The last 21 years of unedited, licensed anime in the U.S. has seen every form of video repackagings but no company has showed such a solid devotion to preserving the original Japanese presentation than Aniplex. Call it a form of cost saving as well as a way to please purists; the publisher’s approach is to simply import the original Japanese videos (packaging included) already featuring an English audio track and subtitles. This tradition continues with the limited release of the Rurouni Kenshin OVAs which also happens to be simultaneously released in both countries as part of Kenshin’s 15th anniversary.
As you can see from the slideshow, the Blu-ray packaging has the earmarks of many Japanese video releases including new artwork by framed character designer Atsuko Nakajima as well as a glossy cardboard slipcase that’s lightly larger than most U.S. Blu-ray cases. It’s also a rare treat to have a stylized English translation to the Japanese booklet.
In terms of the video quality, it is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio so rest assured that there is no forced image stretching. The Blu-ray menu is impressively stylized even though the only bonus feature is a brief ad for Trust & Betrayal. As with most anime on Blu-ray, there’s often that unbelievable crispness in the visuals, where a paused screen looks like an anime production cel you see at conventions. There is a tiny handful of scenes that appear slightly muddy when played through the 1080 resolution, but those parts can’t be helped due to the cel photography techniques of the time.
As canonical spin-offs go, the 4-episode Rurouni Kenshin OVA run was one of the bolder shifts in tone in anime history for any franchise. In contrast to the light-hearted humor that was prevalent in the TV series, Rurouni Kenshin: Trust & Betrayal is an entirely serious, bloody and often dark story. It’s also such a fleshed out narrative that Trust & Betrayal can really stand on its own. For those who haven’t watch it, it’s one of those classic revenge tales that is rife with complexities, especially when the title character encounters and subsequently falls for the fiancé of one of countless men he’s killed. As an origin story to the TV series, Trust & Betrayal also explains the deep meaning behind Kenshin’s cross-shaped scar (also one of the reasons why the original U.S. localizer, ADV Films gave the DVD release the dubiously unimaginative title of Samurai X). A couple plot developments are a little predictable but that doesn’t take away from the overall impact. In fact, after you do watch all four episodes, you’ll be hard pressed to disagree that this is one of the greatest tragedies ever told in anime.
(This review was based off a complete viewing of all 4 episodes. The Blu-ray was provided by Aniplex USA for review purposes.)
Studio: Studio Deen
Publisher: Aniplex USA
Released: August 24, 2011