It is difficult to explain why Rurouni Kenshin - Reminiscence is the best piece of animation, ever. The best I can come up with is that it distilled the television series down to its best components: A Samurai epic, and a love story. But this isn’t true, what makes Reminiscence the best animation ever is what was left out: cute secondary characters, announcing your attack before actually doing it, long drawn-out explanations of how said announced attack worked, plus leaving out a European Knights arc, and a feng shui arc. I shall get into more detail presently.
From the outset of the Kenshin OVA we know two things: these are violent times, and we shall see a lot of violence. But this isn’t Ninja Scroll II, and balancing out the spraying blood is a love story that isn’t merely tacked on, but weaves in and out of the swordplay like a comforting spirit. The love story brings about the cathartic release that all great tragedies have, it is also the source of the tragedy in this OVA in the first place. I hope I’m not giving too much away, but anyone who has seen the series beforehand knows that this is at least hinted at many times. The story for the Kenshin OVA provides the foundation on which two great pillars arise, the animation, and the characters; I shall begin with the animation.
Beautiful is how I must start, for it describes the animation perfectly. Realistic is how I must continue because there is no mouth stretching, chibi-fying, or any of that stuff. Poetic is how I must end this particular style, for the animation is so smooth it reads like the most exquisite poetry, and I cannot keep up this style much longer.
There is only one flaw I can find in the animation of the Kenshin OVA, and that is the inclusion of several live action shots: one depicting trees, and one depicting water. I felt this took me out of the experience of the animation itself, but it is quite a small nit to pick for neither of these sequences last more than five seconds.
Like I’ve already outlined, the animation is beautiful, and while it’s still easily identifiable as Japanese animation, the Kenshin OVA is the most realistically animated pieces I’ve seen. The sword fights are what they should be; short and violent. Nowhere to be seen is the long, drawn out fight sequences which I felt marred the original Kenshin TV animation. Himura Kenshin superiority is readily apparent, no one save for three* individuals stand against his sword very long. I also must mention the meticulous nature of the animation, the design of everything from rice bowls to umbrellas is quite spectacular. It’s these little touches that immerse you into the OVA.
I have already covered most of the Voice Acting aspect of the Kenshin OVA, save for that the rest of the cast live up to the incredibly high expectations we have for Japanese seiyus.
I know I’m beating you folks over the head with all this attention to detail nonsense, but I must do it once more. The craft that went into creating the sound effects for the Kenshin OVA is incredible. Everything sounds as it should be. The sounds of swords striking, the sound of wood being chopped, everything is exceptional, and the sentiment only grows with repeated viewing.
The music for the OVA is like the rest of anime: at most times understated, but vibrant and powerful when the time comes. The OST is well worth a listen, for the dramatic and battle themes alone, but there are more gems in there that warrant repeated listens.
Due to the length of the Kenshin OVA (around one hundred and twenty minutes) there are only really two characters of note: Kenshin and Tomoe. Both these characters have divided hearts: Kenshin does not wish to kill, but feels he needs to so that a new world can be created where all Japanese are equal. Tomoe must balance her desire for revenge with a burgeoning love. But like with the animation it’s the small details make the characters so immersive. The way that Kenshins spinning top is his last link with a lost childhood, and the knife is Tomoes last link with a lost love. The parallels are incredible. The differences between character even more so: Kenshin kills and Tomoe tries to sheath his violence. I can’t find the words to describe how well the director presents these characters.
The voice acting is superb as well, and while I’ve heard complaints about Kenshins seiyu being female, I find it unfounded. I cannot imagine Kenshin’s voice as being anything other than it is. Mayo Suzukaze has a subtlety to her voice that gives the teeth of Kenshin’s character. A lesser talent would have made him sound like Clint Eastwood in his Man With No Name days, gruff, bleak, and already weary with the world. By making Kenshin’s voice softer the juxtaposition with his violent nature is made all the clearer, and the impact all the greater.
Tomoe’s Seiyu, Junko Iwao, gives us an understated performance. Tomoe does not raise her voice, even at its most emotional, it is still quite reserved. Its subtlety is a perfect match for Kenshin’s, and it forces us to divine states of mind, instead of having it explained to us in some great exposition.
The Kenshin OVA is an aural and auditory treat, as well as a pleasant mental exercise. This is the anime you should watch, period. If you haven’t watched this anime yet, then watch it now, it really doesn’t matter if you’ve the original TV animation, though it helps define the dichotomy in Kenshin’s character. If you have watched it, watch it again, you’ll discover something else to love about this animation after every viewing. This anime is worth every penny it costs, and then some; for it will provide you with potentially hundreds of hours of good watching.
* Two of three I can mention Seijuro, Kenshin’s teacher, and Saito, one of Kenshin’s foils from the TV series, though this is the Saito from his Shinsen Gumi days. The third I can’t mention, and the bastard cheats!
Himura Kenshin was a boy orphaned by the murder of his parents. Now he is the Hitokiri Battousai, the most feared and skilled killer in 19th century Japan. In the midst of a blood bath, he meets the love of his life, Tomoe. Will he continue to fight his enemies in a killing rage or will she sheath his bloodstained sword?