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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer - Feature + Trust/Betrayal

Samurai X - The Motion Picture

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
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Recently I had the good fortune to review the first DVD release of the popular anime series Rurouni Kenshin. Based on the manga by Watsuki Nobuhiro, Rurouni Kenshin is a television series based loosely on historical events and characters that appeared around the start of the new Meiji period. For those not familiar with Japanese history, in 1868 the Meiji Restoration marked the end of the rule of the Shogun and the Samurai, and the re-establishment of the Emperor. During the fierce battles (the Bakumatsu) that brought about the overthrow of the ruling Tokugawa clan, the greatest and most ferocious swordsman in Kyoto, Himura Kenshin, slaughtered thousands of people; earning himself the nickname Hitokiri Battousai (loosely translated Hitokiri means 'assassin' and Battousai means 'master of drawing one’s sword'). At the end of the final battle, Kenshin was never to be seen again, and the name of Hitokiri Battousai became one of legend.

Fast-forward eleven years and Kenshin lives a quiet, anonymous life in Tokyo with a small group of friends running a small kendo dojo. Haunted by the guilt of his previous life, he has taken an oath against killing, carrying only a sakaba sword – one that has its blade reversed. This means that the leading edge of the sword has no blade at all - it’s dull - and while he can use it to protect the ones he loves, he does so without killing anyone. Reportedly set at a time after the end of the series, Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Restoration Patriots (renamed Samurai X: the Motion Picture by ADV) sees Kenshin faced (yet-again) with the demons of his violent past.

On a day trip to Yokohama, Kenshin and his friends Kaoru, Yahiko and Sanosuke meet a young and talented ex-samurai named Takimi. Immediately Kenshin and Takimi forge a keen, mutual respect, but they both sense something familiar in the other. As the British embassy in Yokohama is rocked by explosions, we learn that a separatist organisation, unhappy with the endemic corruption that already infects the new Meiji government, is slowly gathering together those that were dispossessed by the Bakumatsu and plans to topple the new regime. The leader of this group is none other than Takimi himself, who has sworn to avenge the death of his former comrade and friend Gentatsu; killed at the hands of none other than the infamous Hitokiri Battousai!

As the flames of revolution are kindled once more, it falls to Kenshin to take up his sakaba sword to protect those he loves. Can he rescue his new friend Takimi from himself whilst saving the Meiji government that so many, on both sides of the Bakumatsu, died to establish? Or will he fall victim to the bloody past for which he continually atones...

Produced by Fuji TV, the company behind the original Rurouni Kenshin series, this feature-length release represents a serious companion piece to the original episodes and will certainly appeal to fans. With a dark, thoughtful plot that explores themes of honour, guilt and responsibility – that all combatants in a conflict are responsible for its outcomes - the results are 90 minutes of utterly engrossing drama. With the serious treatment of Kenshin’s internal dischord and violent past, and containing subplots concerning the sacrifice of one’s life for false ideals, the level of violence that was intentionally missing from original episodes is heightened here, and there are scenes in which the blood flows freely. As you might imagine, this is not the place for the super-deformed slapstick humour that exemplifies the series; appearing only in the first act as a bridge to its predecessor.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s more to anime than mechas, tentacled demons and gun toting big-breasted babes, then you might like to check out Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Restoration Patriots. With its historical setting and beautifully constructed dramatic tragedy, it represents a perfect example of how good anime can be.

  Video
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In terms of the quality of its animation, Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Restoration Patriots is just a touch better than the television series, remaining a little below the normal standard for anime feature films. Although produced by the same group of animators, the motion picture exceeds the series primarily because of a bigger budget - the extra money spent to reduce the instances of panning stills and other cost-cutting techniques that appear in the television episodes. In addition, some rich detail has been added to some scenes, such as falling bamboo leaves in the initial fight, and these serve to increase the production’s overall feeling of quality. The action sequences remain superbly executed and, apart from one or two early instances, the character animation lacks the aforementioned super-deformation that was an integral part of the series. The result is a serious animated feature that looks wonderful. It certainly won’t disappoint you anime fans.

In terms of its digital presentation, Madman again live up to their reputation for great anime transfers, presenting a widescreen (non-anamorphic) image looking absolutely stunning. The full and vibrant palette is rendered without bleeding or any hint of pixelation, posterization, or any other MPEG artefact. Blacks are solid and deep, whites are bright and clean and the image is wonderfully sharp without adding any aliasing. There are one or two specks of film dirt in evidence, but you’ll never notice them. Overall this transfer represents some of Madman’s best work.

  Audio
Contract

Thankfully, like many other anime releases that have been mastered for DVD in the last few years, Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Restoration Patriots ships with the all-important original Japanese soundtrack accompanying the obligatory English dub. And although the English dub is still the default audio track, the disc allows you to select Japanese dialogue with English subtitles in one easy hit.

Both the English and Japanese soundtracks are Dolby Digital surround mixes and are of distinctly better quality than those displayed by the television series. Whilst each mix is predominantly front heavy – this is primarily a dialogue-centric character drama after all – the surround channel is utilised to carry a portion of the score and a degree of other sound. In addition to conveying ambience such as crowds, the surround channels also carry a collection of foley effects such as the ringing of swords, and others such as explosions and gunshots. At these times the soundstage is nice and full. Similarly, the subwoofer is often called upon, with some pounding explosions to keep it occupied, as well as adding considerable body to the dramatic score. Thankfully, dialogue is handled well throughout, emanating clearly and distinctly from the centre channel.

The English language aspects of the disc are exemplary, and like ADVs translation for the series, the English dub does not deviate far from the original plot and Japanese dialogue. The English voice cast is the same as that used for the series, and in general they do a reasonable job. Most importantly, the English subtitles provided by Madman are very easy to read, being yellow with a black border.

  Extras
Contract

With subtly-animated, non-anamorphic menus, Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Restoration Patriots provides only two trailers to satisfy eager fans. The first is a non-anamorphic widescreen trailer of the feature, complete with an English voiceover. The second is a full frame trailer for the Samurai X OAVs Trust and Betrayal.

  Overall  
Contract

If you are a fan of Rurouni Kenshin, then no doubt you will love this spin off feature film Rurouni Kenshin: Requiem for Restoration Patriots. Despite a dearth of extras, Madman’s treatment of the material is excellent, and with its well-constructed tragedy and engrossing drama, this is one for you anime lovers who are looking for that little extra depth.


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      And I quote...
    "An engrossing and tragic drama that will especially appeal to fans of Rurouni Kenshin and anyone else looking for a little depth to their anime..."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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