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Media Blasters presents
Rurouni Kenshin—Wandering Samurai #1: The Legendary Swordsman (1997)

- Kenshin Himura (Mayo Suzukaze)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: December 21, 2001

Stars: Mayo Suzukaze, Miki Fujitani, Mina Tominaga, Kaori Yuasa
Other Stars: Yuji Ueda, Mika Doi, Yoku Shiyoa
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Manufacturer: WRT
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence, some nudity and language)
Run Time: 01h:54m:00s
Release Date: July 18, 2000
UPC: 631595200027
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-B- B-

DVD Review

The mysterious swordsman who appears suddenly and then turns out to be a good guy,a protector of all people: We've seen this set-up before, and it feels fairly clichéd, tobe honest. But this is the core of Rurouni Kenshin, one of the most acclaimed andbeloved Japanese anime to many, many fans. Although it might sound predictable and boringat first, Kenshin proves itself to be extremely fun and fast moving, while stillproviding a fairly meaty story. Originally based on a manga (Japanese comic), the showstarted almost simultaneously with the written work. While this is not an ideal situation for an anime series, it still manages to capture some of that comic-to-screen essence.

Set in a relatively small, pastoral Japanese village, Rurouni Kenshin begins witha mysterious murderer, calling himself the 'Battousai harassing the villagers. It is the Meiji period of Japan, after times of turbulent revolution when samurai were hunted and killed off and weaponry was outlawed to the general populace. Our central character, Kenshin Himura, enters the town only to be accused of being the very same Battousai that's been on a crime spree. He encounters Karou Kamiya, a woman who is the head of a local dojo where she teaches a specific sword technique. She thinks he's the culprit, but then soon discovers this is not the case when both of them are assaulted are by the real murderer. The incident leads Kamiya to discover that this murderer is claiming to use her style of fighting, which immediately causes all of her students to leave the school. She finds herself abandoned by all, except Kenshin, who calls himself the 'wandering swordsman.' He does not wish to kill people, though, so he uses a sword with the blade on the reverse side. He has perfected his technique to knock people out with the dull sideof his blade.

Although Kenshin and Kamiya eventually stop the evil bandit using their school's name,the students never return and her reputation is damaged. As a result, they decide to sticktogether and make what they can out of a bad situation. Kenshin simply wants to live anormal life, free of the samurai combat that dominated his mysterious past. Unfortunately,this small village is more lively than it looks, and Kenshin is kept rather busy with all sortsof various foes as well as taking care of Kamiya and her two, small cousins. As you mightexpect, much of the show is comedic, what with Kenshin having to deal with manyat-home problems and quandaries. While an expert fighter, he is no expert at being ahomemaker. He's not as brilliant as he'd like people to think, with his most oft-usedphrase being "Oro?"—essentially the Japanese equivalent of "huh?"

Rurouni Kenshin is equal parts action (with plenty of fight sequences), comedy, and drama. It has a fairly continuous storyline, mainly focused on rebuilding the martial arts dojo, but can take side-steps without being too distracting; at least, that's how it certainly seems in the four episodes presented here. The story manages to be humorous and serious very well, sometimes changing moods in a matter of seconds. The writing is very sharp and able to convey this in an instant, never seeming too silly. The result is, forgive the term, a "romp"; a series that feels very much like a calculated ride, knowing exactly when to twist and turn. You want to keep watching it and see what happens. You feel like you're part of Kamiya's dojo as well, seeing their lives unfold little by little.

This disc is the first in a 24-disc series.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: There are generally no complaints with this fine transfer. The source seems a tad grainy and at times there seems to be an excess of moiré in sharper patterns. It feels, inmany ways, an analog source, especially because of the moiré effect. The grain doesbring out a few moments of minor pixelization in background textures or flat, dark, largeexpanses of colors. Otherwise, though, digital flaws are not really a problem, with theseries looking clean and natural. Colors are bright and distinct and fine background detaillooks very much as it was probably painted originally. The show is traditional animation(not computer colored), so it isn't as jump-off-the-screen brilliant as some current anime,but it looks good overall. On larger displays without image cleaning (comb filters, etc.) itmay exaggerate the flaws even worse, though.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The stereo audio fits the show well and is neither boring nor incredibly active. Most of theprogram is dialogue, all of which is perfectly clear and balanced. Whenever the track isramped up with effects and on-screen action, things stay natural and mixed well, withnothing that obscurs anything else. There are no matrixed surround effects, but thereare occasional deep bass effects that measure nicely with everything else. The musicalscore, which is a hybrid of traditional Japanese instruments with a more modern, technofeel, is probably the best sounding element. It functions well and serves the show, but isnot much more than that. The English dub is actually not bad; certainly much better than typical dubs, and does not make any major changes to the original writing or story.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Magic Knight RayEarth, Virtua Fighter, Ninku,Shinesman
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Term translationsArt Gallery
  2. Character ProfilesTextless Opening
  3. Textless Opening
  4. Original Japanese Credits
  5. Art Gallery
Extras Review: The most substantial extra feature is a text portion called "Liner Notes" that actuallyserves to explain and translate many Japanese terms used in the program. It also discussessome of the translation process of making the terms understandable in an English version. This is a nice informational piece that can greatly help those new to anime. There aredetailed profiles of the main characters, also text, which help explain a few other minor,story details should anyone be confused or unsure of something in the plot. A textlessopening and original end credits sequence are featured, and there are trailers for otherMedia Blaster releases. The "art gallery" is actually only 2 pieces of art, both of which arethe central pieces used to create the cover art for the keepcase, except they are presentedhere without any text.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Rurouni Kenshin is interestng in that it balances between being a great anime for newcomers as well as being interesting to those who have watched the genre for years. It combines adventurous romanticism with a silly, self-reverential attitude that gives it a lot ofpersonality. It definitely ranks amongst some of the better shows I've seen.


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