「明治剣客浪漫譚 第零幕 後編」 (Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan Dai Rei-maku Kouhen)
“Meiji Swordsman Romantic Story: Act Zero – Part Two”
This mini-arc served its purpose. To wit, to keep things ticking along until the next major event (which is next week), and to allow the season to close at a logical point. And to do all that without kneecapping the series’ momentum the way some of the 1996 series’ original material did. A few of those filler eps were actually pretty good, but there were a lot of real clunkers in there to be sure. It was safer to go with Watsuki’s own material, even if the anime had to skip a couple of decades to do it.
Without delivering anything memorable, these two episodes were fine. There were a few interesting moments, like Dr. Elder’s conversation with Kenshin about taking care of himself by ceasing to be a rurouni sometimes. And the duel with Espilar was quite good, even if Kenshin was never in any real trouble. Miki Shinichirou hasn’t met the show yet he can’t uplift, and he did everything with the Espilar characters there was do to.
In the end the Spaniard was kind of one-trick pony, turning himself into a human coil in order to make his drill-sword do its thing. We’ve seen Kenshin go up against this sort of gimmicky opponent before – in fact most of his pre-Kyoto arc opponents rely heavily on trickery. The pattern is familiar – Ken retreats and parries as he puzzles out the nature of the gimmick, sometimes even sustaining injuries in the process, then acts decisively once he’s seen through the tricks.
Espilar isn’t a bad guy in the end – just another nostalgic swordsman giving the era a premature funeral. He accepts his defeat and even saves Yokohama from a smalllpox outbreak courtesy of Elder”s greedy rival. That’s beneath contempt, obviously, but the camera doesn’t dwell there for long. Kenshin reveals that all this too place only five days before he met Kaoru, which shows he took Elder’s advice pretty seriously. Nothing essential for either plot or character happened here, I don’t think, but no harm done – the decks have been effectively cleared for a very big arrival next week.