Saturday, 26 May 2007

Samurai X Reflections

During the Bakumatsu (the final days of the Tokugawa government) in Japan, there was a merciless swordsman known as Hitokiri Battousai (Himura Kenshin), who fought alongside revolutionaries against the government. After the revolution, he suddenly disappeared and throughout the years became a legend. About ten years later, he is a wandering swordsman, who dedicates his life to helping and protecting people as a way to pay for all the lives he took during the revolution. This is the story of Kenshin, wandering swordsman, master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu style of sword fighting. His many adventures begin with his arrival at Tokyo and meeting Kamiya Kaoru, sword instructor and owner of a dojo...


Kenshin Himura is still unable to attain inner peace even after devoting the remainder of his life to protecting those he loves and vowing to never kill again. Having given up his reverse-bladed sword and started a family with Kaoru Kamiya, Kenshin’s mind continues to drift to the sins he committed as an assassin during the Meiji Revolution.

In order to repent for his crimes, he leaves behind his wife and son, Kenji, to become a wanderer once more and try to make amends for his bloody past. However, the place he is needed most is at home, where a grief-stricken Kaoru is forced to wait for his return, able to do nothing but reflect.

STORY: Reflection sets out to provide an ending for the Kenshin legacy, and although some may be displeased with it, Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of Kenshin, has approved it. Most of the story is told through Kaoru’s flashbacks, and in doing so presents another look at the events that transpired during the Rurouni Kenshin TV series as well as those that only took place in the original manga. I found this to be a very effective form of storytelling that managed to weave an epic tale capable of summarizing the entire Kenshin legacy as well as provide a fitting ending. However, viewers who haven’t seen at least the first 60 episodes or so of the Kenshin TV series as well as the other two OVAs (Trust and Betrayal) will be totally confused and have next to little or no idea of what’s going on.

ACTING: I personally found the American V.A.s to be a bit bland in comparison to their Japanese counterparts. Also, having already grown accustomed to the American cast used in the dub for the Kenshin TV series, I found it difficult to accept a completely new set of voice actors for an already established cast. At least with the Japanese dub, there’s some continuity. They’re not half bad either, providing some excellent acting for each of their respective roles.

FAN SERVICE: Hmmm… There is a scene of Kenshin and Kaoru doing the horizontal limbo, but do you really want to see that? Besides, its there for plot development, not fan service, so it shouldn’t even count. For me, I thought it was awesome getting to see Kenshin’s fights with Jin’e and Enishi done with the OVA style animation, and I think most Kenshin fans will really appreciate those as well.


Samurai X: Reflection is a surprisingly controversial anime. On one side of the field are the super devout hardcore Rurouni Kenshin fans who hate Reflection for trying to summarize the entire story of Kenshin into a single OVA, while on the other are the fans who have fallen in love with the OVA’s style of animation and don’t mind a different look at Kenshin’s life. There is no middle ground, because people who dive into Reflections without any prior knowledge of Rurouni Kenshin will be completely lost.

The best way to be able to enjoy Reflection is to go into it knowing what to expect. I remember when I first saw a preview for Reflection on another ADV release, and because of all the action and awesome swordplay I saw in the trailer I started to expect Reflection to be somewhere along the lines of Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal in terms of sheer violence and the number of fight scenes. Not surprisingly, after purchasing and watching Reflection, I discovered that the preview I saw had gone ahead and showcased every fight present in the entire OVA. Seeing how all of Reflection’s fights can fit into the time span of a three-minute preview that means that there’s a whole lot of not-fighting going on through the anime. But really, that’s not such a bad thing. In fact, it’s just as well, because with less of an emphasis on fighting, Reflection is free to develop itself as a romance, something its much more suited for considering the story its trying to tell. Reflection focuses on Kaoru, who is now Kenshin’s wife, and the grief she suffers while waiting for Kenshin to return from his latest journey. She soon falls ill, and while she’s recovering she begins to reminisce about the past. It’s here within her mind that most of the events in the OVA take place.

Because Reflection is an OVA, the animation is expectedly top notch. Even though fights are few and far between, they’re a joy to behold simply because of the amazing artwork. Some fans may be displeased to see the cast of the Kenshin TV series drawn in the same style used for Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal, but in the case of Reflection, it’s actually an improvement as it helps to better set the mood and feel of the story. Taku Iwasaki, who also did the score for Trust & Betrayal, does the music. As such, in addition to several new songs, many pieces used in Reflection come directly from Trust & Betrayal. However, this is not a bad thing as Taku Iwasaki is a magnificent composer and his music is wonderfully beautiful, helping to set the pace and add to the epic feel of Reflection.

Reflection, although somewhat depressing, provides an excellent ending for the Kenshin saga. I myself, an avid fan of Kenshin to begin with, loved this OVA and enjoyed it from beginning to end, and if you’re already a fan of Kenshin, then this is definitely something that you should watch. You may not totally agree with it or approve of the way it handles the established Kenshin canon, but it still is considered the definitive ending to Rurouni Kenshin. And in any case, the quality of the animation and music should more than make up for any shortcomings that you may find. But, if you don’t know a single thing about Rurouni Kenshin, and I cannot stress this enough, you should stay far away from Reflection until you’ve read the manga or seen the anime. Otherwise, you would more than likely only be confused and unable to fully enjoy Samurai X: Reflection.

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