Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Rurouni Kenshin Side Story: The Ex-Con Ashitaro Review

It’s time to take a look at the 2 chapter oneshot sequel to Kenshin that came out. This serves as a set up to the ongoing sequel coming out so you definitely want to check it out to stay current. It’s a pretty fun series and the two chapters really go by quickly. It starts off with two prisoners being released. One guy is named Ashitaro and he was arrested for dining and dashing. The other guy is Aran and I forgot exactly why he was arrested but they got him for years. A mysterious girl shows up when they are released and claims that Ashitaro has her treasure. They used to both work for the same villain organization but Ashitaro ran off. He claims not to know anything, but it could be the sword that he buried a while back. Aran decides to help Ashitaro out in retrieving the sword and living a normal life after prison, but are these two fighters strong enough to take on a villain organization?

Since Ashitaro is the lead here and will likely have a big role in the actual series, it is imperative that he is a likable character. I think he’s pretty good at any rate. He reminds me of Tyson’s counter protagonist in the Beyblade manga. Ashitaro is a pretty good fighter but he’s also rather basic and doesn’t really think about anything. He just likes having a good fight and can dish it out with the rest of uis. Second to none is food for him though. He’ll eat anything and isn’t picky. He’s certainly no Kenshin, but he is the real deal when it comes to using a sword. I’ll definitely be glad to see him return.

His partner Aran is a lot less impressive. For starters, Aran can’t even fight. That brings up a lot of red flags right from the start. I also can’t say I care too much about his half American heritage and hopefully it’s not a big plot line. I guess it could lead to something cool if it turns out that his American relatives want to take him back by force or he’s related to the villains but we don’t really need the human sidekick right now. He could certainly be much more annoying than he actually is though so I’ll stay content with that for now. The writing is sharp as always which really makes a difference for characters like this.

There aren’t really any other big characters at the moment. I suspect that the girl may become a big character at some point, but we’ll see. The one shot villains here are fairly generic, but serve their roles well. I have to give some props to the first villain for still being able to talk even with a sword through his head. That guy definitely has nerves of steel. The other villain with the oil weapon was pretty strong as well, at least when put up against the main characters. I’m looking forward to seeing how much fun the real big villains are.

If you were worried about not seeing Kenshin or the rest of the old cast, don’t worry about it. They show up briefly and Kenshin definitely has a great role. It’s nice to know how much time has passed since the end of the main series and it is mentioned here. It hasn’t been too long of a gap so fortunately everyone should still be able to fight at a high level. The ending shows us that the whole cast is getting ready to go to Hokkaido so that’s sure to be a pretty epic arc. I’m expecting a lot of big things there.

The art is exceptional, but that almost goes without saying. I’ve really missed the Kenshin style. The action has a lot of depth and the speed lines really make it look extra impressive. The action scenes were great and as I mentioned the writing is pretty sharp. I can easily see the sequel being a top tier threat to all of the other manga titles once it actually comes out or is scanned.

While Ashitaro’s sword is cool, I think he’s going to need another one almost immediately. In the story it is bent out of shape and badly burned so unless he makes this some really unique combo starter where the shape actually helps him, I can’t see the big villains being very threatened by the kid. I could also see him getting it repaired and if so, Kenshin’s master needs to appear. He never got much closure so this could definitely help. I wouldn’t mind if the sequel also has a brief timeskip so that we can gloss over that part and also have Aran learn some fighting off screen. Then the series will be set.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out. After all these years, we finally have Kenshin back in business. Hopefully the series really lasts for a long while and that it doesn’t jump the shark. Sequels don’t always have the best of reps, but I think this one is going to be one of the best sequels on the block. Hopefully these chapters come out with volume one once the series is licensed so fans don’t have to try and track these chapters down. How I see it, the set up/prequel to the sequel should always be included.

Overall 8/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration Review

Kenshin was an amazing series and one of the greatest titles of all time. I was pretty pleased to here that the author was doing a little remake project of it. It’s definitely a fun little series, but I wish it had been longer than two volumes. There is only so much that you can cover in such a short length. The art is crisp and the characters are still awesome so it’s still a great series, but it is over before you know it. True Kenshin fans will be pleased and should feel nostalgic upon reading it. That being said, considering that the summary for this series speaks about all of its new twists and turns….it is not all that different from the main series. Due to everything being sped up to such an extent, events do happen a little differently with the players being switched around and showing up when they should be gone, but it’s nothing all that drastic. You could still essentially call this a remake.

For those who haven’t read the original series, here’s a basic summary. Kenshin was once a warrior who fought during the great wars of old and he was the strongest in the land. He vanquished all who opposed him, but once the war was over, he decided to live a life of peace. Kenshin has sworn never to destroy another person again and now lives the life of a wandering swordsman. Unfortunately, villains continue to pop up anyway so Kenshin has to deal with them as he makes friends with Dojo owners and wandering fighters.

The Kenshin artist has had years to perfect his designs of the characters so you can probably imagine how well tuned the art is. It’s some of the best art in the biz and makes for incredible action scenes. They are a little on the short side so the original series wins in this area. It wins in all of the areas though so we may as well not even compare them. This series has no need for cheap fanservice tricks which also helps to keep the series at a high level. It feels very professional and this is certainly a high caliber action title.

As mentioned earlier, Kenshin’s a great lead. He gets the job done and his decision not to end any more lives is certainly a good one. The villains really make this a challenge for him, but Kenshin never stoops to their level. He does still have that killer instinct within him and it tends to pop up when his friends are in danger, but he has learned to control it rather well over the years. One of the main supporting characters is Kaoru. She’s a nice enough heroine even if she is always getting into danger. What she lacks in power, Kaoru makes up for in spirit. She’s certainly much better than the other supporting character who sticks around. Yahiko is a character that I didn’t really care for in the original series and that certainly didn’t change here. He’s just a little on the annoying side and his fights are always a lot weaker than the others since he is just a kid. At least he doesn’t get much of a role here though.

Sanosuke is a good rival though and a solid character. He’s easily one of the highlights here and his fights are always fun. Since Sanosuke is one of the only characters who actually uses his fists as opposed to a blade, it makes for a good contrast. It’s a shame that he lost in a fist fight to a sword user who didn’t have his sword in the main series…but that’s how it goes. I liked his opponent a lot as well so it worked out fairly well. Jin-E is the main antagonist of this series and I always enjoyed him well enough in the first series. He’s pretty neat here as well even if his paralysis attack wouldn’t be all that effective against any of the stronger fighters. He’s not all that tough despite his bravado, but he can hold his own for a little while and his plans are sound. He’s a good villain who’s always ready to get in Kenshin’s way and cause some trouble.

While Aoshi doesn’t really get to appear this time, Saito gets a good role. Both characters were great rivals for Kenshin so it was great to see him here. He’s in character as always and makes for a great opponent. Other characters also show up for quick fights/guest star roles since one of the main gangsters hires them all to finish off Kenshin. It’s a way to show off as many villains as possible and I’d say that the series pulled this off well. It was a good change since I love fights and this gave us a good reason to have a bunch of them. Not to mention the fact that every fight scene is great even if they are very short.

There’s really not a whole lot more to say about the series. It’s essentially a gauntlet of battles where Kenshin duels off against iconic foes. If you haven’t read the original series, you’ll still enjoy this one quite a bit, but you will find yourself wanting more. It’s a good way to entice you to read the full series though. Think of this one as a preview to get you interested in the franchise and then the original series will take you from there. After all, this one doesn’t have a whole lot of time for plot or down-time to chat with the characters since someone is always attacking.

Overall, This was a great way for the author to pay homage to his Kenshin series and to help hype up the live action movies. I think more authors should do a cool remake like this. Imagine a 2 volume DBZ manga where we see Goku take on his foes at a much quicker rate and transform into new forms with each chapter? It would make for a fun little anime special/13 episode series as well. I highly recommend checking out Kenshin Restoration and it has that fun anniversary feel that keeps you excited throughout.

Overall 8/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Rurouni Kenshin Review

It’s time to review a manga title that I consider to easily be one of the best titles of all time. This was a series that I started all the way back in 2011 and finally finished a few months ago. It essentially has everything that I could want in an action title along with an excellent main character. The Kenshin manga was on the road to success from the start and never looked back.

The series is about a wandering swordsman known as Kenshin. He used to fight in the wars, but has now decided to retire to a quiet life after traumatic events, which are eventually told to you during a mini flashback arc. He believes that peace will always be better than violence, but knows that it is not really possible to have one without the other. He wanders across a dojo where he meets up with Kaoru. After he helps her take out a random thug, he decides to stay there a while.

