OP Sequence

OP: 「飛天)」 (Hiten) by (Ayase x R-Shitei)

「剣心・緋村抜刀斎」 (Kenshin・Himura Battosai)

Without question, this is one of the most surreal moments of my life as an anime fan and writer. To be blogging Rurouni Kenshinreal Rurouni Kenshin – closes the circle in so many ways. I did cover the truly execrable Okada Mari original OVA 8 or 10 years ago, and a couple chapters of the “Kinema-ban” manga. But this – this is Rurouni Kenshin. This is the series that, as much as any, nests at the core of my anime being. It’s so ingrained that it’s basically part of my DNA at this point. I can’t imagine anime or manga without RK, and I’m not even sure I’d be a fan today without it.

Of all the series that have had reboots over the years (and they’ve become quite trendy) one could argue that Rurouni Kenshin makes the most sense (along probably with FMA and Hunter X Hunter). It’s a truly massive property, one of the most popular manga in Weekly Shounen Jump history, with an enormously big TV series and OVAs. It spawned a series of blockbuster live-action films. Yet the anime never adapted the manga’s large and beloved final arc, “Jinchuu”, instead veering off into original and sometimes baffling directions. It should have happened years ago, long before the reason came along to justify why it hadn’t. But here we are now, anyway.

There are some question of where “here” is, to be sure. Simply getting what looks like a faithful re-adaptation is itself huge, to be sure. But in theory this is a 24-episode series – on NoitaminA no less – and if that were that it would be a disaster in the making. I’ve been somewhere between hoping, guessing, and assuming that’s a “for now” number, and this reboot is going to go much longer with some season breaks interspersed. Truthfully, to finally – finally – reboot Rurouni Kenshin at last and not adapt Jinchuu would be bizarre. Not to mention skipping the manga’s (and maybe shounen’s) greatest arc in “Kyoto”. I mean, why even bother?

I’m not one for counting embryonic chickens – the production committee system has beaten that out of me. But the fact that there were both Kyoto and Jinchuu Easter eggs in the first episode is certainly a good sign. If they’re not being adapted this series is pretty damn cruel, that’s for sure. As to the episode itself, the short answer is, “whew”. It was good, really good. On-point Kenshin, very faithful to the manga – more so than the 1996 premiere was. It looked more than good enough, and the voices all clicked for me – though that’s a complicated part of this story in and of itself.

Let’s start with the OP, since the themes were such a big part of the original anime experience. I didn’t care for this one, to be blunt. I’m not waxing nostalgic for JUDY and MARY – it’s just that “Sobakasu” blows this out of the water. The ED was much better. For me the high water mark for Kenshin themes was Bonnie Pink’s “It’s Gonna Rain”, which accompanied the Kyoto Arc, but Reol’s “Kissaki” could have been one of the ’96’s EDs and not sounded out of place. “Tactics” (Yellow Monkey) was a great ED, but this new one definitely holds its own. As does the BGM, reminiscent of the original but not derivative.

Now, the voices. I knew we’d be getting an all-new cast this time. Some of the original have passed away, for starters, but it’s just been a long, long time. It’s a big change hearing Himura voiced by Saitou Souma – because it would have been with any male seiyuu. I can call Suzukaze Mayo’s performance in the original iconic, but that doesn’t begin to do it justice. But Kenshin is a man, after all. And by the end of the episode, I was vibing on Saitou’s voice just fine – he’s a good actor, and he captures the spirit of the character. As for Kaoru, Takahashi Rie is frankly not a big departure from Fujitani Miki – which is fine. It’s a seamless transition and I have no issues with that whatsoever.

Kenshin Himura is the heart of all this of course, as great as the supporting cast is. For me he’s as close to a perfect protagonist as manga has ever produced. He’s overflowing with pathos, with a phenomenal character arc. The contrast between the demeanor of the man and what he carries inside him is one of the most powerful literary creations in manga for me. Himura is a noble man in the best sense of the word – the man he is now is who he is, not the one he was during the war. But he can never escape his past, and it will always be a part of him. His hero’s journey is unique and spellbinding, and his gravitational pull exerts itself on everyone and everything else in the story.

