Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen
(Samurai X) OVA
A Parent's Guide to Anime
Recommended for Mature Audiences
Review by Rosalyn Hunter:
Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen (Remembrances) is an Original Video Animation story from the popular Rurouni Kenshin manga. I think that it uses the same voice actors as the TV show. The dub has been released as Samurai X. The quality of the animation is outstanding with some rotoscoping. The music is excellent. The acting in the original was very subtle and beautiful. The dub, however, was a bit heavy handed which is a shame because many people will miss the complexity of the original if they only see the dub.
The Rurouni Kenshin manga and TV show are about the adventures of a wandering swordsman ten years after the civil war, Bakumatsu, in which the Shoguns were overthrown and a constitutional government headed by the emperor was established (Imperial Restoration). In the TV show, Kenshin is now a man of peace, but during the war he was an infamous Hitokiri, manslayer, and killed hundreds of people. RK Tsuiokuhen is set during this war. At this time Kenshin is a 15 year old assassin.
This is a pseudo historical drama and some of the characters are real historical figures. Although there was no real Hitokiri Battousai, there were real hitokiri; and one of Kenshin's opponents Okita Soji really was 15 when he was a captain of the Shinsen Gumi.
The story is about a 15 year old assassin and how he meets and falls in love with a mysterious woman. She leads him to question his life as a mindlessly loyal assassin and starts him on the road to becoming the man of peace that he is in the later series. This movie also tells the story of how Kenshin got the cross-shaped scar on his cheek. A story told in the manga, but not in the TV series.
The box has an NC17 warning and it is appropriate. This movie is extremely violent with shocking scenes and graphic violence. As an example, Kenshin's preferred way to kill people includes swords through the neck, and slicing people in half from the head downward. The violence however is integral to understanding the character of the main character who is basically a sweet person with a horribly unpleasant line of work. There is one sex scene.
There are many complex issues: betrayal, patriotism, and revenge. Is it justified for the leaders Katsura Kogoro and Takasuki Shinsaku to use a 15 year old boy as an assassin, or is it evil? Is a war of assassins the approriate way to effect cultural change? Do the ends really justify the means?
Samurai X discusses in detail the conflict of the warrior. That each person must make his own decision about what is right and what is wrong.
The main character has given his conscience to his leaders; he does what he is told and doesn't want to know about his victims. He learns that his work has consequences, and that deferring judgement to others does not excuse him from the crimes that he has committed. He chooses not to be an assassin, but he continues fighting until the war is over, and then he swears never to kill again.
This title should be viewed with caution. Although a subtle and insightful teenager will surely be affected by the deep issues discussed in this work; a less observant child may just be excited by the violence and the power expressed by people so young. Even so, this is a beautiful and powerful work, and these issues are not alien to young people today in this age of gang violence and school shootings.
This work also could help start an interest in history. Many of the people in this work were historical figures: Katsura Kogoro (Kido Takayoshi), Takasuki Shinsaku, Saito Hajime and Okita Soji. Many historical events are horrible, and they often lose their horror when listed on a history book timeline. This work talks about how unpleasant it would be to live in "interesting times", and how the times demand that ordinary people make choices about how they will live their life, including the choice of whether or not to kill.
Additional Review by Andrian Harsono:
This OAV was accessible to viewers while its original TV series Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan was being shown in Japan. The name of the series translates directly to Wanderer Kenshin: Romantic Tales of the Meiji Swordsman.
The original series tells the adventures of Himura Kenshin after the Meiji Restoration who swears never to kill again. One of his distinct features is that he has a cross-shaped scar on his cheek and this OAV tells the story of his past, when he fought in the restoration as a member of the Choshu Ishinshishi, when he was still a ruthlessly efficient assassin who was later named "Hitokiri Battousai" (sword-drawing slayer).
As someone who has watched anime for several years, I have to admit that this is one of the best OAVs I have ever watched and its soundtrack remains one of my favourites. The pace at which the story unfolds along with its excellent music accompaniment will impress viewers for a very long time. Despite the historical background, the story emphasises mostly the relationship between the main character Kenshin and a woman, Tomoe Yukishiro. To summarise the movie, it can be described as a samurai love story.
