenshin and Tomoe into extreme danger; and explains why Kenshin has an cross-shaped scar on his left cheek. It also explains why he chooses to become a wanderer after the end of the rebellion, leaving behind forever (he hopes) the sword of a killer. There is more action in this last episode than in the first three put together, and I found it to complete the story very satisfactorily, on many emotional levels.
The OVA is very different in style and tone from the main series; subjectively, I can't decide whether it's better or worse (the two stylistic presentations are intended for two different target audiences, I think, and both do their distinctive jobs very well). Objectively, the animation is more detailed, nuanced and realistic. Music and sound are at the same high standard (by the same composer, too, I think), but obviously more tragic and epic and even understated than what is sometimes found in the main series.
These two DVDs (Trust and Betrayal) stand well together as an independent storyline (it's not necessary to know, or be a fan of, the main series); and in some not-insignificant ways, the film is better than the comparable live-action American Revolutionary War movie _The Patriot_. There are high standards of realism to the film--no hyper-jumps, or vacuum-slinging swords, but merely extremely realistic swordfighting.
The violence level is very high, particularly in the second episode of this disc, though not overall as in-your-face brutal as the first episode of the first disc; but it is in keeping with the central point to the film, which is that no matter how necessary killing may sometimes be, it is still a tragedy which threatens to turn the killer (even with the best of intentions) into a monster. Like many of the best oriental fighting-movies (and like the main series upon which the OVA story is based), the underlying message is actually rather anti-violent. Language is roughly PG-13 material.
DVD production values are competent, though nothing particularly special. English dubbing is very good, and subtitling makes good sense; both are distinctive enough to be worth going through each, but overall I prefer the dubbing. Not being familiar with the Japanese language, I can't gauge how accurate they are to the original, but they fit what's shown very well.
It's difficult to recommend when a fan of the main series should watch this. Fans should definitely get it, but it does contain many 'spoilers' about the history of Kenshin. The best time might be after season two of the series.
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on May 24, 2001
The Rurouni Kenshin OAV series-- "Trust" and "Betrayal"-- is the best anime I have ever seen, and I've watched quite a bit. I have never watched this video without crying... nothing compares with the way this series' story, art, setting, and music move me. The story itself plays through as a tragedy. It is so subtle, delicate, and slow... everything moves by with such grace, until the end where everything comes apart at the seems. This what one would call "masterpiece anime" :) This video is very dark and serious, but so, so beautiful... yeah. I can't say enough how much *I* loved this, and everyone I've talked to (even non-anime fans) have too. Really. So if you're looking for an anime like no other... with beautiful story/plot, music, art, and even some action at the end~ look no further...
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on January 7, 2004
If you like Kenshin, you will like this DVD. It is, however, quite different than the t.v. series. First, the animation is quite a bit better. Second, there is none of the silliness of the series. This is 100 percent serious, which may be good or bad, depending upon if you like some of the foolishness of the series. I felt like Kenshin loses some of his appeal in this by being too serious, although the series could perhaps tone down SOME of the silliness. Third, the characters are never quite developed in this movie (although they are more Asian-looking. I never understand why Japanese anime heroes always look more American than me, but the villains always seem to still look Japanese. Is this a Japanese ideal?) In the series, we see Kenshin's struggle and turmoil, but in the movie he is basically portayed rather one dimensional and flat until the sees the errors of his ways. Finally, while everyone else seems to think it was violent, I don't find it that much more violent than the t.v. series. I personally don't have a problem with my children watching it, because it's animation and loses the edge that reality violence has.
The main problem I see with this movie, and not to give anything away, is that I had trouble figuring out why Kenshin and Tomoe fell in love to begin with, because there was nothing overly interesting or particularly redeeming in their personalities to spark a romance. While the Kenshin in the t.v. series is quite lovable and adorable, the movie version of Kenshin is a little bland and not as personable or caring. The relationship does explain, however, why he might be a little shell shocked about falling in love again, and why he is so hesitant to fall in love with Kaoru in the series. If you like Kenshin, you will want to have these blanks filled in, as the first two movies fill the gaps of what happened to Kenshin to make him what he is in the series.
The reason I give this only four of five stars is because if you are not a Kenshin fan, you will not appreciate the movie. It is SLOOOOOW moving for the most part, almost painfully so in some parts, (in fact I thought my DVD player had stopped during one scene), and if you are not familiar with Kenshin the man from the series, it is doubtful you will appreciate or understand his character. People I watched the movie with who had not seen the series did not think the movie was very good, and could not figure out why I like Kenshin so much to begin with.
I would recommend this if you are a Kenshin fan, and you have any desire to find out about his first love, how he got the famous X-shaped scar, what made him decide to become the manslayer, what made him decide he needed redemption, and how he almost found it prior to his meeting Kaoru. If you are not a Kenshin fan, I wouldn't buy the movie, but maybe start with the series. Buy one DVD with three episodes and I can almost guarantee you will be HOOKED.
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on February 19, 2001
How typical of fanboys... one of the first things I noticed when reading the reviews were the comments on "not enough fighting as the first disc" or "I expected more fights" etc., etc ( Heaven forbid the same people watch the Patlabor movies ) . I guess when one ignores the great pacing, the vivid imagery, and the tasteful cinematography of the third episode one would consider it "slow". But what the last two installment does is create a believable situation to the tragic and heart-rending tragedy of Himura. There is a noticeable introduction of CG elements in here, but it comes across as akward, especially with the melding of real-time sea-water and animated cels. Thankfully, this process is only done briefly, and does not hamper the overall visuial feel of series. The animation is solid, and the combat scenes of the last episode are so good that one can almost forgive the overtly violent scenes from the last two. And sorry, but just 'cuz there are swords and samurai in here doesn't necessarily mean that a Kurosawa comparison is in order. Needless to say, if one already has the first OVA, there is no reason for you not to have this.
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on November 18, 2012
During the revolution one man strikes fear into the hearts of all. Battousai the Manslayer. He ruthlessly murders anyone who gets in his way. He does have a confused and gentle side that only one person can see. Tomoe encounters Kenshin Himura and witnesses a battle. After seeing that they become closer and eventually open up to each other. After a crushing defeat Kenshin and Tomoe are sent into hiding. They begin to live a normal life together. After a few years pass, and things seem normal, a messenger comes and tells them things are getting worse. Tomoe betrays Kenshin and returns home. He is not going to accept this. Kenshin then goes after her. But to save her he must battle Tomoe's father. During the fight the unthinkable happens, and the legend of Rurouni Kenshin begins.

This is the beginning of the Rurouni Kenshin legend. It is much darker that the TV series. Kenshin is much more of a soulless killer than you were led to believe in the TV show. The animation and voice acting are also different. This show seems like it was made by completely different people. It is very good, and gives ou a new perspective on the TV show. I recommend it to any fan of the Rurouni Kenshin series.
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