The execution here was pretty faultless for me. Director Yamamoto Hideyo is not what I would call an auteur but he’s extremely experienced. And writer Kurata Hideyuki is a formidable figure both in adaptations and originals. The implication from the premiere is that this version is going to be more faithful to the manga than the ’96 in the same way HxH 2011 was than the 1999 version. The differences in terms of plot are fairly small (like making Kihei (Chou) Ba-faux-sai Gouhei Himura’s (Takagi Wataru) brother, as the manga did. But the tone is quite different this time – the violence is more stark, and the interaction between Himura and Kaoru more strait-laced and less comic.

In truth, these first chapters – while great – are not the best Rurouni Kenshin has to offer. As with most great long-running shounen (again, like Hunter X Hunter) it takes time for the series to really shift into high gear. I think Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan 2023 adapted the very beginning about as well as it could be adapted – which is obviously a great sign for what’s to come. Lidenfilms has been all over my radar screen for the last year, and while they haven’t always been top-shelf they’ve never whiffed, either. They clearly know what they have here, and are serious about doing it justice. Hopefully that means a series length that allows them to do just that.

As to the other element, no, I’m not ignoring it. But there’s not any point in my talking about it at this stage – I’ve already done so ad nauseam. I won’t stop anyone else from doing so in the comments, as long as they do it respectfully. But I’m not going to let that dominate the discussion, because no one’s mind is going to be changed at this point. That’s all I have to say on that subject – as to Rurouni Kenshin itself, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time so good luck trying to shut me up about it.


ED Sequence

ED: 「切っ先」 (Kissaki) by (Reol)


    1. C’mon now… lets be fair. Obviously, there will be those who define RK96 as the superior version of the series, even as RK23 goes on. I myself prefer ’96 over ’23 in this first episode. On the opposing spectrum, there are going to be some who didn’t like or want changes to the source material; but they still would love to see Kenshin in motion. If you’ve enjoyed ’96(as I have, greatly), then you already had your cake. There’s no need to be greedy and want that same cake again. Let those who want a more faithful adaptation to get a chance to relive the series exactly as they remember it; only this time, experience it in motion.

  1. I do hope combat scene will be improved during important fight. i’m thinking like soul eater animation where you see the movement, the block, the footwork and not just a slash and enemies falling. i know he is supposed to move faster than we can see but i still want to see some spectacle.

    1. I mean, even in the original ’96 version, the animation for that episode’s fight was subpar. Although there were some excellently animated parts in the episode, like saving Kaoru by running to grab her to avoid Gouhei attack in the street is one, or him jumping dodging Kaoru’s attack at the beginning and him jumping into the crates, etc., the “fighting mooks” part was mostly just panning shots and stills. Other elements clearly brought out the best in the episode, such as the story between Gouhei and Kaoru’s father, or just the way Kenshin reacted after beating him(old dub VA Richard Hayworth did a phenomenal job with Kenshin voice/tone/flexion in that scene), but the fight scene was not it. Yet, this same series was able to produce many amazing fight scenes, esp in the Kyoto arc. I think its more apt to believe that if they did “at least this much” with a no-name fight, then when it gets to the important ones, they’ll go all out. It’s not like they are sitting on Demon Slayer money; can’t make every thing top tier amazing.

  2. As much as I like Kenshin’s original VA and “pants roles” in general, I thought the new male voice is very good. Overall a nice first episode. Here’s hoping they can animate horses better than in the original.

  3. I’ve never seen the original Rurouni Kenshin despite the 90s being my introductory time for anime. It’s a series that I was aware was legendary and always felt I should watch but it’s difficult to make time to watch some of those long shows from that era. In saying that I have recently tackled Slayers so it’s not out of the question. I watched this episode and thought it was done quite nicely despite not having anything to compare it to. I’m probably going to watch this but I do wonder if the original will still be worth watching or the remake? I thought Urusei Yatsura’s remake was done extremely well, a great example of modernizing the classic art style. Hopefully this remake will be equally well done.