It never ceases to amaze me how the movie so successfully describes his lifestyle, how he met her and how fate seems to bring them together only to end in tragedy. The dialogue, the various scenarios and situations will not fail to bring feelings of anxiety, nervousness and sorrow to the viewers by the end of the movie.
I highly recommend this to mature audiences looking for something true and meaningful...
Nevertheless, this movie not only moves me, it has also made me more interested in the Meiji Revolution which ended in 1868 and historical accounts of how the Shogunate used to operate in feudal Japan. In addition, I have started reading up on samurai warriors and their warrior code, Bushido. If viewers look at this movie with the right attitude, it is a good springboard into Japanese history...
According to an author's note in one of the comics, the character Himura Kenshin was inspired by a real-life historical assassin who also lived during the Meiji Restoration. It was said that not only was there one super-assassin during those times, there were actually four. Among the four, the most notable one was a man by the name of Kawakami Gensai.
I had read that the personality of Kenshin had been likened to that of Gensai: gentle, kind and loving, small enough physically to make his opponents underestimate him but actually a flawless swordsman adopting a rather strange and unique style of sword techniques (in the case of the series, Kenshin's Hiten Mitsurugi techniques)
Additional Review by Ben Madrid:
(This movie is a prequel to the TV show "Rurouni Kenshin." However, it is much more serious, with more realistic warlike overtones.)
Rurouni Kenshin OAV is one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's the story of Kenshin (AKA Hitokiri Battousai) and his moral battle with killing.
The movie starts with a caravan being attacked by robbers. Kenshin is a young boy in the caravan, and one by one, he sees everyone he knows getting murdered. He tries to protect the young girls he's with, but instead, they die protecting him. Kenshin is saved at the last second, but Kenshin is the only one who survives. Kenshin's savior is the greatest swordsman that ever lived, and on seeing Kenshin's resolve and pure spirit, decides to train him. Kenshin learns fast, and quickly becomes one of the most dangerous swordsman alive. He then leaves his master, in order to use his sword to protect others. The movie mainly follows his chosen profession as an assassin, trying to overthrow the corrupt Japanese government.
The real story of the movie, however, is Kenshin's inner struggles, as well as those around him. When Kenshin couldn't protect the young girls, he made it his life's pursuit to protect anyone who was being oppressed. He wanted to be strong, so he could protect the weak. However, is it alright to kill in order to protect? This question burns in Kenshin's mind, and he struggles to justify the killing he must do. He hates killing, but he feels it is necessary to create a better, more peaceful Japan. A woman Kenshin meets is personally affected by his assassinations, and she tries to convince Kenshin that good cannot be born from murder. Even Kenshin's leader (Katsura), who's trying to overthrow the government, struggles with training an innocent boy to be a killer.
I would rate this movie "R," because of the violence. However, the movie is very serious and realistic, much like "Saving Private Ryan." Unlike Ninja Scroll or other gory movies, “Rurouni Kenshin OAV” doesn’t glorify the violence, but rather condemns it. It also has a very tame sex scene, with no nudity or explicit material. I would recommend this movie to any mature teenagers, and any adult.
Graphic violence. Blood, blood, blood. War scenes. Assassination by minors.
One sex scene, but no full nudity. - R.H.
This OAV contains some rather violent scenes. This involves spearing someone on the back of his head and at one point, finishing off an opponent by thrusting the sword onto the back of his neck and not to mention the scene at the end of the first act where Kenshin swiftly cuts an enemy assassin in two. In all these scenes, blood spews out all over the place. This will be rather shocking and way too intensive for young viewers. I say even a 21 year-old like me found it shocking the first time round.
Another scene not recommended for younger viewers would be the sex scene although this is rather mild. The scene changes to another the moment the two of them start to undress. I say it will not even be obvious to some viewers that the two of them intend to do it...A.H.
Yes, this movie has significant blood, and many people are killed with swords. A very tame sex scene, with nothing explicit.B.M.