Essentially, the first part of the manga deals with a lot of one shot adventures. Kenshin meets up with several of his soon to be rivals like Sanosuke, Saito, and Aoshi. He takes down several villainous groups and helps people out as often as possible. Kenshin solidifies his standings as a peaceful warrior who only fights for justice and his friends in the current days. That being said, his opponents could not accept this.

A villain by the name of Shishio has gathered a group of the most dangerous villains on the planet to aid him. He wants to purge Kyoto into madness and he gets ready to basically kick off some new wars and battles with the destruction that he is causing. Kenshin is asked to help out and he reluctantly goes, but Aoshi will stand in his way and Shishio ends up proving to be one of the strongest enemies that Kenshin has ever faced. Can Kenshin defeat him or have his skills simply been lost with how long he’s been inactive?

The final arc deals with an enemy from the past. He blames Kenshin for the death of his sister and wants him to know what it’s like to despair. Kenshin warns his allies that this man is dangerous and that things may get personal. There are a lot of fights and even some casualties as the arc goes on and Kenshin loses his will to fight. Can he regain it in time or are the heroes doomed?

Naturally, a whole lot happens during the span of the series as it is 28-29 volumes. While there are only 2 big arcs and a lot of mini ones, one could make the case that some of the mini arcs were basically real ones. It has been years since I read some of the original adventures although I did re read the first several volumes a while back. This is a series that has a very large amount of replay value.

Let’s get the technical aspects out of the way first. The art is spectacular and it is why the fights really end up popping out at you. The fight scenes can hold their own against any other manga title and they are long enough where you can really enjoy them and get a feel for how each character fights. Having good art is almost half the battle for a good manga series.

Naturally, writing is the next half and Kenshin certainly excels there as well. The characters are all pretty mature in how they handle things and most of them are very likable. Another good sign of this is how the series virtually has no fanservice. That was certainly impressive considering how long the series went on and it’s always good to see a series that doesn’t need to rely on such cheap tricks.
There are many cool/hardcore moments scattered throughout the series. I always get hyped when a scene like that is handled well, which is why I like Bleach so much and enjoy Kirito a lot in Sword Art Online. That high level of confidence and great moments before fighting an opponent can make a big difference between a good character and a great one. Whenever Kenshin, Aoshi, or Saito gets serious, you know that something cool is about to happen. Those characters don’t mess around and you’ll always be treated to a great action scene.

My favorite part of the whole series was probably the final gauntlet against Shishio. First, Saito attacked him and was crushed, then Aoshi took his turn and was also defeated before Kenshin jumped in. Sanosuke also took his chance there. I always like group scenes where a bunch of heroes run at one villain only to all be thrown back by his overwhelming power levels. This was similar to the big Aizen battle from Bleach, but to a slightly smaller extent as Shishio took out 3-4 fighters instead of the 10+ that Aizen defeated. Still ultra impressive though and a truly great scene.

Time to look at some of the characters as the cast is one of the reasons why the series excelled. Kenshin is essentially a perfect main character. He started out as a samurai who destroyed many people during the war. It was war so he just went along with it, but after it all, he decided to never slay another person again. Circumstances made this tough as many criminals continue to get in his way in the modern day, but he does his best so spare them and only destroy when necessary. He doesn’t even fight unless pushed into that situation. At one point, the weight of his past crimes start to drag him down and he enters a hopeless state, but he is eventually shown that he can move past that.

Kenshin’s story is one of redemption and I’m glad that it has a happy ending. He went through a lot, but he ultimately accepts what he’s done and that he can still make sure that he lives a good future. He’s certainly a main character that you can look up too and he stands up there with Goku and the others as a very noble hero. He’s also very skilled and while he is a human, there are very few mortals who can swing a blade quite as efficiently. With a sword in his hand, Kenshin can be a threat to anyone.

Kaoru is the main heroine. While she gets a decently large role, she isn’t quite as integral to the plot as some of the other characters. By and large, she’s a good character even if she doesn’t have as much personality as other heroines. She can fight to an extent and she is always there to reassure Kenshin and give him some confidence. Kaoru’s certainly a decent character and beats Yahiko. I can’t say that I ever became a fan of the kid. He looks up to Kenshin and wants to be a hero like him someday, but he will just need to get a little older first. He gets his big moments as he fights serious opponents more than once, but it’s typically just cheesy in the end.

Sanosuke is the friendly rival of the series. Kenshin has several in this series, but Sanosuke’s the closest to a friend. I would say that they are friends and rivals. Unlike the other characters, Sanosuke doesn’t use a sword and just fights with his fists. He’s not quite as strong as any of the heavyweights in the series, but he’s much better than most of the average fighters so he’s essentially in the middle. I like Sanosuke and he always fights with honor. In another series, he could have been the best character, but he got trapped in this manga so he has to settle for 4th place. That’s just how good the cast is and Sanosuke could easily hold his own series.

Saito is another one of the rivals for Kenshin and he’s easily the most antagonistic of the bunch. He works with the cops and respects Kenshin as a fighter although he believes that the hero’s senses have dulled. Saito fights for the side of justice even if his methods make you wonder a little. He may be a little over the top at times, but he’s certainly a very likable character. Easily one of the best in the series and I’d put him as number 3 for me. In case you were wondering, I’d say that Kenshin is number 1.

As for my second favorite character in the series, that would certainly be Aoshi. He was my favorite rival of the group. While he started out as a bit of a villain, he quickly turned into the rival who fights on the side of justice. He unfortunately did not get a huge role in the series and would be gone for large amounts of time, but when he did show up things would typically get very epic! His fighting style was a lot of fun to see.
Misao is a kunoichi who works with Aoshi at times. Like Yahiko, she wants to be a pretty good fighter. She’s decent at the moment, but far too young to go up against any of the big bads. She’s more charismatic than Yahiko, but still not quite on the level of the other characters who I just mentioned. Megumi is a supporting character as well, but she really doesn’t do anything in the series. She heals their injuries when necessary, but for the most part her path just doesn’t cross with the others.

Jin-E was the first real villain of the series and I actually liked him. As a villain he’s certainly imposing. He’s not incredibly powerful or anything as he’s taken down in an instant, but the design was neat and we needed a villain to go down quickly to show off how powerful Kenshin was. To that extent, I’d say that it worked out quite well.

Shishio was one of the true threats in the series and his fighting abilities were second to none. You could even make the case that he is stronger than Kenshin since Kenshin has grown a little weaker over the years. While his goals would have likely been impossible since the army would have eventually blown him away, he did do a good job of forcing Kenshin to make a move. He was certainly an imposing figure and if not for the fire illness that plagued him, he certainly could have won. I can see why this guy was a fan favorite.

Yumi is always at Shishio’s side. I can’t say that she was very good or had a whole lot of character here, but most of her character development was in the spinoff/prequel that came out a while back. At least she is loyal and Shishio knows that she would never betray him…unlike some of the other members. Seta is very ambitious and is actually a lot tougher than you would have guessed upon seeing him for the first time. While he is one of Shishio’s generals, he’s at Shishio’s level when it comes to a fight. He actually had the upper hand against Kenshin for a while due to his insane speed. While not as cool as Shishio, I can definitely respect this guy as a villain. He’s always very smug though so you couldn’t wait to see Kenshin take him down.

Usui was a pretty decent villain. I liked his gimmick since he was a defensive fighter in a series where everyone relied on offense. Naturally, he didn’t last too long against Saito, but I still liked the change of pace there and I remembered him, which is always a good sign. Anji was the power hitter of the group who used hand to hand combat in his fights so you can imagine who he fought. Anji was an impressive villain and he put up quite the fight. He had some honor, which is always good and made for another solid member of Shishio’s team.

Cho was another member who was interesting. He certainly wasn’t much of a threat next to the other members, but he had fun with his fights and was still talented. Fuji also deserves a mention as his size was quite impressive, but he had the unfortunate luck of fighting Kenshin’s master. Kenshin’s teacher was actually really cool and it’s a shame that he did not get to appear any more. Finally, a sensei who was actually serious, cool, and could fight. It’s a true shame that his screen time was so severely limited.

Enishi was the big boss of the final arc. He was certainly a great fighter and he gave Kenshin a run for his money, but I think it’s safe to say that he was not quite as good as Shishio. If Kenshin had been at the top of his game, he probably would have won with less difficulty. Enishi’s on a mission of revenge, but he does like to ignore several facts to make Kenshin out to be the bad guy. While you can sort of understand what he’s saying, he’s not a very sympathetic villain in the end even if it’s possible that he won’t go all the way through with his demands at times. Still, he made for a decent final boss.

Gein was a puppet master who had a pretty big role in the Shishio arc when you think about it as his puppet did a lot of damage. His true form is pretty anticlimactic and won’t be gaining him any fans, but his puppets were certainly lethal. If only his puppet had been real, that may have helped him. Hyogo was a pretty neat fighter as he actually gave Kenshin a decent fight, which was unexpected. His attacks are a lot quicker than you would expect based on his large size and I actually liked him as a villain to an extent. Not the greatest villain out there, but more enjoyable than I would have thought.

