"Samurai X: Reflection Director’s Cut" Back To The Cutting Room… Please!
A wandering samurai, Kenshin Himura, uses his reverse blade sword to defend those wronged, atoning for the sins he committed as “Battousai the Manslayer.” With a wife and child, the desire to make things right is too strong; Kenshin leaves home to ensure a better future for others. As Kenshin and Kaoru’s health begins to fail, will they be able to reunite in their final days?
Sounds familiar? You probably know the story better as Rurouni Kenshin, Toonami’s sixth anniversary present, which premiered on March 17, 2002. A show that the creators of Toonami profess to loving (and wanting for a very long time), it’s still airing on the Saturday block to this day. For the OVAs, ADV had to use the Samurai X title because of some legality issue, but it doesn’t really matter: it’s the same show.
Well, no. Same plot, same characters, but in a new story that completely sucks away any possible fun you had with the TV series.
Set past the two-thirds mark in the TV series (conveniently where Toonami ended its run), Kenshin Himura has decided to settle down with Kaoru. They get married, have a child, and grow old. Similarly for the rest of the cast does: Sanosuke has bailed on town again, Yahiko has taken over the Akabeko tavern, and all character designs have been aged up. Kenji, the son of Kenshin and Karou, is thrown into the mix as well.
Kenshin has once again left home to go kick some butt in the name of justice, but his plans are thwarted when he falls victim to a mysterious ailment. Soon after, Karou succumbs to the same problem (apparently, checking for GIANT purple rashes is not something they did back in 1800’s Japan before marriage). Kenji runs away from home (he sure does take after his father), forcing Yahiko to show him what it means to be a true samurai. Sanosuke is set with the task of retrieving Kenshin.
The show goes from highlighting some of Kenshin and Karou’s reflections (hey, there’s the title) on the past to focusing on one singular goal: Kenshin getting home to his wife. When you fall off a boat and get stuck at a cabin by a debilitating disease (the movie never names it, but the commentary gives a logical guess), you can feel them trying to pull at the heart strings (they’re connected to the cockles and the subcockle area of the heart). I’ll admit, the ending scenes get a little moving, but the editing is very confusing. When this is coming from someone who has Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction on his DVD case, then you know it’s just confusingly edited, not creatively.
The story is very, very back and forth, and very, very fun-sucking. Yes, the show attempted to use flashbacks at random parts, and yes, this OVA manages to completely suck all the entertainment that I once had during the series. The commentary even mentions that you have to look for stuff pointing out what is a flashback, like the color of Kenshin’s clothes. Kenshin no longer has his “Oro”/”That it is” speech quirk, characters very rarely do an exaggerated facial take (I only caught one), and there’s none of the more humorous interactions retained. They did their job of turning this into a drama, but I just don’t like dramas.
They decided to give this Director’s Cut extras that might be found on your standard near-bare-bones DVD release of an American movie. Commentary by the English voice actors and actresses, a character sketch gallery, and trailers. What is notable, but ridiculously boring, are the ten mini-interviews with the Japanese cast. They’re your standard Japanese VA interviews (“I hope you enjoy it much!,” “I was proud to be a part of this series to the end,” etc.), and outside of one voice actor threatening you to buy a DVD player (ignoring the fact that this is on a DVD, and thereby you HAVE a DVD player), unless you’re incredibly enamored with the Japanese cast, this will be almost painful to sit through. And yes, I did give some of the sub a listen to… but I’m a dubbie at heart through and through.
That’s all I really have to say at the end of this. The movie’s total run time meant total bum time, and the extraneous extras were just exasperating. While it’s worth seeing just to see the end of the legend of the Hitokiri Battousai, give it a rent or borrow it from a friend, watch it dubbed, and don’t bother with the extras.