The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Rurouni Kenshin: Seisōhen

Title: Rurouni Kenshin: Seisōhen aka Samurai X: Reflection
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio Deen/Fuji TV/SME Visual Works
Format: 2 OVA
Dates: 3 Dec 2001

Synopsis: After undergoing numerous trials and tribulations, Kenshin has finally managed to find a way to repent for his sins by trying to save anyone in need of help. This revelation does not bring happiness to the haunted swordsman as it tears him away from his friends and family and out to wartorn China. With Kenshin gone, Kaoru can do nothing but wait day after day at the harbor hoping for Kenshin’s return.

The Highlights
Art and Animation: Beautifully portrayed with a refined touch and “realistic” character designs.
Music: Haunting and emotive.
Atmosphere: Heavy and melancholic.
Ending: Powerful and bittersweet.

Perhaps the most effective standard to measure how much you’ll enjoy this product is to ask yourself what you like and what you hate about anime. If you are adverse to feeling melancholic and borderline depressed, then avoid this OVA. Rurouni Kenshin: Seisōhen is nothing like the quirky Rurouni Kenshin television series or manga, and it is also a far cry from its aesthetical sibling Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen (1,2). Don’t walk in expecting a comedic action anime or a self-contained drama. What Rurouni Kenshin: Seisōhen boils down to is a somber tale about bearing the weight of mass murder without the shounen action gimmicks and the false smiles.

Rurouni Kenshin: Seisōhen can be dissected into two distinct parts. The first is a reflection of the past told from Kaoru’s perspective that serves as a recap of critical events within the manga. These various snippets of events flow into the larger story that essentially captures who Kenshin is and has become. The second is the continuation of life after “happily ever after” where Kenshin continues his efforts to heal his tormented soul. While this OVA is a huge deviation from the source material, it is not self-contained at all. This anime requires the viewer to have actually read all 28 volumes of the Rurouni Kenshin manga, which is ironic since most people who would read through all of it would probably not appreciate the dark story this anime tells.

The OVA has a handful of some beautifully choreographed fight scenes, but action is a very small factor in the anime. Most of the time is spent in oppressive melancholy with only a few fragile rays of happiness shining through. The soft, haunting music accompanied by the lush animation help create this drab atmosphere. Sadly, Seisōhen‘s greatest weakness is that the entire thing essentially outlines the end of a journey. This OVA doesn’t really have a “story”; it has something that feels more like an epitaph for the living. The plot is told as a collage of seemingly incohesive events that slowly come together to paint a incomplete yet vivid picture of how Kenshin views the world. Whereas Tsuiokuhen is about a child who becomes an adult by discovering the weight of love, Seisōhen is about an adult taking responsibility for his past actions through his blood, body and sanity.

Seisōhen is undeniably a divisive anime simply because it is the antithesis of the entire Rurouni Kenshin franchise. The original manga is about both the triumphs and failures, the laughs and tears, the juxtaposition of positives and negatives; however, Seisōhen is almost solely about the negatives. I know that few people enjoy wallowing in the suffering of others, but personally, I find something powerful about shedding tears over characters I have grown to know and love.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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