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Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

March 16, 2013 by  



“Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” was a pretty cool way to celebrate its 15th year anniversary.  I found the two OVA’s to be entertaining and I enjoyed them for the fact that it reunited the Japanese cast, features all new animation and its presented in HD.   It’s caveat is due to the fact a large part of that storyline has been eliminated in order to fit the entire arc in two 45-minute OVA’s, which may not please the more hardcore fans.  But for those who have no intention of watching the older series or even reading all the manga, may be fine with this Blu-ray release.  Until the original series is released on Blu-ray, “Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” is worth checking out!

Image courtesy of © 2013 Sentai Filmworks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc (るろうに剣心―明治剣客浪満譚― 新京都編)

YEAR: 2011

DURATION: 2 OAV’s (90 minutes total)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Aniplex/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV MA V

Release Date: March 5, 2013

Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi

Script: Mari Okada

Music by Noriyuki Asakura

Originally Created by Nobuhiro Watsuki

Character Design by Hiromitsu Hagiwara

Art Director: Ken Naito

Chief Animation Director: Hiromitsu Hagiwara

Art Design by Kazuhiro Itou

Anime Production: Studio DEEN

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mayo Suzukaze/J. Shannon Weaver as Kenshin Himura

Kanako Irie/Claire Hamilton as Yumi Komagata

Ken Narita/John Swasey as Hajime Saitō

Masaaki Ishikawa/Leraldo Anzaldua as Seikū Arai

Masanori Ikeda/David Wald as Makoto Shishio

Miina Tominaga/Blake Shepard as Yahiko Myoujin

Miki Fujitani/Amanda Hanawa as Kaoru Kamiya

Noriko Hidaka/Clint Bickham as Sōjirō Seta

Shinichi Fukumoto/David Matranga as Chō Sawagejō

Sho Ryuzanji/David Matranga as Usui Uonuma

Shuuichi Ikeda/Andrew Love as Seijūrō Hiko

Tamio Ohki/Marty Fleck as Nenji Kashiwazaki (Okina)

Tomo Sakurai/Meg Bauman as Misao Makimachi

Unshou Ishizuka/Lowell Bartholomee as Fuji

Yasuyoshi Hara/Lowel Bartholomee as Anji Yūkyūzan

Yoshito Yasuhara/John Gremillion as Aoshi Shinomori

Yuji Ueda//Gray Haddock as Sanosuke Sagara

Although she’s only sixteen and looks even younger, Misao Makimachi is already a skilled and competent member of the Oniwabansh? ninja clan. Which is a fortunate thing for Misao, as 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 Batt?sai, 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! Get ready for blades to flash and blood to flow as Nobuhiro Watsuki’s acclaimed Rurouni Kenshin returns at long last to the world of animation in an epic masterpiece: Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc!

In the 1990’s, the manga and anime series “Rurouni Kenshin” by Nobuhiro Watsuki, was one of the first major anime series to attract fans outside of Japan because it was aired on the Cartoon Network’s Toonami block but in Japan, it was published in Shueisha’s “Weekly Shonen Jump”.

The series would lead to two OVA’s, two animated films and most recently a live-action film plus video games, light novels and more.

And while the series ended back in 1999, in 2012, the manga series of “Rurouni Kenshin” had sold over 55 million copies and the anime has ranked among the 100 most watched series in Japan.

And to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of “Rurouni Kenshin”, a new manga series titled “Rurouni Kenshin Restoration” is being published in “Weekly Shonen Jump” and two new animated films were created in Japan based on the Kyoto Arc, with part one debuting in theaters in 2011 and part two in 2012.  And now, these two 45-minute films will be released in the U.S. as a 2-part OVA on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

What is “Rurouni Kenshin” about?

“Rurouni Kenshin” is a series that was set in the early Meiji era and focused on a former assassin named Kenshin Himura , who was feared by many as he held the title of “Hitokiri Battosai”.  No longer wanting to kill or become an assassin, Kenshin has become a wanderer who would offer protection to people in order to atone for the murders he has committed.

He eventually makes friends wih Kaoru Kamiya (who he becomes very close with); orphan Yahiko Myojin ;  former Sekiho army member, Sanosuke Sagara.  Meanwhile dealing rivals and foes which include Oniwabanshu’s Aoshi Shinomori and the Shinsengumi leader Hajime Saito .

And over the course of the series, we see Kenshin and friends taking on a variety of enemies.

But one major enemy of Kenshin is Makoto Shishio (for the New Kyoto Arc), a powerful swordsman (and sociopath) who is covered by bandages after sustaining severe damages to his entire body and must wear the bandages, since he is unable to regulate his body temperature.  Believing that only the strong survive, along with his Ten Swords, Shisho plans to overthrow the Meiji government.

Which leads us to “Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc”

The first OVA features Himura Kenshin is heading to Kyoto to fight Shishio Makoto.  He is confronted by Misao Makimachi who wants to know more about him but also Aoshi Shinomori  and how determined she is of finding him.

Meanwhile, the two end up finding the place of where Shishio Makoto is residing and Shishio chastises Himura of not being able to kill and thus, he’s not worth his time to even fight.  Accompanied by his girlfriend, a geisha named Yumi Komagata (a woman who loves Shishio despite his appearance), both Shishio and her leave, while leaving his protege Sojiro Seta to fight against Kenshin.

