Rurouni Kenshin Deluxe Complete Series Collection (very long title indeed) is a collection that includes: All three seasons of the Rurouni Kenshin TV series (1996 - 1998) (also was known as Samurai X while it was airing in English speaking countries back in the day), Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie (1997), Trust and Betrayal (1999), Reflections (2001), and New Kyoto Arc (2011 - 2012). That's every animated television series and movies this series has (as of this date). The reason why I used "animated" is because this series sadly excludes the live action movie from the year "2012".
The show (season one of the TV show) is about a wanderer named Kenshin who is a former soldier of the Imperial Army. He was a very fierce fighter that slayed a lot of people which earned him the title "Batosai, The Man Slayer". Now he is a very nice and peaceful person who dislikes violence and likes to wander around Japan to find him some inner peace. One day he strolls into a town where he spots a huge warrior whom is using Kenshin's title to scare people. Shortly after, a young woman named Kaoru comes out whom is after the huge man as he is using her family's sword style to kill people which is bringing shame to her dojo. Back at Kaoru's dojo they decide to find a way to stop this impostor from causing more harm. After they put a stop to him (sorry for spoiler there) they face another problem as there is an assassin out there that wants Kenshin to kill again and goes to very dirty methods to bring the killer back out from Kenshin. Will Kenshin kill again? (Click "Read More" to read the full review of this colossus sized box set).
The second season of the show has Kenshin meeting up with a very familiar face and that guy is none other than Saito (of the Shinsengumi). The way they know each other is because they have fought each other back in a war from ten years prior (give or take a year). Turns out the government needs the both of them to assassinate a warrior named Shishio whom has his eyes set on taking over Japan. Kenshin refuses to assassinate him but ultimately agrees to help put a stop to his evil ways without killing him.
Season three of the show is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to story as it's just a bunch of mini-story arcs. Some stories you will see in this season include: Kenshin protecting a group of Christians from being murdered for their beliefs (from a time in Japan where people were executed for believing in gods that Japan didn't believe in). This is also the season where the show becomes a little less realistic with storylines like: Kenshin going on a trip to protect a special flower from a group of evil Germans (just like the "Indiana Jones series (1981 - 2008)") and Kenshin battling a group of magical ninjas.
Trust and Betrayal is a special four part series detailing on Kenshin's past starting from his life as a child all the way up to his dark (or darker) days as Batosai, The Man Slayer. One night while battling a rival assassin he runs into a drunk woman named Tomoe which he takes her back to his headquarters so she can recover. Later he finds out from his leader that there is a spy in their ranks and he is working for their enemy. Not too long after they are attacked by their enemies and then Kenshin's leader sends him and Tomoe away on a mission where they'll be living on a farm as husband and wife until it is safe to return. This series also tells the story of how he got his cross shaped scar on his left cheek and believe it or not it's a very deep story that adds a lot (and I mean a lot) to the show.
Reflections is another special series but only running at two episodes this time and is set in the future where everyone is grown up and matured. Back at the dojo we see Kaoru in her bed with a mysterious illness and is having flashbacks of her time with Kenshin. Meanwhile Kenshin is out wandering and is trying to find his way home and he doesn't have long to do so as he is also suffering from a mysterious illness and wants to reunite with Kaoru and thier son Kenji before Kenshin passes away.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie is about Kenshin and gang resting in a city where they run into a group of very drunk British sailors who are looking for some drunken destruction (as drunk British sailors naturally do). After the fight they run into some teachers that live in a mansion. Turns out one of them is a leader of a group of soldiers that are hell bent on taking over a government building in that city. It is up to Kenshin to stop the army before they get anybody (including themselves) killed.
The last (and suprisingly not least in this case) is New Kyoto Arc and... Well I've actually reviewed this series before. I really hate to sound like a lazy lug nut but if you want to read my thoughts and experience with this special mini-series then you can do so right here. While I'm not a fan of this I do like how it has been included in this box set as it makes this set feel much more complete.
The storytelling in the television series is very good with some nicely done storylines. It is the perfect mixture of dark and light storytelling with neither of them conflicting making you think that you are watching different shows. The highpoint of the storytelling is during the second season with a storyline that takes place throughout most of the season as opposed to how season one and three were comprised of many tiny story arcs. The story in the second season doesn't drag either and is all smooth sailing. The miniature story arcs found in season one were pretty good with some very interesting tales full of exciting action. Although there was one story arc towards the end of the first season that was pretty flat and full of uninteresting characters and storytelling. The third season is the weakest out of the three with a weak filler opener and a story arc that should've worked but ultimately came out pretty boring. It isn't until the end of the third season where we see some interesting stories but they are also pretty crazy to where it takes away some of the show's charm and turns it into more of an "Indiana Jones" like film or a fantasy kung-fu film. Those episodes aren't bad but it does lose it's magic of what made the show special to begin with.
