Having been a huge kenshin fan I obviously had to watch the newest version especially when it's on the best story arc (in my opinion) in the series.
unfortunately this was a terrible retelling of the story and is absolurely awful. If you enjoyed rurouni kenshin the series, you will be disappointed. If someone who is completely new to the series watches this first, it might destroy any chance of watching anythingggggg else regarding it. The animation is new and pretty but that's about it.
To keep this short.
All the fight scenes last literally about 3 minutes. (I know the whole this is only about 2 and a half hours all together but really? They can at least have some meaningful fights)
All backstory on juppongatana has been removed. Along with more than half of them not existing.
there are only 7 fights or less.
Everything ends on "The Purgatory"
There isn't really any struggle with Kenshin fighting anyone. Easy fights
Save yourself time and fond memories of this series and skip this retelling.
I highly recommend NOT to watch this, seriously don't, but who I am to tell you what to do.
It could had been a pretty cool REMAKE but no matter how you see it won't be good for the next reasons:
1.- What you see in here, is fit in less than 2 hours (around 3 episodes and a half) and it was covering around 20 episodes of the original story, plus another 20 of introduction before of what we are watching in here, so it is incomplete, so characters end being forced and not fully respected about their ideals like in the show, battles feel cheap, and the story is just rushed to the point of not caring for what is going on.
2.-If it was made long as another show, it has its cool changes, like the fact that they take away the last part of Shishio's arc which is very shounen for my taste and combine it with what was happening before, so they could make a full series with the same idea but it still wouldn't work, since fans would say why this if I already can watch what they did before and it is still heck of awesome.
4.-And if they tried to give it another focus like the other two OVAs, it would might work but we will be comparing all the time and chances are, it would be crap.
And don't let the premise and stuff fool you, this is not about Misao, this is just an uncomplete summary, but it short words, this OVA shouldn't had existed, it is not something unbearable but there is nothing new and nothing you would miss if you skip it.
They feel lazy almost all the time, there is nothing much to say.
Music is nice actually, some songs from the original but it is the average soundtrack, same voices at least, and good sound effects, not much to say as well.
The Original animation is not prominent for it's style but it certainty has its uniqueness that the fans love, the other two OVAs had their romantic highly detailed realism of animation which was gorgeous and had its uniqueness like the the TV show, this... feels like Kyoto Animation trying to do Moe Kenshin... the only positive thing I could say is: Misao looks like such a cutie.
In the first 15 minutes you are already thinking that the OVA is giving you the middle finger since you know you are wasting your time.
While the three OVAs have A sex scene, while the others are shown with romanticism and are actually meaningful, here it is for a joke XD that's describes perfectly how I feel about this.
This OVA was the worst Rurouni Kenshin ova ever created! The fight scenes were fast,boring and lifeless. I never imagined seeing the kyoto arc of Rurouni Kenshin shit on like this. My favorite battle between Aoshi and Kenshin lasted literally 5 seconds,Shisio's head split apart..and omg j...just never watch this abortion of an ova. The only good thing was the animation/music. Everything else in this ova was complete shit. Oh and if someone stumbled upon this ova before the actual Rurouni Kenshin anime or manga series then they would be completely lost.
It's hard to review this in a vacuum. Having just watched season two of Kenshin within the last two months I'm going to always judge this compared to the original, so I'll try my best to write two reviews where needed (mostly characters and story), from the perspective of a return viewer and someone new to the series.
Story - 3/10
For anyone who watched the original series this will seem like a fan cutdown of the entire Kyoto Arc, but created by a fan who really had no use for plot, or backstory, or character development, or consistency. The whole OVA boils down to Kenshin meeting Misao, Kenshin having to replace his sword and a couple very quick fights with little reason why the fights are happening. They left in character introductions, with the idea that you already knew who the characters were, all so that said characters can have a short version of the duel we saw in the original telling.
If you're new to the series you'll be utterly confused at what's going on. Sure they give a quick rundown of who Shishio is and why he's out for revenge, but you never get a true picture of why Kenshin is there to fight him, why Aoshi wants to kill Kenshin or why Sanosuke and Anji are so evenly matched. The way the final battle also ends would have you believe Shishio was never a threat to begin with, as Kenshin did away with him pretty easily, they probably could have just sent some random swordsman.
The OVA was labeled as "From Misao's Perspective" but most of her storyline is cut from the series. She's with Kenshin for the start, but where she and the Oniwabanshu shined in the series is completely removed and replaced by the scene of Seijuro Hiko talking down Fuji.
The only thing that seems to be added, but it could just be that I somehow missed it in the original, is Seijuro giving a somewhat eloquent reason for why these men follow someone like Shishio, as they were all hurt and needed someone strong to help heal their demons.
Animation - 4/10
After almost twenty years, and the proliferation of HD Television, you would think the animation on the series would blow away that of the mediocre original. In backgrounds and richness of color it did, but the character animations, even judged on their own, were terrible. Every face was bland without emotion or detail, some were oddly distorted and misshapen. Great looking characters like Misao, Saitou, Sawagejou and Usui were drawn as if they were being explained to the artist by a friend of a friend of a cousin who watched the original series.
There were some very good scenes, mostly towards the end with the country on fire or the Purgatory exploding, but they didn't do much to make up for the horrific characters.
I generally try to stay away from criticizing music from a culture or language I may not understand very well, but I just can't adhere to that now. The first ending theme is a play on a very pretty Kenshin tune, Kimi wa Dare o Mamotte Iru, whose two instrumental versions are great pieces of music. For this OVA they decided to add vocals and they ruin such a good song. It sounded like a drowning cat, out of tune for even this traditional style of Japanese music.
On the other hand, the second ending theme was rather good and fit well with the songs from the Kenshin series as well as the original lightness of the show. Likewise the in episode music stuck to what we were use to in Kenshin, very good music that fit the story and scenes in front of us.
Voice wise, if I was new to the series I would think the voices fit well to the characters they were meant to portray, but as a returning viewer the voices go hand in hand with a problem I'll note below in the character section. The U.S. voice actors were very very bad. They were times of extreme overacting, a real lack of emotion and often the timing was terrible, as if they were reading the lines off the script in front of them without any passion for the show. Usually Sentai and Aniplex are on point with their V.O. but someone screwed up royally with this dub.
Characters - 3/10
That problem is that almost every character has changed. Kenshin is no longer the sweet hearted Kenshin who gave up a life of killing. He's an angry Kenshin who doesn't seem like he's out to stop an evil man, but rather he's out for revenge. This culminates with Kenshin doing the unthinkable for those of us who watched the original arc.
The changes in characters doesn't stop at Kenshin, Misao is not the love struck young girl of old, instead she seems like an angry gal who's out to get the man who promised to marry her, but keeps making excuses. Yahiko is even more self absorbed, at one time bad mouthing Kenshin's style and basically calling it garbage (something a fellow martial artist would never do, even if they were from a different style.) Kamiya is just a non-factor, acting like a lost puppy for the short time she's on screen. Finally there's Gramps, who is now a respected elder statesman, instead of the goofy letch from the series.
Granted someone who is unfamiliar with the series wouldn't see a big difference and probably wouldn't have a problem with the characters. Though being new you'd most likely be irked by the fact you learn nothing about them, thus you'd have no idea why most of them are acting as they are.
Overall - 3/10
Catching lightning in a bottle twice, they say it's nearly impossible. With Trigun it was a valiant effort, but a disappointment, they've failed here with Kenshin and I'd be shocked if they don't turn FLCL into a heaping pile of garbage.
When trying to reboot a series or make it into a movie there is only so much you have control over, and one of those things you can't control is the time period and emotional state the viewer was in when watching, so often you're doomed to failure before you ever start.
As a returning viewer the story didn't work because it was horribly rushed, thus making it pointless. There wasn't much "From Misao's P.O.V." it was just a condensed and weakened version. There was also too much of a change in character personalities (some that spit in the face of the series) for those of us who spent thirty plus hours watching the Kenshin series.
For people new to the series (though why would you watch this first?) the show leaves too much out and basically expects you to know what's going on. You're thrown into a story you don't know and you never get insight into any of it.
This just seemed like a money grab, hoping to cash in as Trigun, Ghost in the Shell and others did with reboots. To strip most of the story and boil it down to basically the battles, and not even battles done well, takes the viewer as a mindless putz just in it for blood and violence, which typically is the exact opposite of an anime viewer, who tend to go for great stories and emotion over rushed and ill executed fighting. The OVA isn't for older viewers and it isn't for newer viewers, as many have said before, it's kinda just pointless.
Story Disclaimer: The scores I gave are based on previously reading the manga and watching most of the anime that came out years earlier. This is NOT a stand alone Anime OVA series. Basicly this is a retelling of one of the most intense parts of the series (not including Kenshin's past or when Kaoru is taken. Both of which have also gotten New animated OVA's as of late.) If you come to the series with knowledge from watching the previous show or reading the manga it is actually pretty good. Especially for those of us who did not really enjoy the original series as much because it felt more like a series for children. This one takes that kiddie stuff away almost completely. Focusing mostly on the fights of that time.
The advancements in technology can be seen pretty well if you compare the anime with the OVA's that being said, as far as the actual fighting was concerned. It sometimes felt better this way and sometimes felt worse. Hajime Saito's fight with Shishio was not as good as I had hoped. Don't get me wrong, the animation was still very good hence my rating, however, the issue is somehow it felt less realistic than it did in the original. All the zipping and bouncing around while fighting feels too Kill Bill... I would have liked it if it was more realistic, however, the "Slay evil quickly" part was spot on. For me though, it was the more subtle things in the animation that made the animation worth a 7.5 score. maybe even higher. The changes in expression and posture were easier to see. The way the characters looked as they were animated was exceptional.
The Sound is another high point. Though, the only real changes between old and new were some voice acting changes. Which in my opinion were excellent changes. Kenshin's english voice actor for example, was 100 times better in the OVA series than it was back in the original anime.
The Characters got a 6.5 and though I would probably rate them higher, they, like the story itself, are not fleshed out enough in the OVA's for it to stand alone without having previous knowledge of the series. That being said, the changes that did happen were almost all positive in my eyes.
Kaoru - Her character has some of the biggest positive changes in the OVA series. In the original, I could barely even watch her. She was annoying on so many different levels. However, they toned this down in the OVA series actually making her seem more likable in my eyes. If you like the original overly dramatic childish Kaoru, this will probably be a disappointment to you. However, we do get a scene where she pulls on Kenshin's cheeks and we can hear their normal bickering a bit though it is toned down considerably. She looks and acts more mature in the OVA series and she has more conviction, which makes her much more likable in my eyes.
Kenshin - He is similar to how he is in the original anime adaptation however he is more serious. He has more changes in expression and posture and the way he is animated. As I have said in the animation catagory these are all postive changes. He also is given a new voice which I feel fits him better.
Overall: I would say, if you have read the manga or watched the original anime this OVA series is a good thing for you to check out. Especially if you wished for a more mature feeling version to watch. If you have not had any experience with this series... I would say, this is not the place for you to start. I'd go read the manga and come back. Then you will be able to appreciate it more.