Anime, 'Classical Cinema'-Style
Carl Malmstrom | Monument, CO USA | 01/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
reedekullervo | Edina, MN United States | 05/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Rurouni Kenshin, OAV: Best Anime OAV Ever?
Michael Huang | Los Angeles, CA USA | 01/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Marita Koivisto | Turku, Finland | 06/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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 =)"