Rurouni Kenshin is a fairly well known anime from the mid to late 90s. Studio Gallop began work on it, doing roughly two thirds of it and it was finished by Studio Deen. In spite of its popularity, I haven’t seen it. What we’re looking at today is an OVA from the tail end of the 90s by Studio Deen, Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan- Tsuiokuhen. Fortunately, it’s a prequel. As such, no one can really complain that my lack of familiarity with the series proper means that I’m missing important details.
Our narrative opens with a group of people marching. You don’t know where they’re going or why, but they don’t look happy with their situation. That’s when they’re attacked by a group of ruffians with swords. Most of the group is cut down save for one young boy. He’s rescued at the last minute by a passing Ronin, who easily dispatches the ruffians. The boy buries the dead and tells the Ronin the truth of their sad journey. The Ronin introduces himself as Hiko Seijuurou and asks for the boy’s name. The boy introduces himself as Shinta & promptly has his name changed to Kenshin because Shinta is too soft for a swordsman. Several years later, Kenshin is working as an assassin for the Choshu clan, in spite of Hiko’s objections, in an attempt to change the world for the better. One night, he kills three men, earning a scar on the cheek as a result. A short time later, the scar still bursts out bleeding on occasion and Kenshin meets a young woman on a rainy night. Her name is Yukishiro Tomoe and she has a foreboding secret.
This OVA has a damn good story. The thematic use of Kenshin’s scar is really well done. The theme of retribution is really well handled. The pacing is excellent, with slow moments being utilised skilfully. The non-linear aspects are really well thought out and used cleverly. The romance aspect is really complex and has a lot of weight, although it is a bit rushed, particularly for Kenshin. The ending is really strong too.
The characters in this are really well done and complex. Kenshin and Tomoe in particular get really fleshed out. Even the minor characters are well enough developed to seem like actual people and you get a strong sense of what they’re like. The exception is a young boy named Enishi who doesn’t serve much purpose to the narrative and isn’t particularly complex. I’m guessing that he’s important during the main series, possibly even developed therein, but he’s really not here.
The artwork and animation are both really strong. The background details are really good. The character designs are well done and the action sequences, for the most part, are smooth and intense. In spite of their short durations. There are some exceptions. They have a couple action sequences with a lot of odd strobe effects that necessitate a seizure warning that look kind of choppy and not very good.
The vocal performances are fantastic. Suzukaze Mayo & Iwao Junko both deliver incredibly powerful performances. The secondary characters are well voiced as well with Ikeda Shuuichi standing out from the rest. The music is really good too.
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Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan- Tsuiokuhen, is really fantastic. The story is really strong. The characters are compelling. The artwork, exempting a couple action sequences, is stellar and the acting is powerful, giving you a real sense of the characters and their personalities. My final rating for this OVA is going to be an enthusiastic 9/10. If you’re interested in seeing a tragic love story or an epic samurai story, I recommend it. Next week I’ll go from the past of Rurouni Kenshin to the cyberpunk future of Ghost in the Shall Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig.