Rurouni Kenshin: Seisouhen

Alt title: Samurai X: Reflection

OVA (2 eps)
2001
4.074 out of 5 from 9,632 votes
Rank #628

This beautiful finale to the Kenshin series will tear at your emotions. Himura Kenshin is back for his grand finale, while a vengeful figure from Kenshin's past named Enishi seeks revenge for the death of his sister. Find out how Kenshin tries to overcome this foe when Kaoru, his love, is kidnapped.

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Reviews

vivafruit
8

StoryNote: I hadn’t read a single page out of the original Kenshin manga when I wrote this review. This is probably an important factor to me enjoying the show. Also, this review contains minor spoilers for Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen and the Rurouni Kenshin television series. There has been a lot of talk over whether this anime is “faithful” to the spirit of Kenshin. Admittedly, this show is a very strong departure from the TV series or even Reminiscence. While in the anime’s predecessors Kenshin is generally shown as a man of strong spirit, mind, and body, in Rurouni Kenshin: Seisouhen he is shown as something entirely different – a feeble, listless individual filled with doubt and regret. Even his character design is significantly changed – the new one feels not only older, but also immensely weathered from the previous trials of his life. The abrupt change is somewhat startling, and is probably a very large reason as to why many people dislike Seisouhen. However, to me, this transformation seems almost inevitable. As the first episode of the OVA makes clear, Kenshin can never truly be rid of his past sins. The immense guilt he feels for those he has slaughtered can never be washed away, no matter how many good deeds he does to assuage his inner suffering. Seisouhen’s portrayal of Kenshin as a character feels like the logical conclusion to what is shown in Reminiscence and the TV series – as time goes on, Kenshin must realize that he can never escape his bloody origin, the legacy left by his former wife, or the ruthless killer that he once was. In a way, Kenshin has been dead far before the TV series even started; by taking up the sword to kill, he has long since traded away an important part of his humanity. Everything since then has merely been a futile try at redemption, an attempt to regain what he has long since lost. As Kenshin gets older and weaker, he can no longer distract himself; he instead must finally confront what he has done. In the absolutely excellent Tsuiokuhen OVA, Kenshin realized that his philosophy of killing people to save people was wrong. As a result, he chose to never take another human life, and to atone for his sins through saving the lives of countless individuals. Here in Seisouhen, Kenshin realizes that his new world outlook is also unrealistic – no matter how many individuals he saves, he can never bring back the ones he has killed. The way that Kaoru fits into this is that, well, she doesn’t seem to fit in. Kenshin has already lost so much that whether there is any more room in his heart for Kaoru seems dubious. Amazingly, in Seisouhen, Kaoru seems just as tortured as Kenshin’s first wife, Tomoe. While Tomoe was torn between her simultaneous hatred and love of the man, Kaoru doesn’t even know if Kenshin cares for her. Did he marry her out of his seemingly infinite kindness, or does he actually need her as a companion? The entire first episode of Seisouhen is devoted solely to this single burning question. As Kaoru looks back on her life, she almost frantically searches for signs that prove Kenshin’s true love. Some may call these flashbacks a rehash, but I strongly disagree. Though Kaoru is remembering events that transpired in the TV series, here in this OVA they are given an entirely new context and meaning. Gone is the cheerful, optimistic air that permeated the series; instead, the events are retold through the eyes of a desperate woman wondering if she has wasted her life loving someone who is incapable of loving her back. The second episode… well, I won’t go into specifics. However, allow me to say that both Kenshin’s seemingly undying guilt and Kaoru’s possibly futile love are resolved amazingly well. Will Kaoru finally know that she is a part of Kenshin? Will Kenshin ever be able to find true, untainted peace? Seisouhen refuses to take the easy answers. Finally and most importantly, does this anime go against the “spirit” of Kenshin? Yes and no. While this OVA definitely diverges from what I remember the TV series for, it provides something that is just as good. Seisouhen can be viewed as an alternate interpretation of the characters of Kenshin and Kaoru; a darker approach filled with regret and despair. A few people seem to believe that this OVA contradicts the original storyline, but I heavily disagree with that. Both Tsuiokuhen and the Rurouni Kenshin TV series had all of the themes seen here; in Seisouhen, however, they are merely much more emphasized. Unfortunately, the anime's storyline is remarkably disjointed. Much more time should have been devoted to certain parts of the plot, and the anime’s fragmented, rushed approach to tell the story borders on confusing. Finally, I for one don’t really understand why the creators decided to include the small portion of time devoted to Enishi. Enishi clearly deserves several episodes just for himself, not the 10 minutes given to him in the 2 episode OVA. There wasn’t really a way to do the character justice without spending a lot more time on him, and it probably would have been best if they had not included him at all. However, the storyline also has moments of incredible power. In particular, I found the ending to be absolutely amazingly carried out, and the flashback scenes were poignant and served to cast the old scenes in an entirely new light.AnimationSeisouhen’s is definitely below the incredible animation seen in Tsuiokuhen, but I was nonetheless still very impressed. While not quite as fluid as its predecessor, Seisouhen sports absolutely excellent character designs as well as beautiful background scenery. The various swordfights are competently executed (although not outstanding), and the facial expressions are very nicely handled.SoundSeisouhen’s soundtrack is every bit as excellent as the first OVA’s, and voice acting is just as good, if not better. Theres a pretty wide range of emotion covered in the story, and the seiyuu do a fantastic job in every case.CharactersThe fantastic characters of the original Rurouni Kenshin are drastically reinvisioned in Seisouhen. Some might be at odds with the changes, but I thought they added further depth and insight into some already fantastic characters.OverallI’ve been delaying watching this OVA for a long, long time. When the anime was first released, the negative hype was astounding; talk of defiling “the spirit” of Kenshin was rather common, with the ending in particular being complained about. I soon became convinced that the work was a clumsy, incompetent work that simultaneously confused those who had not read the manga and outraged those who had. Seisouhen was vilified so much, in fact, that I avoided it for several years before a series of outstanding AMVs piqued my curiosity enough to watch the show. However, what I experienced is not the "disgraceful" anime that I was expecting; on the contrary, Seisouhen is a remarkably powerful work. Whether or not this is something worth seeing seems to depend largely on the individual; some like Seisouhen, and others hate it. However, I for one was captivated by the incredible depth added to Kenshin and Kaoru, as well as the very nice animation and the excellent soundtrack. Although the storyline is definitely lacking, the other elements of the anime more than make up for its shortcomings, and in the end I was thoroughly impressed. Granted, the anime doesn’t come close to matching the excellence in Tsuiokuhen, but few animes do.