  4. As much as the 1996 Rurouni Kenshin anime (and its OST) will always remain a nostalgic, integral part of my formative weeb years (and part of how I met my social circle of fellow weebs in high school at the turn of the millennium), I know there are those who swear by the manga and wish for an FMA: Brotherhood-style anime reboot of the series. More than two decades later, that wish has been granted…though it’s a shame that the original manga author got himself embroiled in controversy in the interim (and one of the characters he created in the manga was a subtle foreshadowing of that controversy he’ll find himself in, in hindsight).

    But anyway, a reboot of Rurouni Kenshin with more modern animation techniques (while still trying to be faithful to the old anime’s art style in some places), widescreen format, and an ensemble cast of this decade’s most talented/popular seiyuu? While it still feels too early to call at this point (for those going with the “three-episode rule”), I’m feeling OK with the RuroKen reboot so far.

    Whether the reboot is more faithful to the manga, I’ll leave that for the manga readers to judge. That said, this reboot’s version of the Kyoto/Shishio Makoto arc better impress me, as that arc was my favorite from the ’96 anime and was adapted pretty well in the live-action movie (albeit in condensed/abridged form).

    As for the music…well, both OP and ED are pretty OK, though it certainly won’t beat the nostalgia of the ’96 anime’s OPs and EDs (“Sobakasu“, “Tactics”, “Heart of Sword”, “1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou“, to name a few). I do wonder what new OP and ED is in store for the second half (or quarter?). Perhaps the new anime’s OP and ED will grow on me like Trigun: Stampede‘s “Tombi“.

    Other random thoughts:
    – I could swear there’s a portion of the beat in “Hiten” that sounds like/reminds me of Yoasobi’s “IDOL” (from Oshi no Ko).
    – Rie Takahashi as the new voice of Kaoru Kamiya. (Must… Resist… Screaming… “EXPLO–!”)
    – I wonder who will be cast as the new Seijuro Hiko (Kenshin’s swordmaster)? Hoping it’s Takehito Koyasu, though Kazuhiko Inoue also sounds like a good choice.
    – The mention of seiyuus cast in the previous anime who passed away… Hajime Saitou was voiced by Hirotaka Suzuoki (a.k.a.: Gundam‘s Bright Noa)? Damn.
    – Whenever I hear “de gozaru” nowadays, the first thing that comes to mind is a certain ninjasamurai VTuber from HoloX (Iroha Kazama). Can’t help but wonder if she also watched/read RuroKen back when she was younger.

    Welp, watching this first episode (and seeing those iconic, familiar characters again) is like reuniting with an old friend (post-makeover). While I’m still nostalgic about the ’96 anime, don’t let this old weeb stop you from enjoying this new anime, and we hope that the younger weebs discover why this series is so beloved (despite the recent controversy with the author).

    1. I don’t think we can say that wish has been granted when all we’ve been told is “24 episodes”. Teasing Kyoto and Jinchu in the premiere is a good sign and it would be illogical to do a remake and not adapt them, but… None of that is a chicken, it’s all eggs.

      1. Aye, still too early in the season to tell. I should temper my expectations (and dial down the nostalgia lens) until this series has reached the halfway mark at most (or shown something that proves it’s worth watching–and not just because of the “pull” of the series).

        I did recall there have been some previous attempts to revive interest in the series besides the live-action movies. Like the New Kyoto Arc, which I’ve seen some bits of back on the now-defunct HERO TV. I was under the impression that the retelling was grittier than the ’96 anime version.

  5. Relieved to say it is very exquisite to see another adaptation done well again in animation art style that matches up to its original. Also that the voice actors didn’t change my memory of these beloved characters. The songs aren’t so much a hit for me though. I admit I really missed this anime since the live action of it was made because I think animation is its best work. I’m really hoping to enjoy it to the fullest.

    random viewer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *