Himura Kenshin is a vagabond with a dark past and sunny disposition. Not a ronin but a rurouni, he was never a samurai, but an assassin of utmost skill in the Meiji restoration, who in the turning point of the war simply walked away. His travels lead him to Tokyo in the 11th year of the Meiji era, where he befriends a female Kendo master, a former thief, a brawler and a doctor all with their own secrets. Together they fight off the enemies surfacing from the dark past that Kenshin cannot escape.
First of all, I've gotta start by saying I haven't actually watched the original yet (well, mostly because it's almost 100 episodes long) and I can't really say which one's better, but compared to the manga (and looking at the facts I have mentioned below) this remake is the most faithful adaptation. The original 1990s adaptation was different from the manga in some aspects of the plot, dumbing it out, and it was even left unfinished, with the last half being completely filler. The remake however, is truly a great adaptation of the source material, being unchanged and not having added annoying, unneccessary characters. The animation is top notch, just like the voice acting and character designs are. Now, the thing I have heard a lot of people badmouth the series for is the music. Like I said, I haven't watched the original series thoroughly, but I listened to the original opening and compared it to the remake's one. The original opening (Sobakasu) is a calm, relaxing one. Personally, I did enjoy it, but I think the current opening fits the series tone more. Sure, Rurouni Kenshin has its light-hearted moments, but I don't think that's the overall tone of the series. On the other hand, the remake's opening is more 'serious' sounding, and I can see why a lot of the original's enthusiasts seem to hate it. However, I have to agree that the 80s and 90s were the peak of music and modern day music can't compare, but ditching a series just because of that seems really stupid to me. This case reminds me of Urusei Yatsura, which also got a remake not that long ago. After watching the original of that series, I could tell that the music wasn't as good (once again 80s/90s were the golden age, not only for music) however you have to give it the attributes it deserves. Overall, I would like to end this review by saying that this remake is honestly one of the best: it's loyal to the manga; does a great job at telling the story how the author wished for it to be told and if it wasn't for people's emotional attachement to the original (for reasons I can totally get, such as nostalgia) this series wouldn't have been so underrated and overlooked. 10/10- totally recommend watching
EDIT - Downgraded from 7 -> 6 after episode 12. The bad pacing and bad directing are ruining the storytelling aspect. Stuff happens so fast, and it feels like they just don't care about building up the characters properly. The characters just don't feel as alive and believable. This has become a far cry from the 1990s Rurouni Kenshin and has thrown out so much of the good storytelling, character development, and drama in favor of action. Also, Kanryu's voice acting is a joke. --- TL;DR - As a standalone adaptation of the manga, this anime is pretty solid. As a remake of the 1990s Rurouni Kenshin, this anime is hit or miss. Story & Characters (6.5/10) Some of you may think this review is a bit unfair because it's constantly comparing it to the original 1990s Rurouni Kenshin anime, but if you're going to make an alternative adaptation, it's inevitably going to be compared, you know? Let me go ahead and start with what's good. The overall storyline and primary characters' personalities are mostly retained. Kenshin has always been an interesting character and the combination of primary cast's personalities - Kenshin, Kaoru, Yahiko, Sanosuke, and Megumi, makes for a lot of fun and intrigue. They're a ragtag bunch of good characters. Another piece I liked about the new series is that there's a narrator sometimes - he'll jump in and explain some important background details (e.g. History of current era, What is opium?) etc., which can be nice if you want to be informed as a viewer. I felt like they did it in a way that wasn't too disruptive, and it's certainly a lot more modern (vs older anime where stuff happens and it's up to the viewer to figure it out) One last thing I'll add is that this new Rurouni Kenshin anime is a lot more faithful to the manga down to specific details. 1990s RK took a lot of creative liberties with several story details and progressions of events. However, those of us who watched it didn't really mind it because the directing and storytelling were excellent. A lot of little things were tweaked from the manga to give it more impact in animation form. Despite the dated art style, there was phenomenal use of cinematic techniques - differing angles, lighting/shading, background music and sounds, varied dialogue pacing, and more - that created an immense emotional impact in many parts. That's ultimately where this new Rurouni Kenshin lacks. The pacing of events is much faster, so the story feels like it's just flying by on a reel at times. Several parts that the 1990s anime chose to slow down and build up were mostly passed over in this remake, or not given the same level of attention. More specifically, the biggest difference is that the original RK anime actually takes time to pause and show characters' expressions and reactions to things, and they did it extremely well. More on that in the next section. In a similar vein, the comedy has been nerfed. They still have some slapstick comedy moments, but they just don't hit the same. They're not as funny, because again there's no pause. Anyone familiar with comedy knows that timing is important, and this new directing just doesn't nail the timing on any of the key emotional or funny moments. From the 1990s RK, I felt like I had a much deeper connection to the characters, and that each event and interaction was more meaningful. Characters felt a lot deeper and richer in personality. This modern adaptation is very Shounen-esque - very focused on action and progressing the story. In contrast, the 1990s RK felt like a grittier Seinen-targeted anime focused on characters and drama. For example, Kenshin's "personality switch" between wanderer and killer is supposed to be a huge