Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc – Give me back my Ruroken!!

For people of my generation, Rurouni Kenshin is probably one of the greatest pieces of nostalgia that we remember. In the West, the 1980s seem to have been dominated by Gundam and Macross; the early nineties by City Hunter, Patlabor, and a whole lot of other mecha-type series, culminating in the juggernaut known as Evangelion. But whilst Evangelion introduced my brothers and I to English-dubbed anime, Kenshin was the series that defined the fortnightly trips that some friends and I made to our local anime group. That said, even though I say ‘local’, the friends who drove us there actually traveled a few hours to our city each time!

This is a poor scan of one of my prized portraits. A long term task of mine is to scan them all again...

This is a poor scan of one of my prized portraits. A long term task of mine is to scan them all again…

Of course, the anime soon caught up to the manga, and they diverged. The only part of ‘the Revenge Arc’ that made it to the screen was the past that Kenshin related of his life during the Boshin War. Though the character design and mood was made more sombre (which I am ambivalent about, since I love Watsuki-sensei’s art), I still have both the original American DVDs as well as the recent Blu-ray release.

My point is, we really loved Kenshin. I still have vague memories of seeing the final fights of the Kyoto Arc, two episodes per screening, in that darkened lecture theater. Though I’ve long since moved on to watching all my anime on a computer, those are days that I will never forget.

The animation was exceedingly pretty, I’ll give it that…

These memories are one of the main reasons that I lament the new Kenshin OVAs. When I saw the first OVA (Cage of Flames), admittedly, it was still fine. There were changes – many developments were cut, and fights were a whole lot quicker, but the essence of the story was still there. Of course, there was a scene I think most people agreed we did not need, but other than that, it was nice to see some new Ruroken on the screen. Fifteen years brings quite a difference in animation quality, after all.

But this technique in particular drove me nuts...

But this technique in particular drove me nuts…

However, after seeing the second OVA (Song of Light) through to the end, I really wanted to hide my head in my hands. Although I knew that some classic fights would have to be cut, and others shortened, due to huge compression of over 50 episodes into a mere 90 minutes, that wasn’t the issue in the end. My major problem with this new Kenshin lies in the cheesiness of the message that supposedly lies in the fights: that crossing blades is about connecting to the spirit of one’s opponent. That may be true – at least, I can name a whole lot of other Shounen Jump series where it is an important element in fights. But hell, it’s NEVER put into words like that! I don’t care that you only had 90 minutes: ever heard of the adage “Show, don’t tell”?

Honestly, nothing could save it anymore...

And in the end, nothing could save it…

In sum, I am seriously disappointed. I want ‘the Revenge Arc’ animated, that I do. But, dear creators, if you’re not going to do it justice, please leave us with our nostalgic memories of a classic.

About karice
MAG fan, translator, and localization project manager. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

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