The drama in the show is pretty well done and the action is even better and the combination of the two will leave you sitting on the edge of your seats with excitement. Characters in this show are great and some of the greatest anime characters you will ever see. You will give a major damn about the main cast and some of the major villains. There are some characters that you really won't care about but those characters are more of the "guest character of the week" kind of characters. The action in this show is also very great and exciting with suspence that'll leave you on the edge of your seats. Even in the bad story arcs we have great action although that doesn't make up for the bad story arcs. Overall the fist season is good, the second season is great, the third season has a very weak first half and an above average second half.
After a bit of a dud of a third season we are cherished with the greatest story that this whole series has to offer, Trust and Betrayal. The story in this one is much more darker and dramatic than the television series but you know what? This dark and gritty storytelling works perfectly in this case as Kenshin's origin is supposed to be dark. The thing I was worried about with these two mini-series was that my imagination to what his origin could be would be setting the bar too high with the portrayal of his origin being disappointing. Not only do these two mini-series more than met my expectations but it ended up being one of the greatest origin tales put into animation in general. The drama was really strong in this one and you'll be hooked in an instant and it will also tug at your heartstrings by getting you emotionally involved. This is also quite a violent origin with the violence cranked up to eleven with a lot of blood and body slicing. Another great thing about the story is that everything that happens in this matches up with the television series perfectly leaving no plot holes at all. The only downside to Trust and Betrayal is that in order to fully enjoy this you'll have to sit through the entire show (yes, including season three) so this is not a good introduction point to the Rurouni Kenshin franchise.
Reflections was both a cool but mainly depressing experience. I do like how we flash forward to a time where we see all the main cast older and more mature and it would've been better if the whole mini-series was like that but instead we get a clip show of moments that have happened during the first two seasons of the television series. It's not all bad as we also get clips that weren't in the television series but were in the comic/manga, it was really awesome to see those moments portrayed into animation although they should've just taken those and turned it into a fourth season of the show with Trust and Betrayal being a special that takes place between seasons (due to not being able to get Trust and Betrayal into a season due to how violent it is and all).
The second half of the mini-series is all about Kenshin trying to return home and boy was it one of the most depressing things that I have ever witnessed. I'm not going to spoil what happens but it's not hard to guess going on how I used the word "depressing". Funny enough this film felt more like a made for television movie rather than a animated mini-series and just like many television shows that have a special "made for TV movie" I recommend avoiding this one but I know you are all going to ignore that warning and watch anyway (I know I ignored my friends warnings).
I'm going to have to take back what I said ages ago about "New Kyoto Arc" which was that I called it "the weakest this franchise has to offer" as I have found something even worse than that re-telling (don't get me wrong, New Kyoto Arc is still a piece of rotten pumpkin pie). The weakest this franchise has to offer is in fact "Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie". Where do I start with this one? First of all this film was really boring to the point where I had a hard time keeping myself awake through it all. The plot to this film is also quite confusing to where I had no idea what was going on. Characters in this film are also very uninteresting which was a shame as they could've worked. The action in this film is the best thing about this movie but all the good action doesn't happen until the end of the film so good luck trying to stay awake for that long. Overall this one would've worked a lot better as a two part filler story line rather than a movie. If I didn't have to review this box set then I would've stopped mid-way through the movie and never touch it again... Well then again I can use this for a coaster to put my coffee mug on so it's not a complete loss.
Artwork for the television series is quite good with some very nice coloring. Character designs are really good with some unique looking characters that are very memorable. I do have some problems with the minor characters though and that is that some of them do look a like and you can mistake some characters with one another. Backgrounds look really good in this series with some very strong and detailed designs. There is a thing they do with the backgrounds where they mix in live action with the animated characters and it is done quite well where they blend in well and will also impress you. Another problem I have with the art is that the quality in some episodes look like that they were transferred from a VHS as they can be a bit grainy. Animation is pretty nice through out most of the show but you will get the occasional episode with weaker animation. Season three has the most episodes with cheaper looking episodes. The final episode has a different look than the rest of the series with a much more colorful look and much better animation (which explains why most of the third season looked a little bit cheaper).
