Rurouni Kenshin OVAs
Buzz is a big thing in anime. If a show has good buzz, it can go far, even if the series isn't all that great. Many shows have style in truckloads that impresses the masses, but they wind up being short on substance in the long run. When I saw the opening episodes of the Rurouni Kenshin television series, I really wondered what the hubbub was. There's no doubt that the show is entertaining, but it didn't strike me as anything classic. However, once I saw these OVAs, my eyes were opened--indeed, the OVA series that gives the back-story of Battousai the Manslayer is every bit as interesting, intelligent, and action-packed as everything I'd heard.
The OVA series (which is being marketed in the US as Samurai X) goes into detail about Kenshin's past life, many years before he became the firmly heroic but gentle character of the television series. Left as an orphan to die, he nevertheless survives and becomes the perfect assassin; cold, calculating, methodical, Kenshin is a killing machine that leaves no adversary standing. However, he is caught in the middle of political nightmare that forces him to flee with the mysterious Tomoe, the woman who could be his salvation...or his downfall. As Kenshin reflects on the carnage he has inflicted, he starts to question who he is and why he fights. But once one is a part of the circle of violence, it's hard to get back out.
As a caveat, you really should see at least the beginning of the Rurouni Kenshin television series to get a background on the characters involved--the story is much more moving if you do. Beyond that, though, I strongly recommend the four episode series. It's violent and action-packed, but not overdone, with a strong romantic side and a taste for moral conflict. The humor that makes the TV show uneven is gone from here, and it is most certainly an improvement. The animation is clean and fluid, the story tight, and the pacing excellent. It's also only two DVDs, which means that the plotline is easy to get into without much of an investment. The only bad thing about the show is the completely asinine renaming of the show for American audiences--whoever came up with Samurai X should wind up on the receiving end of the Battousai's blade.
What's really impressive about the OVA series is that it has reawakened my interest in the television show. I'm now finally interested in seeing where the writers are going to take Kenshin and his companions. If you like action-oriented shows or martial arts, you will truly enjoy the OVA series; even if it's not your style, it's worth giving a chance. I was really taken aback by the quality of this show, and have to admit that it's the best two hours I've spent on anime in a while.
Rurouni Kenshin OVAs -- violence (some graphic), profanity, adult themes -- A