casandra29
8

I wanted to give the story a higher score, unfortunately I gave it the highest score I could give. The story of Kenshin is excellent and the ending part of this OVA series was exceptional and extremely emotional. However, the beginning seems to jump around excessively. I understand the point of the flashbacks is most likely to illustrate how Kaoru is thinking back about the past as she waits for Kenshin. However, if you decide to watch this OVA series you should definately have seen the anime or read up to the part with Enishi before watching this because the flashbacks would only confuse you if you do not already know the story.  The animation was above average but I could definately tell that this was made before Kenshin's New Kyoto Arc. However, I was suprised to find out it was made after the OVAs about Kenshin and his Previous Wife. I really felt that the OVA's with Kenshin and Tomoi were made extremly beautifully both when it came to the intense action scenes and when it came to the extremely emotional scenes. The animation just felt more powerful than it did this time. However, maybe that was the intention given the circumstances of the characters. After all, they were no longer young and healthy. Maybe the duller animation was symbolic... or maybe I'm just reading too much into it.  The sound was also extremely good. I don't have much to say about it though. The Voice actors all did a excellent Job. I watched the engish Dubbed version and was more than satisfied with everything on this aspect. The Characters I gave a high score to. I felt compelled to give them a 10, but I unfortunately couldn't. This is because they really don't give enough information about the characters and what they were doing between the time skip between Enishi and present day. They share a bit of information and flash back to things we already know about. However, other than Kaoru, Kenshin, and a bit about their child and Enishi, they really let the other characters go. They give little tid bits of info and let you imagine the rest. I know it is only 2 short OVA's but I really felt they could have done more with the character development. That is why this catagory recieved a 8.5. Honestly, it probably should be lower. However, Kenshin and Kaoru's preformance in the movie make up for what the other characters lack quite a bit and made me feel pretty confident in giving the characters this overall score. I especially like how mature Kaoru is in this series over how she is in the original anime. Overall, I'd definately suggest watching this OVA series if you are a Ruroni Kenshin Fan, even Casually. If you aren't then I think you could still enjoy it if you get some backstory first about the characters and what had happened. 

