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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/13/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Rurouni Kenshin, Vol 17 and 18"

Rurouni Kenshin, Volumes 17 and 18
Story and Art by Nobuhiro Watsuki

English Language version produced by VIZ Media

Review by Kelly S. Taylor

Sometimes it's entertaining to enter a storyline in the middle of the action instead of at the beginning. This was my experience with Rurouni Kenshin. I had heard of this classic manga series and its anime adaptation before, but had never read or seen any of it. These two volumes of the manga series plunge the reader breathlessly into the heat of the action. Volume 17 presents a climatic battle. Volume 18 lets the readers see the characters collecting themselves before being swept up into Meijii era intrigue once more. Important relationships are already established and are being tested. These two volumes give the reader an exciting snapshot of vigorous series in progress.

Rurouni Kenshin a historical drama, packed with fight scenes and enlivened with romantic comedy. Stylistically there's lots of parallels to Inuyasha. Of course, the two series are set in very different eras of Japan's past and Rurouni Kenshin deals less with magic and the supernatural. Other than that though, both feature a sword-wielding hero who travels with a large entourage who openly bicker and secretly lust after each other in between pitched battles with powerful foes.

As I said in the opening paragraph, Rurouni Kenshin is a classic example of the historical/action/drama genre of manga. As might be expected, this means we have a full complement of the usual suspects who tend to turn up in samurai dramas -- the strong and silent hero, the rough and ready sidekick, the annoying kid, the loyal would-be girlfriend, etc. The easy level of camaraderie and entertaining banter between the characters breathes life into these stereotypes, though.

Rurouni Kenshin's artwork is also a prime example of the level of excellence typical of manga spawned by Shonen Jump. Bold and decorative graphics use slick cinematic composition to propel the story forward. Big-eyed girls and spikey-haired boys battle squint-eyed villains with flowing black locks. Action lines streak across pages of battle scenes. Onomatopoeia burst forth from the page like bottle rockets. Melancholy leaves drift into quieter moments. Although not terribly innovative, Nobuhiro Watsuki's art for this series is masterfully workman-like and gets the story told in a charmingly aggressive fashion.

My favorite parts of this manga are the odd little messages from the author. Some of these are about the story and the characters. Some are surprisingly informal little letters that talk about his obsession with action figures and finding an apartment with a good view of the sunset.

There's also useful glossary of significant terms from the Meijii era. You'll need it. I was impressed by the attention to historical accuracy in this manga and enjoyed the political commentary that is woven into this action/adventure story. These ties to reality gave the sometimes fantastic plot depth.


Reading back over this review, I don't sound as enthusiastic about this series as I feel. I seem to have used the word "typical" in every other sentence. I think this is because I just finished reviewing Gankutsuou and Samurai Champloo -- easily too of the most daringly creative anime projects I have seen in years. Don't let my bedazzled eyes and jaded attitude put you off Kenshin, though. Although not the most bleeding edge innovator of its generation, this is a good, solid series that will charm, delight, and entertain you. I liked the middle so much, I now look forward to going back and reading the beginning.

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