Saturday, November 30, 2013

FROM THE ASHES: Segment # 12

Legend of the Wandering Samurai

   This week's featured OVA has a special place in my heart. Back in 1999 when this first came out, it was one of the early strong examples representing the elegance and grace that anime was capable of exemplifying. This short series is certainly nothing to be glazed over. A masterpiece of all around film; it continues to be considered a must see on everyone's list. This OVA ( original video animation) when initially released, was divided into four episodes but later released as two separate two hour long feature films: Trust And Betrayal, and Reflections. The first film chronologically serves as a prequel to the beloved anime series Rurouni Kenshin (1996-1998). The second films serves as a conclusion to the anime series. However the mangas author, Nobuhiro Watsuki, does not consider the second film as official canon, so it should be considered an alternate ending. The anime series is based on the manga, both written and illustrated by Nobuhiro Watsuki (1970-). Trust And Betrayal was directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi (1960-), who also directed the Rurouni Kenshin anime series, as well as: Ranma 1/2, Hunter X Hunter, Getbackers, Le Chevalier D'eon, Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, and numerous other series. The series was produced at Studio Deen, a derivative of Sunrise Studios. Studio Deen has been part of so many anime production processes, it would be silly to list them all, but some I consider noteworthy are: Angels Egg, Patlabor, Knight Hunters, Fruits Basket, Read Or Die, Samurai Deeper Kyo, Kyo Kara Maoh!, Fate/stay Night, Ranma 1/2, and of course the tv/ova for Rurouni Kenshin. Impressive right? Another impressive addition to this ova's roster is its beautiful score, composed by Taku Iwasaki (1968-). Known for his often jazz themed scores, the "historical drama" setting seems a bit off, but he truly does deliver. Other works of his include: Now And Then Here And There, Read Or Die, The Soul Taker, Sadamitsu The Destroyer, Getbackers, Witch Hunter Robin, Gurren Lagann, Black Cat, Soul Eater, Jo Jo's Bizarre Adventure, Origin: Spirits Of The Past, and many more. That sums up the credits; now for the more difficult part: analyzing the film itself.

   Oh my word...shiny! Hear me out. I know this story holds a plethora of philosophical and psychological goodies, but I absolutely must acknowledge the stunning beauty of this ova. This is from 1999. Now I know there are many lovely films that date back even further, but still, this is quite an impressive feat. The level of intricacy and attention to the tiniest detail here is astounding. From every strand of hair to the subtle folds in every piece of clothing; the characters look beautiful. This ova has a much more crisp and realistic style than the anime series, thus alluding the concept of a darker, more realistic take on that part of Kenshins journey. Not only the people, but the landscape, settings, and everyday items are rendered in exquisite quality. In a dinner scene, the texture of a cooked fish breaking into pieces as it's lifted by chopsticks, is so expertly animated, that one occasionally forgets they are watching anime. There are many such moments throughout. The fluid motions of characters far more often than not, are flawless. Each movement in a battle sequences is quick, sharp, and graceful: worthy attributes of the samurai fighting technique. Speaking of fluids, however, oh how the blood spills. This is still anime, so you do get your crazy blood spraying every which way, but it's not actually over done, which I believe makes each incursion more impactful. There is much more that can be said for the visuals, but the story, themes, and ideologies brought forth here even more impressive and complex. Aside from the overhead themes of trust and betrayal, some additional themes and concepts expressed here are: loss of innocence, pride, consequence of violence, manipulation, duality, greed retaining ones humanity, corruption of ideals, vengeance, inner peace, love honor, mans ignorance, the vicious cycles in war, redemption, and countless others. Truly, this story has so much to offer, so much to inspire; it's far more than a blood fest. I dare not delve further with details, for if there was any film I would hope would be sought out, this would be one such film. It's quite an experience. From its evocative and stunning visuals to its sorrowful and beautiful score, animation and design, philosophical and ideological notions, the intricacies of this story make it an all-around masterwork. For audio preference, my own is the English cast. The subdued performance of J. Shannon Weaver as Kenshin Himura is especially noteworthy, in my own opinion. He adds a successful notch in the legacy of the character of Kenshin. Considered one of not only the greatest samurais in anime, but also one of the most epic characters in anime; Kenshin is truly a fine example of badassery. Honestly, I could write far more about Kenshins character, but I prefer you see it for yourself. Not a story to miss! Enjoy!

From The Ashes, V.~

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