Review of the anime Rurouni Kenshin aka Samurai X.
“I’m a wanderer, Miss Kaoru, and I must wander again.”
Genres: action, comedy, drama
Themes: historical, samurai, martial arts, politics
For a child growing up amidst a bloody battlefield, war becomes the way of life. The child’s dreams get limited to becoming stronger; strong enough to fight off the constant threats to his family and loved ones. Consequently, he does become strong. After the lengthy process of coming of age and training, he enters the battle, already a veteran, and begins the daily routine of defending and taking lives. But what happens to him when war suddenly gives way to peace? His skills and strength become useless, and all of a sudden he finds weaker people ruling over him just because they are more ‘qualified’ on basis of education and riches.
Rurouni Kenshin tackles this aspect of human nature, which makes it quite a unique watch. All this is hidden under a mask of simplicity, though, and there lies the beauty. A person may enjoy the show just for its action sequences, which mostly dominate the storyline, and the delicate Kenshin-Kaoru romance, which adds a sweet touch. In fact, the hints of something really mature in the backdrop are so subtle, that for most part of the series I felt I was thinking too deeply into a show meant for children.
The main storyline revolves around Kenshin Himura, a wandering samurai in the Meiji Era of Japanese history. He had fought for the Imperialists in the Tokugawa war, earning the title of ‘Battosai the Manslayer’ for his rash and skillful executions, and had later become a legend by suddenly disappearing from the eyes of the public. We come to know that presently, he carries around a reverse-blade sword and has vowed never to kill again.
After the Tokugawa regime ended, the Meiji Era brought peace for the first time in many decades. But like I mentioned, peace is rather destructive for the strong. A buzz of an upcoming revolt keeps the air tingly with tension. The first few episodes build up a sort of base and introduce the other important characters. Eventually, Kenshin is called for by a senior minister to help fight against Shishio, a man bent on starting another revolution to overthrow the Meiji government. The story continues from there, accompanied by few fillers now and then. Honestly, some of the episodes get really boring due to repetitive circumstances.
The main characters remain almost same throughout the anime. Nothing much to say about that.
The music is great, especially because they’ve used it perfectly with the scenes, and have managed to bring forth a classic Japanese feeling. ‘Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu’ is probably one of the most famous anime themes of all time. Some other tracks like ‘Kaoru’s Theme’ and ‘Departure’ are exceptionally well composed. The artwork is almost typical to the anime of its time, and it suits the story well enough.
To wrap it up, I would like the readers to keep in mind that this is best watched if you are around twelve years of age. Older people might get bored, since most of the anime has lengthy fight sequences, kind of resembling the likes of DBZ (though not as long). However, every otaku should see this once, it being one of the classics that paved the path for anime to what it is now. Also, it is largely based on Japan’s historical background and will entertain all Japan lovers.
The series also has 2 OVAs, out of which ‘Trust and Betrayal’ was simply mind-blowing. More on that in another review.