focal point - in the 1990s RK, they really took the time to pause and emphasize the drastic contrast between the two personalities whenever it happened. You, as the audience member, knew shit was about to go down when you saw his normally round eyes and smiling face replaced with a piercing glare and golden pupils. In this modern adaptation, it feels way more casual just because they don't take even a few seconds to pause and focus on it. There's not as much of a visual difference either, other than he looks a little meaner in his "killer" mode. It's really meh. Animation & Sound (6.5/10) I will say that the animation in some ways has had a major glow-up. The modern art style still preserves most of the characters' appearances while making them cleaner and more attractive. Kaoru and Megumi are legitimately beautiful. Certain action scenes were animated incredibly well (e.g. Kenshin vs. Jinei) because they kept a lot of dynamic details and background in the fight, whereas the original 1990s RK made gratuitous use of special F/X to reduce the amount of drawing and coloring needed. In addition, since modern animation preserves a lot of backgrounds, this drastically improves the audience's perception of position. As mentioned above, 1990s RK made gratuitous use of special F/X, so stuff like bland backgrounds, bodies just flying across the screen with sword slashes, etc. So you knew a fight was happening, but you couldn't place where characters were standing in relation to each other, how they attacked, etc. etc. etc. 2023 RK pulls out all the stops - all the backgrounds and environments are filled in, so it's way more immersive and has really brought some of these battles to life. I'm still super impressed with Jinei vs. Kenshin. Watch episode 7 of both 1996 and 2023 RK and you'll see a massive difference in the fighting. The voice acting is also an upgrade. The Japanese voice acting of the 1990s was, at times, difficult to take seriously just because all the characters had such high-pitched voices (Kenshin especially). Kenshin's new voice actor is fucking incredible, especially his tone changes with the personality flips. Everyone is honestly an upgrade, or at least of comparable quality. 2023 Jinei's voice actor really nailed the "insane, cold-blooded killer" aspect of his character. However, there are two things that are major downgrades from the previous RK: facial expressions and background music. First, facial expressions: although the modern animation is better, the 1990s RK did an amazing job of adequately pausing and focusing on characters' faces, which really multiplied the impact of dramatic moments as mentioned in the previous section. This was true both for comedic moments (hilarious expressions and reactions to things) as well as for really serious moments like Kenshin transitioning into killer mode or characters expressing despair when they realize they've lost. The contrast in changing facial expressions immediately snapped the audience into either a lighthearted or serious mood depending on what was needed for a scene. We lost a lot of that quality in this modern adaptation. Ultimately, this is an issue with directing and writing, not animation quality. Lastly, the biggest and most unfortunate downgrade was the music and sound effects. Not only were the openings and endings of 1990s RK absolutely incredible (Tactics by Yellow Monkey, Heart of Sword by T.M. Revolution, It's Gonna Rain by Bonnie Pink, and more) - but the background music really did a lot to build up that story, drama, suspense, and interactions. Modern RK's OPs and EDs aren't bad, but again, they're very Shounen-esque. The OP is a hip-hop piece and the ending is J-pop/electro beats-inspired - super upbeat and kinda fun, but really communicates a totally different feel to the story. I think they likely deliberately chose to go full Shounen route on this adaptation, which might make it more palatable for some younger audiences, but for people like myself, we'll find ourselves disappointed that the show seems a lot less serious and less gritty than before. In addition, this modern adaptation also did not make effective use of background music or varying sound effects. You could hear background music playing in the majority of episodes in 1990s RK, and instantaneous switches of that music dramatically helped transition scenes and moods. Lots of different sound effects were used to deliver impact. We lost a lot of that creativity in this modern adaptation. Overall, I'd say this new adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin is not a bad adaptation of the manga at all and is a pretty solid watch in terms of doing the manga justice. But it suffers from having worse directors and overall impact than 1990s RK. If you're primarily into action and fight scenes, then you'll likely prefer this 2023 Rurouni Kenshin adaptation. If you wanted more of the character development and drama, you'll probably prefer 1996 Rurouni Kenshin adaptation. Regardless, if you haven't seen 1996 RK, I highly suggest going back and watching it to spot the differences I'm talking about. It should be available on Hulu (if you're looking for a legal source). Writing this review has made me wonder how incredible the remake could have been if the AAA-studio budget and animation could have been put to full use by skilled directors and writers. Whoever they were in the 1990s, they really knew how to make use of what they had at the time. If you watch 1996 RK with an English Dub, don't watch it on Hulu. The original Rurouni Kenshin had two different companies do the English dubbing, Sony and Media Blasters. The Sony English dub is what's on Hulu, and it's horrendous. Like, it's so bad, that it actively distracts from the show. Do not watch it in English on Hulu. Try to look around and find the Media Blasters English dub if you insist on watching in English.
Why do this exist? Why take the time and money to make a 2nd adaptation if the new product will be worse than the already existing one? The animation is cheap and the music is way worse than the original. It's just so cringe to watch, that last episode against Hyottoko was so bad i have to drop it. EDIT: I just watch the Saito fight... What a huge disappointment, so weightless and souless, no emotion. Minimun effort remake.
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