Series and Movie Review – Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal

I knew going into a rewatch of Rurouni Kenshin it was a bad idea – a very bad idea. It was my gateway anime to becoming an anime fan and one that I hold in very high esteem. I didn’t know how it would hold up this time around but I had a feeling it wouldn’t be pretty, even if I planned on stopping at the end of the Kyoto Arc and pretend the rest of the series didn’t exist.

Rurouni Kenshin

Final Series Score: 5/12 C+
Rewatchablity:
0.5/5 – Very Low
Ending:
2.5/5 – Average
Animation: 2/5 – Sub-par
Pros:
The main character, Kenshin, is a very likable hero and the supporting cast is diverse and interesting; the setting and time period is very interesting for anyone slightly interested in Japanese history; the main villain in the Kyoto Arc is a great bad guy; memorable music
Cons:
In every meaningful aspect newer anime has far surpassed Kenshin, leaving it feeling very generic and tired

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal

Final Movie Score: 9/12 A-
Rewatchablity: 1/5 – Low
Ending:
2.5/5 – Average
Animation: 3/5 – Good
Pros: The story of Kenshin the Man-Slayer is gripping, well-done, and full of great character development; more mature and better executed then Kenshin; animation impresses even when considering it’s age
Cons:
Fights are better then Kenshin but still don’t impress as much as they should; he vows not to kill again after a tragic turn-of-events but only after his side has won which makes him seem not fully sincere about his resolve and muddles the ending

Story

The Kenshin series takes place a decade after the start of the Meiji era in Japan. It’s a time of cultural flux as Westernization shatters the foundations and traditions that have held the country together for hundreds of years. We meet Kenshin, a wandering traveler, who protects the weak and tries to see that the ideals of the revolution that created the new government are carried out. He decides to settle down for a while and live quietly but his past keeps interfering.

The series touches upon this past of Kenshin but Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal is set when Kenshin was a Man-Slayer and the most feared and famous of assassins during the revolution. We see how he becomes a Man-Slayer and why he eventually sours towards the job.

Thoughts and impressions


As I feared, neither the movie or the series was able to hold up against comparison to newer anime and to my memories. The movie does a better job but it wasn’t immune.

For the series I found that I still really liked the characters (though Kaoru is not the “strong” female character that I remember thinking she was) and was wishing for an improved story and plot for these characters. Which pushes Kenshin into the same category as Lupin the Third – great characters stuck in a show that’s not good for them. I thought the cross-dresser was a lot less abnormal this time around (thanks anime).

I still liked the time period that Kenshin takes place in, it was enough to get me through the more recent anime Hakuouki: Shinsengumi Kitan. (I think I may be the only person that actually finished Hakuoki.) I also thought Hakuouki provided an interesting counterpoint to Kenshin since it told the story from the side of the Shinsengumi.

The part that I thought that kept the best was the music; I am glad that at least one thing didn’t change because of this rewatch. I still got excited when the “hey a fight is about to start” music played. I was still touched when the “dramatic moment for character development” music played. I could still sing along pretty well for most of the opening and closing songs. (I was such a silly noob back then to take the time to memorize them in Japanese. 🙂 )

The one truly surprising reaction I had watching Kenshin was that I ended up watching the majority of the series in Japanese with English subtitles. What happened was I got curious what the original seiyuu sounded like and watched the fourth or fifth episode in Japanese, just to see. I liked it; it sounded noticeably “better”. So, I started watching it in Japanese, waiting to get tired of it and wanting to go back to English but that never happened.  I wouldn’t think that this was possible since I watched it dubbed in English on Cartoon Network and again dubbed from the DVDs when I bought them, all those years ago, and I remember liking the dub.

I happened to look at who did the dub and smiled when I saw that Bang Zoom! did it. Seems appropriate in light of this post.

It’s much easier to praise the movie; it might just be the best work that Studio Deen has ever done. There’s not much I feel that needs said with the movie. It functions as the origin story of Kenshin and is one of the better done ones out there. There’s happiness, sorrow, betrayal, love and hate woven throughout the whole movie. I thought the most glaring deficiency is how the ending plays out; it’s not bad, per say, just easily improvable in my book. However, I think it remains a work that anyone that fancies themselves an anime fan should watch at least once.

Essential Information

  • 62 episodes, movie
  • genre: shounen, action, historical
  • animation studio: series – Studio Gallop, movie – Studio Deen
  • director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

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8 thoughts on “Series and Movie Review – Rurouni Kenshin and Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal”

  1. I laughed at the crossdresser comment…I made me think of Leeron from TTGL. ><

    It's sad that you found it to be dissappointing. I've been rewatching a lot of my "gateway" anime much to my approval and joy. Of course, the one I'm still trying to get is Princess Nine…and seeing as that's the oldest of my "gateways," it might not go down as well. But still…it's so refreshing to look at the old and think "I remember that!" I don't know…sorry it didn't go well for you. I've tried to stay away from RK so I can't really comment beyond that. U.U;

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  2. You’re right on the money about the series. I tried to rewatch it a few months ago…I couldn’t even make it to the second episode. It did not hold up well at all, despite my love for the characters. In fact…I sold my DVD collection (the first two arcs) after my last viewing.

    Although you gave the OVAs an A-, I still like it even better. I think it may be my favorite work of animation of all time. The final reveal that Kenshin becomes a man of peace AFTERWARD makes him a little less heroic…but I feel it doesn’t hurt the film.

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  3. There’s an age and experience gap between the movie and the tv series. The movie was about killing people, honorable death, sacrifice, pain, and suffering. What was the tv series about? Comedic surprise and super bosses that can stop swords with their finger while Kenshin operates under a no kill limitation. I’m not sure exactly how that is supposed to develop. Because either way it goes, it defeats the purpose of the show. Without lifting the ban on killing, there’s no ultimate character development and thus can’t be shonen action anime. If you don’t lift the ban on killing, then given the bosses around, it becomes harder and harder to find a resolution to the problem while also doing the humor and light comedy. Be easier to turn that into a tragedy instead. But they weren’t going that route.

    The period drama and the Japanese/exotic cast of samurai and historical setting is a major draw. You can pretty much eliminate all the fluff and that’s the core there. Martial arts excellence and Edo era social conditions. The more comedy you do, the less advantage the Edo era becomes. Unless we’re talking about that era’s comedy…

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  4. i still love it and i still believe it’s better than a lot of other animes today.some of them are really crap.

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