Since the original Rurouni Kenshin series is responsible for my ten-year long manga and anime addiction, I was absolutely thrilled to hear that this classic series is being revisited.
Almost thirteen years after its final chapter was published in Weekly Shounen Jump, Rurouni Kenshin is back in business with the debut of Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban, an alternate version of the original manga scheduled to sync up with the live-action Rurouni Kenshin film slated to premier next month in theaters across Japan.
Kanryuu Takeda, a corrupt business man, wants the land on which the Kamiya Dojo stands. Kaoru Kamiya, the daughter of the founder of the Kamiya Dojo, is fighting in matches to force Kanryuu to leave the land alone. She has won 99 matches and only needs one more to win back her land.
Yahiko Myojin, who works for Kanryuu, pulls Kenshin off of the street and recruits him to pose as the legendary assassin Hitokiri Battousai. Initially, Kenshin refuses to fight, but when the lives of innocent people are put in danger, he leaps into action. Kanryuu and his minions are defeated and he is thrown in prison. Kanryuu Takeda then reacts in classic villain fashion and hires a variety of characters to attack the Kamiya Dojo.
Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban does an excellent job distinguishing itself as a new series without alienating nostalgic fans of the original Rurouni Kenshin manga.
It is clear that the mangaka had this in mind as he was writing the series. For example, the characters meet in a totally different situation than they do in the first series, but it references the first manga by retaining the idea of Kenshin being mistaken as the fake Hitokiri Battousai when in actuality he is the infamous Hitokiri Battousai from the revolution.
New fans will not be confused if they have not read the first series, but old fans will not be bored by a regurgitated plot that too closely mimics that of the first series.
My only criticism is the speed at which the plot progresses. At times, the story feels rushed, and a few too many characters are introduced within these first two chapters.
The artwork in Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban benefits greatly from being a retelling of an already completed manga. Much of the time, the art style of the mangaka is not consistent throughout a series because the mangaka is still in the process of cementing character designs.
Because those character designs were already molded into perfection in the previous series, the artwork is much cleaner. Nobuhiro Watsuki has a beautiful style as an artist, and this manga’s artwork does not fall short of his usual high standards.
Just as the plot of Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban differs from that of its predecessor, so too do the stories of its characters. While this new series uses the same protagonists as the original, Watsuki has managed to keep the characters new and interesting.
Even the villain Kanryuu Takeda is playing a totally different and far bigger role than in the first series. As a villain, his motives are very believable as well, which in and of itself is a feat to be admired. It is not uncommon for the antagonist of an anime or manga series to be driven by motives that are completely farfetched.
This is especially important in a series like Rurouni Kenshin or Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban, which uses actual historical context as its setting. Exaggerated motives seem even more ridiculous when used in a setting that closely reflects Japanese history.
Overall, Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban shows a lot of potential as a new series.
The artwork alone should satisfy any seasoned Rurouni Kenshin fan, and it has been truly interesting to see the way Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban is incorporating ideas from the first manga series and transforming them to work in a plotline different from that of its predecessor.
Because its plotline is so different from that of the first manga series, I am left wondering how this new serialization will handle certain historical aspects that were mixed into the first manga. Watsuki did a marvelous job of marrying fact and fiction in the original series, and I can only hope he will do the same with Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban.
I would encourage any fan of the original series to pick up Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban and give it a chance. While it definitely has its flaws, Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban has not yet really had the chance to prove itself.
I am hoping that as more chapters come out this series will become just as much of a masterpiece as its predecessor.
Most fans of the original series will also enjoy comparing these two serializations and observing how Watsuki is weaving the tale this time around.
In short, give this new serialization a chance, but don’t be disappointed if it can’t live up to your expectations if you are an avid fan of the original Rurouni Kenshin manga. I would advise you to approach this new serialization with an open mind and to avoid using the first series as a means of determining Rurouni Kenshin- Kinema-ban’s worth. Otherwise you risk unfairly judging a promising new series that deserves a read.