If I hadn't known this was done by Nobihiro Watsuki, the creator of Rurouni Kenshin, I never would have known. In fact, it was when I heard he did another series that prompted me to seek this one out; I was sorely disappointed.
Not just the plot and characters, but the artwork and the battles...some of it felt very forced, and often times, it was difficult to tell what exactly was HAPPENING.
I will say that it started out with an interesting premise and idea, but, and I hate to compare it, in terms of homonculus and alchemy, Fullmetal Alchemist was much better.
This was, again, to my disappointment, as Rurouni Kenshin is one of my top three anime/manga of all time.
So, where did this go wrong? Let me break it down:
Okay, there's some creepy-ish battle going on against artificial humans, the typical shounen protagonist (simple and stupid; I'll cover this more in detail under the characters), the tsundere anti-hero, your cast of comic relief characters, and the antagonist.
As I've only read through the first arc/antagonist, I can only comment up until then; the story and characters weren't enough to make me read more of it.
Again, there's really not much of a story. It's probably explained later on, but the concept of alchemy and these weapons aren't properly given in the first arc (which is annoying). The excerpt/summery of the series does a better job explaining the beginning than the actual pages.
I don't know what the story is about; I couldn't really find a story. In Rurouni Kenshin, the first arc admittingly didn't have a huge plot to it, but it had enough background before that and bits and pieces of a larger story going on (as well as adding to building the characters).
With Buso Renkin, there wasn't any of that. Just some average high school student that gets in over his head and can now use this alchemic weapon.
I suppose the story is humans vs homonculus, as the latter are dangerous, zombie-like creatures in that they become infected and turn into human-eaters. The first arc had potential for a deeper story, but it wasn't touched upon.
I only read as far as I did to see how it would turn out, and if it would get better.
Was this REALLY done by the creator of Rurouni Kenshin?
Ah, we've hit the biggest snag in the series. Besides a generic shounen minimal plot, we've got the generic shounen protagonist.
Pick up a volume of Shounen Jump from around 2002 until now, and you'll find most stories filled with these sorts of protagonists: Simple and stupid.
They're the class dunces; the goofballs; the ones that usually start off with no or little skills and learn as they go. They have no mind for strategy, and blindly rush into things. They also typically remain that way throughout the series.
Naruto, Luffy, Gon, Natsu...even Goku. Not only are they stupid and obvious, but they don't seem to grow from their experiences and only acquire new techniques. Mentally, they're prettty much the same as when the series started.
I rather enjoyed Kenshin, as he was the "genius protagonist", and it was done RIGHT. I sort of expected another genius protagonist, because Watsuki-sensei pulled it off so brilliantly with Kenshin; a character that starts out powerful with a few quirks, and still has yet to completely mature mentally and learn their final or most powerful technique.
Instead, we get Kazuki...I'd say he's closer to Yahiko, but even Yahiko had more mental growth and ability than this guy. Even in the first season, before the Kyoto arc, Yahiko had matured quite a lot. That maturity and growth wasn't seen in the first arc of Buso Renkin.
There were some serious moments, and some emotional moments, but I just couldn't get INTO them. Something was missing, and it was probably the slightly rushed plot and undeveloped character.
Next, we have Tokiko, who seems really uncaring and cold, but gave Kazuki his new life and fights for a brief time; something that I wish I got to see more in Kenshin with characters like Kaoru and Misao, who were supposed to be strong, but we didn't see them get to fight much. Rather, Kaoru wound up kidnapped too many times.
However, not too long into the series, once again, the female lead winds up in a bind and has to be rescued by the male lead in the first arc; it impairs her ability to fight, so Kazuki has to take over and destroy the remaining homunculus and fight the final battle to save her.
I think she grew as a character in the arc more than Kazuki did, becoming a little more accepting towards Kazuki and his skills, and a little more open by having to hang around the comic-relief characters when she couldn't move.
That's another big thing this series lacks...support characters. They're not the protagonist, but they become part of the protagonist's group. In Kenshin, this was in the form of Yahiko and Sanosuke (with Kaoru occasionally joining in).
In Buso Renkin...there weren't any of these support characters. There was the bunch of "comic relief" characters and his sister, but they got so little screen time and so little character development that I can't even call them "characters". I don't know their names, and they ARE just there for comedy purposes.
I was supremely disappointed in the characters. The one that actually had the most potential as a character was the main antagonist, but even that was glossed over and didn't carry the same human-angle that Rurouni Kenshin brought with its antagonists.
"The creator of Rurouni Kenshin did another manga? I've got to check that out! It must have really awesome characters and a great plot filled with mystery, intrigue, and background...!"
...nope! It's the typical shounen manga that everyone and their cat is putting out these days. I'm so sick of that typical shounen plot, that typical shounen protagonist, the typical shounen background characters...
What I was expecting with this, from the genius that created Rurouni Kenshin, was another break in the typical shounen mold; a genius protagonist, excellent supporting characters with their own interesting backgrounds and situations, and best of all, no "simple and stupid".
I expected to see epic battles being strategically executed even as fists or swords clash with one another; the characters are constantly thinking while fighting and not just rushing in blindly with their best technique and a battle-cry.
Not in Buso Renkin. Rather, we're stuck with the droll and typical shounen stereotypes that can put someone to sleep. If you like the shounen cliche, the "simple and stupid" protagonist, a slightly creepy idea, and the supernatural, then I suppose you might fight this interesting.
However, if you really want to read something incredible that Watsuki-sensei worked on, stick with Rurouni Kenshin.