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Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

Rurouni Kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin
Kyoto’s about to burn once again.

What They Say:
Although she’s only sixteen and looks even younger, Misao Makimachi is already a skilled and competent member of the Oniwabanshu ninja clan. That’s fortunate for Misao, because her onimitsu talents may be all that keeps her alive when a journey in search of the leader of the clan, Aoshi Shinomori, leads her instead into a face-to-face encounter with an even more dangerous man and a plot to overthrow the Meiji government!

Quickly enmeshed in the affairs of the legendary assassin Hitokiri Battosai, now known as Kenshin Himura, wielder of the reverse-blade sword, Misao finds herself pulled into the middle of a deadly intrigue against Makoto Shishio, who is orchestrating the conquest of all Japan – beginning with Kyoto!

Contains OVAs 1-2.

The Review:
The audio presentation for the two installments here is well done as we get the original Japanese in 5.1 and the English language using the same, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The nature of the material here is one that has a lot of quiet and dialogue oriented scenes but also some strong action pieces that utilizes the music and sound effects well in order to build it into something powerful. The quiet moments are nicely handled and some of the sound effects come across with a richer feeling to it and the dialogue and incidental music has a more pronounced and warm effect. The main action scenes have a great sense of dynamic placement and some very warm and rich moments along with some great bass. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally in theaters in two parts in 2011 and 2012, the transfer for this show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Studio Deen, the show has a very rich and detailed look to it with its theatrical style budget and presentation. The characters all have very well done designs with a lot of detail throughout them where needed and the color palette for it is rich and vibrant but still with the right kind of tones to it to keep it within context of the time period. The action scenes are very fluid when they hit and it manages to avoid any noticeable issues during playback as there’s no breakup or other problems cropping up. Colors are solid with a natural feel to them and the transfer avoids issues like line noise or cross coloration.

While part of me appreciates the limited approach used for the artwork and design here, the other part of me dislikes that it’s so simplistic considering the cast involved here. The front cover of the standard sized Blu-ray case has just Kenshin in a fighting pose reaching for his sword as his hair whips around, but it’s place against a black and white style background that doesn’t provide much to draw on. The border that’s used even feels out of place as well, though I appreciate that they kept the familiar style logo. The back cover goes with some murky reds and blacks to push the flame imagery a bit which makes it very easy to read the premise that they use here. A number of shots from the show are included which are generally of a darker nature but shows off some of the ideas well. The production credits are laid out cleanly and we get a good technical grid that covers everything clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is very simple but works for the barebones release that we have where it’s split in two as we have Kenshin on the left, using the artwork from the front cover but zoomed in, while the right side has a look at Shishio.The colors look good here though not quite as strong as one might think, and it’s used with a background that’s almost amusing as Kenshin’s is fiery red while Shishio’s is a deeper shade of blue. The navigation strip along the bottom has the basics and is quick and easy to access and it doubles nicely as the pop-up menu during playback. It’s not hugely in theme or anything but it gets the job done.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having revisited the previous OVAs and feature film on Blu-ray recently, I’ll easily admit that I’ve been itching to pull out the original TV series again and delve into it during my free time. But there’s also that part of me that wishes that it would get a new adaptation, like so many shows seem to be doing today, where they could cover the entire manga run faithfully and give the fans what they really wanted all these years. With the live action film that hit previously, it made sense to bring out a new animated property that would add to the overall marketing scheme, especially as a manga reimagining was underway as well, but it also made sense to go with a familiar part of the property to animated fresh and new. And that brings us back to the Kyoto arc, albeit with a few changes here as well.

Bringing back most of the original Japanese cast, the film takes us to the lead up of the time period where Shishio is setting things into motion in Kyoto to destroy it for his vision of revenge. It’s initially all about drawing in his forces and aligning them against what’s trying to come after him, and that has some decent things brought to bear, such as Saito’s fight and how Misao is trying to get her way into things now that she’s, at least in her mind, temporarily running her little group of ninjas and the like. And we also of course have Kaoru and Yahiko making their way to Kyoto by ship and any number of other characters weaving in and out of it. The two parts to the story that unfold here do sort of assume that you’re familiar with the original property and what it entails, so there’s little in the way of real introductions or anything but rather just a big love song for the core fans.

The opening half also deals with Kenshin, which isn’t a surprise, as he’s making his way to get a new sword since he considers Shishio someone that will get him to break his oath not to kill again. The arc involving acquiring the sword is one that I always appreciated in the original and here, abbreviated as it is, we get a reinforcement of the kinds of things that those that create the swords go through, at least when it comes to these kinds of specialized and important weapons rather than the rank and file things. Kenshin’s difficulty in going through with what’s required isn’t something that’s huge, but it puts into question the promises he made before and that’s a piece that was played out more in the series and far less so here.

Because of the nature of the two parts of the film here, it really doesn’t feel like anyone gets more time than others, though it’s not evenly distributed in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of characters here overall on the good guys side and they face off against a number of opponents as it moves towards the attempt to burn down Kyoto. But it does want to spend the bulk of its time, and the quality aspect of it, by focusing on the fight between Kenshin and Shishio. It’s been an age since I read the manga so I don’t recall how closely the TV series adhered to it, but it goes for some different approaches here overall and doesn’t feel as drawn out for obvious reasons. But it also loses some impact since it’s not meant to be all big and epic. It’s beautifully animated but it lacks the resonance of the manga and anime series because of how we’re just thrown into it.

In Summary:
I’ve long been a fan of Rurouni Kenshin and even if there’s a weak aspect to this feature overall, it’s wonderful to just return to it in some small way like this. Revisiting the Kyoto arc makes sense for a number of reasons with why they did it and there’s no denying they put in great effort, attention to detail and quality overall with it as it was reinterpreted into a compressed way. The feature as a whole reminds me of a lot of what I loved about it in its original forms and makes me want to revisit it all. The film here may be oriented more as a love letter to fans of the property at a time when it was going through a mini renaissance, but it has a lot to offer and is definitely a solid piece overall with what it wants to do, especially just in terms of the animation quality. This may not be the most accessible of Kenshin works, but it’s definitely fun to revisit the world in a fresh light.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 5th, 2013
MSRP: $39.98
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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