During battle, Sojiro ends up destroying Kenshin’s blade and leaving him without a sword.

Now, Kenshin must get a new sword but and while he and Misao go to meet with the son of a well-known swordmaker, Shishio allows one of his henchman to fight against Kenshin.  Meanwhile, friends of Kenshin are also going to Tokyo.  Kaoru Kamiya and Yahiko Myojin have been looking for Kenshin.  And Sanosuke Sagura also is looking to help out his friend.  But also Aoshi ends up joining on Shishio’s side, determined to fight a battle againt Kenshin.

Hajime interrogates one of Shishio’s men and finds out that Shishio has a big black warship and with his men, intends to burn down Kyoto and to make matters worse, 50 of Hajime’s officers were all slain by Shishio’s group.  Who will defend Kyoto from Shishio and his group.

For the second OVA, as everyone braces for Shishio’s attack against Kyoto, Hajime Saito finds a way to get on board to take on Shishio, meanwhile Sanosuke takes on a fallen monk working for Shishio. As everyone is in battle, Kenshin sets out to board the black warship and take on three major nemesis set on killing him.

Who will become victorious?

VIDEO:

“Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” is presented in 1080p High Definition.  Unlike the original series made in the ’90s or the films and OVA’s that were made in the early 2000’s, the “New Kyoto Arc” features new animation by Studio DEEN.  Featuring all new animation, beautifully painted backgrounds and animation that is much more vibrant, sharper and better line-detail, I would imagine that fans should be happy with the HD presentation of the film.  I didn’t see any banding issues, artifacts or any problematic issues with picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” is presented in English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  It’s important for people to know that the English dub does not feature the ’90s Bang Zoom cast but does feature the ADV cast used for the original OVA and animated film release.  Personally, I feel that the English dub is subjective but in my opinion, the voice acting felt a bit off with a few characters, so I decided to watch both OVA’s in its original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles.  For one, you get the same voice actors from the original television series and I felt that the dynamic range was slightly better than its English dub counterpart.

But both soundtracks are crystal clear, as with its musical soundtrack.  I didn’t notice the surround channels being used or any LFE.  If anything, it was a front/center channel mix.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” did not come with any special features.

I was very thrilled to know that with the 15th anniversary of “Rurouni Kenshi”, we would get a brand new release of the Kyoto Arc of “Rurouni Kenshin”.

For those who have watched animated films and are used to the abridged version of the stories, while it would have been nice to have three films (OVA’s) instead of two, to include more storyline and feature more of the characters, for the most part, these two OVA’s are easily accessible for those without any prior knowledge of the manga and anime series.

But by saying that, I know there are people who despise abridged storylines and would rather see a full TV series or multiple OVA’s or movies to mirror the manga series.  So, if you are one of those people, you’re probably going to complain about this release.

Otherwise, if you are used to seeing abridged films or OVA’s but wanting to see “Rurouni Kenshin” in HD, then you can look at these two OVA’s as a bonus to celebrate “Rurouni Kenshin” being released on Blu-ray.

For one, Studio DEEN did a magnificent job with the animation and art backgrounds.  The return of Mayo Suzukaze as Kenshin Himura is fantastic, also seeing the original Japanese cast return 15-years later is a major treat.  It was great to have Noriko Hidaka reprise her role as Sojiro Seta (a few years ago, she also reprised her role for the “Gunbuster” animated film release).  But you have Tomo Sakurai returning as Misao, Miina Tominaga as Yahiko, Ken Narita as Hajime Saitou and more.  So, it’s a great reunion after all these years to bring back the Japanese voice actors.

And I hope that with the release of the two OVA’s, it may lead people to watching the older releases or even purchasing the manga. But once again, those who never watched or read “Rurouni Kenshin” should be fine watching “Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc” as they were released as films and directors know that chances of new viewers is quite high and try to make these storyline’s, not too complex for them.

Sure, it helps to know the background of the characters and the storyline leading to the New Kyoto Arc but it’s a pretty self explanatory storyline and the writers made it simple enough for those who have no intention of reading the manga series or watching the older anime.

But while the reunion of the voice talent and animation quality was a plus, I have to admit that its main hindrance lies in the fact that the storyline was too condensed.  Major battles were too quick for my taste and you miss out on storyline relating to the characters.  But I suppose one can easily watch the anime TV series or read the manga, but I felt that perhaps a third OVA could have made things much better, especially in the fighting sequences.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for both OVA’s are very good and audio quality is in lossless, crystal clear dialogue but not too active when it comes to surround sound use or LFE.  And unfortunately, there are no special features which is a surprise, considering it would have been great to interview the director or even the original Japanese voice acting talent about reuniting nearly 15-years later.  Also, with this New Kyoto Arc, you get a rating of TV MA V because of the violence but also a sex scene (no nudity) featuring Nishio and Yumi.

Overall, “Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” was a pretty cool way to celebrate its 15th year anniversary.  I found the two OVA’s to be entertaining and I enjoyed them for the fact that it reunited the Japanese cast, features all new animation and its presented in HD.   It’s caveat is due to the fact a large part of that storyline has been eliminated in order to fit the entire arc in two 45-minute OVA’s, which may not please the more hardcore fans.  But for those who have no intention of watching the older series or even reading all the manga, may be fine with this Blu-ray release.

Until the original series is released on Blu-ray, “Rurouni Kenshi: New Kyoto Arc” is worth checking out!

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