The English dub is really good and is one of the greatest English dubs of all-time with voices that not only match up with the characters well but you'll also remember them all off by heart. The English dub isn't perfect though as they do tend to re-use the same actor to re-use the same voice for some minor characters. This can lead to some confusion as (for example) you will see a minor villain in one episode and then later you will see a completely different minor villain with the exact same voice as the other minor villain. I love the soundtrack for this show with it's excellent use of composed music and brilliant rock songs that are quite catchy. The music in this show is also very memorable and dare I say it is also one of the greatest soundtracks in anime history.
Artwork for Trust and Betrayal has a slightly more mature look but not so much that it'll alienate you if you are jumping into this right after the television series. This special series also looks a bit darker but it works really well in this case. Characters look really good with some very nice detailing. Backgrounds in this mini-series are really well done with some excellent detailing that really helps build-up atmosphere. The English dub while good it is also a lot slower than what you would be normally used to in anime. The voices matched the characters well but it also sounded a little rough at the same time. The soundtrack in this series while good it was also forgettable and won't stick around in your head for a long time.
Artwork for Reflections has a dramatically different look compare to the rest of the series/films you'll find in this box set. This special has a very mature look to it to where they tried their best to make them look as human as possible. The problem with that is that some of the characters look like aliens as they have such huge eyes and it is pretty creepy. I liked the look for some of the minor characters a bit better as they are designed much better and less alien looking. The characters are also quite detailed with some very strong coloring. Backgrounds in this special look pretty good with some nice detailing and coloring. Animation is pretty good but sadly that's all I can say about that. Jumping from the TV series and the Trust and Betrayal mini-series you might be a little alienated by the English dub in this one. While they did use a different cast I didn't mind the English dub at all and found it to be quite different but no where near as good as the TV series and the Trust and Betrayal mini-series. Soundtrack for Reflections shares some of the music from the television series and it sounds good but it doesn't share the same magic in this as it did in the television series.
The artwork in Kenshin: The Movie shares the same style as the television series but with a bigger budget. Character designs are just like the ones from the TV series and the animation is a lot smoother in this film. There was one thing that annoyed me with the artwork and animation and that is that during the scenes where characters are walking into the background. My problem with it is that the animation doesn't look right as while they are walking they look like they are walking on the spot with no depth or perception and it looks very goofy and lazy.
Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie has a very awful English dub with voices that did not match up with the characters at all. The acting was just as good as watching a Z-grade fan-dub with even "*insert anime title* Abridged" having better dubs. The worst you will hear from the English dub is when the cast try to do English accents and what I mean by that is there is a scene where there are some British sailors and it sounds very bad to the point where I could make a better British accent and I'm shit at it too so that's saying a lot. To be fair there were a few voices in this dub that worked with some characters (like the voices for Kenshin and Saito). Soundtrack in this film is very forgettable and I can't remember a single track from this film and that happened as soon as the movie ended.
There's a very nice amount of special features in this set that includes all the text-less opening and closing credits, blooper reels, interviews with the cast and crew, special messages from the English voice cast, and production notes. I really love the credits of the television show as they are filled with some very great tunes. The imagery though is fifty-fifty as the visuals in half of them are just still pictures that don't make sense without the credits. The other half are really good with some very nice visuals that match up with the tunes really well. The blooper reels can be found throughout all three seasons of the television shows and all I have to say is that they are okay with a nice gem coming along every once and awhile (watch the Berserk bloopers if you want some truly golden ones).
The interviews with the cast and crew can be found on "Reflections" and were pretty decent with some nice insight to what it was like working on the mini-series. The special messages can be found in season two and they are creepy. The messages have the English voice cast talking to the audience and telling them that they will be back for a third season. It wasn't that they were talking to me that creeped me out but the messages themselves as they are very bizarre and I'm pretty sure they were hitting on me (joking on the "hitting on me" part). Up last we have the production notes which are found in the season sets and they were pretty neat with some nice information about the time period the episodes are set in. There are production note in "Trust" and "Betrayal" detailing on what it was like to translate both mini-series and it is a lot more interesting than what it sounds with some very nice information.
Overall this is a very great box set and is great if you have missed out on getting the series and movies in the past. This set is also great if you are looking forward to getting into the series as this contains the whole shebang (minus the live action film that is). I'm really glad this set is out and so will you. Worth every single penny.
Animation/Production Studio: Studio Gallop, Studio Deen
Genre: Animation/Anime, Action, Drama, Romance, Comedy
Running Time: 2735 minutes (95 Episodes, 4 OVAs, 1 Film)
Distributor: Madman Entertainment (www.madman.com.au)
Rating: MA15+ (Strong violence, a sex scene)