Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rurouni Kenshin: Shin Kyoto-Hen OVA Review

Year: 2011
# of Episodes: 2
Studio: Deen
Synopsis: [Anime News Network]
"Told from the perspective of Misao Makimachi, this alternate retelling of the Kyoto arc chronicles the adventures of wandering swordsman Kenshin Himura and his quest in putting a stop to the evil Makoto Shishio and his plot to take over Japan."

Rurouni Kenshin is a show I watched back in the days when I had the patience and mentality to sit through longer series, and while not my first anime, it became one of my favorites of all time. If I was to analyze my feelings, it's no doubt that part of the sentiment has do with a sense of nostalgia from the time of being an inexperienced but feverish anime fan who reveled in the discovery of a new and exciting world. But more than that, RK is also an incredibly captivating story with a diverse cast of characters. So logically, I should have been excited when a new OVA that remakes the Kyoto arc was announced, but instead, I felt rather bummed out. Now, the animation quality of the original RK is definitely not up to today's standard and the series was flawed in its omission of the final arc from the manga, which was crucial in bringing everything full circle. I would have been happy if Studio Deen rebooted the entire series following the manga like what Bones did with FMA, but the idea of remaking a single arc – even if it is the climax – reeked with the desperation for financial gains. It's never good when a company suddenly revisits an once popular franchise without a good reason. 

Well, it's Rurouni Kenshin and I felt obligated to give it a try regardless of the actual intention behind the project. After all that mental struggle, I only had my suspicions confirmed with more disappointment than I expected. What the OVA did was summarizing an entire arc in two 40-minutes episodes, stripped of all emotions and plot nuances that made the original so great – I really cannot think of anything so pointless and blatantly shameless in its attempt to earn some quick cash from hardcore fans who are willing to invest in anything RK.  "Remake" entails that it would at least make an effort to capture the essence of the original, but unfortunately the producers had a different definition in mind, the result is a sorry piece of work barely held together by a sequence of moving pictures devoid of substances. Also, I cannot see for the life of me how it's told from Misao's point of view as we don't even hear her internal dialogue. 

It's simply nonsensical to obliterate a story's structure and only presenting the climaxes without transitions to support them. But like I said, the producers intended to exploit the franchise by feeding fans something that's lackluster but nonetheless remind them of RK, so it would not be economic to make an effort. 

That capitalistic mentality is also reflected in the equally lackluster animation, and no, I'm not even referring to the new character designs, which is not all that attractive, but that's the least of concerns. The problem is the awkward camera angle and bad editing in general that made the animation appear static and choppy. In one of the scenes, the animators didn't even bother with lip flaps even when the character were clearly talking. The action sequences that were supposed to be glorious were also reduced to minimal movements. To make matters worse, the entire OVA is digitally produced, which renders the images superficial and flat. Other than the vibrant color palette, I cannot find anything else remotely commendable.

In short, I wish the OVA never happened, it only showcased how desperate business can get. If there was one thing I enjoyed, it's probably the voice acting. Studio Deen has never been my favorite production studio, but I cannot believe it has fallen to a state of producing something so utterly unsavory and ultimately reputation damaging. I'm just writhing in anger here. I wish the fans will act rationally and not waste their money on a product that doesn't deserve recognition. 

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