mdchan
1

This OVA should never have been made public...or made at all.  Fun fact, Watsuki-sensei had no part in creating it, and was greatly disappointed in it when he saw it.  He had promised the fans a "happy ending" to the Rurouni Kenshin saga, and we got that in the last volume of the manga.  After that, it was done...and then THIS abomination comes out. The only GOOD this OVA did was to animate some of the battle with Enishi; I say SOME, because there are a couple parts in it that didn't happen in the manga, and quite a lot left out of the final battle (not to mention parts leading up to it!).  Oh, right...the OVA was also good to make AMVs out of with the battle scene footage.  That's about the only thing it had going for it, and why I gave it a full one point out of ten.  So, the animation was great, and the sound was good as well. Let's break this horrid waste of time down: Story Mmhm...the first and major problem: Totally breaks canon. Let's see...at the end of the manga, Kenshin had cut his hair short and given up the sakabatou to Yahiko; a samurai cutting his hair signifies that he is no longer a samurai and no longer fights.  Kenshin also typically only helped the government out during his rurouni days if absolutely necessary (like with Shishio, as he was not only threatened into it via Megumi, but felt he was personally responsible for Shishio as a manslayer).  His alliance with the police and Saito in the Junchuu arc was because he was personally involved, and everyone's goal brought them to the same place. That makes the story moot; there's no way that he would start to wander again or join up with the military once more to fight.  There IS no story, here.  None of it would ever happen in canon.  I've read fanfiction that makes more sense than this did.  This is quite literally an AU story (Alternate Universe), as it makes no sense when put in the canon Kenshin-verse that Watsuki-sensei created. Characters Oh, man, where do I start? This, and pardon my language, bastardizes and destroys all the characters we followed and loved (or hated) through 62 (or 95, if you were into filler-season-3) episodes and 28 manga volumes.  The only one who acts semi-normally is Yahiko. Kenshin becomes a wanderer again because he's feeling guilty of his happiness...NOT CANON.  He reached his conclusion to his guilt in the Junchuu arc of the manga.  Because Kenji is in this OVA and makes mention of the Junchuu arc, it obviously "follows" the manga, so there should be no reason for this.  From what I recall, his hair was long again as well.  Either way, this is NOT the same Kenshin who we saw in the anime and manga. Kaoru...well, from what I recall (as I only watched this waste of time once), behaves much like she did when Kenshin first left for Kyoto, only a little more functional.  She loses track of her own son, lets Kenshin go off wandering again in the first place without much of a fight, and pretty much just sat around waiting for Kenshin to return (and death).  This is NOT the same high-spirited Kaoru who we saw in the anime and manga.  This, like Kenshin, is a completely different person. Kenji becomes a bitter teen who hates his father and wants to learn the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu from Hiko (despite readers being told in the manga that he was able to piece it all together and use it by hearing about it).  Yes, we see in the manga that he often pulled Kenshin's hair, but that's just a toddler being a toddler; most little kids actually prefer one parent over the other.  That, and the ending notes described Kenji as "an idiot" as a kid, and "arrogant and self-centered" when he's older and competing with Yahiko's son for the sakabatou.  I didn't see ANY of that personality in this Kenji. Yahiko did act like the typical Yahiko who grew up a lot since the Junchuu arc, but with the way this OVA's Kenji was acting, I really didn't get why he handed over the sakabatou to him.  This OVA's Kenji can't handle the metaphorical weight of that sword. Everyone felt flat and were just destroyed; I couldn't get emotionally worked up at all in the anime, because all of the emotions were just sort of...well, not portrayed in ways that got me worked up.  Trust&Betrayal also put drama over comedy parts (that did actually pop up in the manga), and long periods of silence. Overall Don't watch it.  Don't waste your time with it.  Don't even bother. Yes, the fight scene recaps were nice, and even a glimpse at seeing parts of the fight between Enishi and Kenshin was super awesome at first glance...but looking back, it didn't do the manga justice in what parts of Junchuu it covered.  If the entire OVA had been dedicated to the Junchuu arc instead, that would have been another story. Again, I feel that this is worse than a fanfiction; it doesn't fit into canon, completely destroys the characters, and then ends it all in the worst way possible (unless, of course, you like those sort of endings; I, for one, hate them...especially since they WERE happy at the end of the manga, and it was hinted that it was supposed to stay that way).  It's like Shakespeare's tragedies meets Rurouni Kenshin in one awful, yet still animated, storytelling. When the creator of the series gives it a huge thumbs-down of disapproval, it's perfectly fine to keep clear of this and dislike it as well.  This is NOT Rurouni Kenshin; it's some horrible animated fanfiction (a poorly written fanfiction) of it...that's the best way to describe it. If you want to see the life of Kenshin and Kaoru (and Kenji) after the manga, read the official specials (as short as they are)...and I'd even recommend fanfiction over this abomination (story-wise), as there are some good ones out there (ones that are much better and much more in canon than this OVA). Personally, I deny the existance of this OVA.  Rurouni Kenshin ended at the end of Yahiko's special and the Cherry Blossoms special following the final chapter of the manga. Now, just as a reminder, though I compare it to a poorly written AU, it is NOT an AU.  The OVA was meant to be an animated "ending" to the series, and as such, I rated it based on the fact that it is still officially "Rurouni Kenshin" in name (even though the mangaka didn't have anything to do with it).

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