Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen
As I have made abundantly clear on this blog, I love Rurouni Kenshin. For that reason, it’s no surprise that I was excited to hear that a new Rurouni Kenshin OVA was in development to celebrate the franchise’s 15th anniversary. Like many others, I was expecting it to be a proper animated adaptation of the Jinchu Arc. Unfortunately, as of now, the only way to see Jinchu in animated form is still the Seisou-hen OVA.
Shin Kyoto-Hen, as the title implies, is a retelling of the Kyoto arc from the series. I was already anticipating bad things when I heard of the idea of taking the most dramatic 30 episodes of the series and have them retold from Misao’s point of view in a two 45-minute part OVA.
By retelling, I mean many key plot points were drastically altered, none of them for the better. We have this completely half-assed story about the “warrior’s spirit” that honestly reminded me of an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! as dubbed by 4Kids. None of the Juppongatana got the more than loving development they had in the series, and it felt like some characters (Usui comes to mind) had their personalities rewritten. Add in some very ill-placed comic relief and a soft-core Shishio/Yumi sex scene (I’m sorry, NOBODY wants to see that), and you have a story that really begs the question if the writers ran their script by mangaka Watsuki Nobuhiro at all to check if it even remotely stayed in the spirit of Rurouni Kenshin.
Even the fight scenes lacked any sort of punch to them, be it emotional or visual. The Shihsio/Saitou fight scene in the second part looked kind of cool, but I found myself just not caring who won. Granted, the story was changed drastically enough that I couldn’t just fall back on what I have seen in the series. The fight between Kenshin and Chou felt extraneous at best; since that scene was narrated by Misao, we never really know what was going on in Kenshin’s head, which was what made that fight so fascinating in the series.
Shin Kyoto-Hen came out in 2012 whereas Tsuioku-hen was a 1999 OVA. Despite Shin Kyoto-Hen being 13 years newer, the animation looked significantly worse than that in Tsuioku-hen. The character designs looked really bland, more reminiscent of You’re Under Arrest! Full Throttle (which had amazingly sub-par animation for even a TV series) than anything that ever bore the Rurouni Kenshin moniker. Many of the fights felt like cheap cop-outs where flashing lights were used to simulate action. The Sanosuke/Anji fight involved punching really hard. However, thanks to unimpressive sound effects, none of the punches felt like they had any real impact.
Barring Suzuoki Hirotaka, who unfortunately died of cancer and thus was unable to reprise his role of Saitou Hajime, the voice cast from the series returned. Suzukaze Mayo did a decent enough job voicing Kenshin as did Ikeda Masanori as Shishio, but Fujitani Miki really faltered in her role as Kaoru. I really felt like Fujitani-san was actually really bored reading the script she was given, as if she still hadn’t gotten over what she dealt with in Seisou-hen. For that reason, Kaoru’s dialogued sounded completely flat and uninspired.
Flat and uninspired would be an accurate description of Shin Kyoto-Hen as a whole. I was legitimately bored throughout all 90 minutes of the OVA. Considering it was supposed to be the big title for the 15th anniversary of Rurouni Kenshin, Shin Kyoto-Hen can easily be the disappointment of the century as I detected nothing but a complete lack of effort on the part of the team responsible for it. For that reason, I urge fans to stick with the series and the Tsuioku-hen OVA (or even the lackluster movie for that matter) and to not bother with Shin Kyoto-Hen as it proved to be the most unnecessary remake in our time.