Overseas Animation

Rurouni Kenshin: Wandering Samurai

Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi and Kaeko Sakamoto

Distributed by
Anime Works

Reviewed by Jon Minners

Samurai X took the world by storm; an anime masterpiece of drama and violence.  It was this OVA and its accompanying motion picture that introduced me to the world of Rurouni Kenshin.  You watch these great anime titles and when they are over, you are left wanting more, forced to wait many years for a sequel, as I did with Vampire Hunter D or left without any closure, as I felt with the greatest anime ever Berserk.  But in some cases, like in the case of Samurai X, if you want more, thereís definitely more to enjoy. 

There is an entirely different series featuring our beloved hero.  Several years ago, Anime Works put out Rurouni Kenshin Wandering Samurai, a show perfectly geared toward the American television market.  The series is part of the Samurai X saga; you can watch both and get the whole story of the intriguing samurai, but the two different titles are two different takes on the same character. 

The story follows Himuro Kenshin, who during the final days of the Tokugawa government in Japan, was a merciless swordsman known as Hitokiri Battousai.  As an uncaring killer, Kenshin fought alongside the Imperialists against the government, killing hundreds in his path.  Angered by what he had done, Kenshin vanished; his story became legend, until he returned 10 years later, a wandering swordsman, still the master of the Hiren Mitsurugi Ryu style of sword fighting, but now protecting lives to pay back for those he took away. 

And thatís where this anime tale begins.  Kenshin meets Miss Kaoru who inherited the run down Kamiya Dojo when her father was murdered; Yahiko, who ended up a pickpocket after being orphaned and a strong character in Sanosuke, who saw his fellow soldiers betrayed by Imperial agents, leading him to seek revenge against the Imperials, including Kenshin.  A fight between the two leads to a tight friendship and mutual respect explored throughout the series.  It is a friendship that makes the show rather enjoyable as we watch our heroes battle various evil-doers from gangsters to drug dealers to merciless villains from Kenshinís past. 

Viewers are treated to a great deal of action and compelling storylines, including one tale where Kenshin must become the manslayer he once was to beat an enemy from the revolution and save the woman he is closest to.  The characters are well developed and the overall show is engaging, but some fans of the overly dramatic, ultra-violent, superbly realistic drama.  Samurai X viewers may be turned off by the lighthearted, comedic, action-adventure series that totaled close to 100 episodes.  I personally love them both for different reasons, as they appealed to varied tastes.  True, some of the comedy spots and typical animated buffoonery were turn-offs at times and the animation was not as crisp, smooth or beautiful as Samurai X, the story was just a lot of fun. 

You can see one without the other depending on your taste, but a real Kenshin fan should get the whole story from the revolutionary days in Samurai X to the post revolution adventure in Rurouni Kenshin, to the final fate of our samurai in Samurai X: Reflection.  It is an amazing story and as far as the long-term series goes, this belongs right up there with Dragon Ball and Inuyasha; a definite must-see epic tale of violence and redemption. 


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