Banjin is a skilled hand to hand fighter so he was Sanosuke’s final big opponent. I can’t say that he had a whole lot of character other than being a bit of a hot head, but that was good enough for me as he meant business and gave Saonosuke a decently good fight. He was a little generic, but served his purpose. Yatsume was interesting because his appearance was definitely based off of Venom’s. That was amusing and it’s the main reason why I remember him. Otherwise, he’s not the most impressive fighter, although his long limbs can certainly come in handy when in a sword fight. The heroes have a hard time getting him to stick to one place.

There are naturally many more characters to be found in the manga. I’ve also read another one of this author’s series named Busou Renkin. I thoroughly enjoyed that one and would give it a solid 8/10, but this was definitely the definitive series by the author. Everything that Busou Renkin did, Kenshin basically improved on, although I think it came out first anyway, but I may be mistaken on that.

Aside from all of the non stop action, Kenshin was just a very deep manga series that dealt with serious topics while keeping that fun Shonen feel. Even the throwaway fights tended to be fairly interesting since the art would ensure that the fights would still be a lot of fun. I’m sure that the TV show adaption would also be a lot of fun, but the fights would likely not be quite as good since it’s tough to match up to the art style here.

It’s tough to say whether Kenshin even had any slow moments or parts of the series where it grew boring for a while. Naturally, I did marathon through some sections, but it was always interesting. I know that the series got a remake/AU thing called Restoration, which should be interesting to check out. There’s almost literally no way that it can beat the original, but just putting up a good fight would be most impressive. Kenshin shows that even if a Shonen Jump manga stays down to earth with low power levels during a 20+ volume run, it can still be an elite fighting manga!

Kenshin was one of the final “Big” manga series that I had not read. Now that it is gone, the only one that I can think of is Saint Seiya. I don’t believe that there are any of the super legendary, hype manga left, which is neat. I’m essentially at the end of an era and we’ll see if the modern titles are able to reach these levels of epicness. Toriko and Bleach are doing a good job of helping the modern era while One Piece is pretty solid, but we need more! What I’m waiting for is a new ongoing DBZ title or a full fledged Kenshin title to help the ranks. That would be awesome!
Overall, Kenshin is easily one of the best manga titles out there. I haven’t really made a top 10 for that yet, which I should probably get around too. I’ve basically got most of my top 10 for anime, but aside from knowing that Megaman NT Warrior is my favorite manga, the rest of them are all just shuffled in there somewhere. Nevertheless, Kenshin basically has all of my pros while avoiding the typical negatives. While I’m sure that there are some to be found in the series if you look hard enough (Like some origin stories being a little iffy or possible animal violence although I can’t recall any) they end up getting lost in the flood of positives.

Overall 9/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Rurouni Kenshin Secret Chapter To Rule Flame Review

All right, it is time to check out the prequel manga that came out for Kenshin a while back thanks to Mangastream’s hard work as they even translated the cover! This volume is about Shishio, the fan favorite villain who did end up being one of the better Kenshin antagonists. It’s a fairly good volume. We don’t get to see the heroes almost at all, which is a little unfortunate, but it’s good to have the universe back. I’m still not done with the original series myself, but I’m in the final volumes. Keep in mind that this review will have spoilers for the volume since it’s so short and hard to avoid such things.

Well, it’s an origin story so Shishio is naturally one of the main characters. He heads into a town with his right hand man and he awaits the rest of his 10 swords. It is almost time to make his big move so now he simply needs to bide his time. He stays at an inn where the hostess is legendarily tough to buy. Either way, Shishio doesn’t care for such things, but then the lady decides to buy his strength to save her friends. Shishio will need some kind of payment for this and the lady will have to think of something.

Well, the story definitely deals with some things that you don’t see all that often (For good reason) in a manga. The main heroine is actually a prostitute although she has essentially decided to stop in that practice as she allows no one to buy her anymore. Alas, in this time, women had fewer rights so a rich person decides to buy her anyway. The lady resigns herself to this fate, but her friends mistakenly find out about the rich guy’s evil plans so he decides to destroy them all. That is why the heroine has to ask Shishio for help. Shishio is reluctant, but she helps him realize that dying alone is not a happy fate so he accepts her help on the condition that her life is now his. When Shishio is about to die, he will destroy her as well. These are satisfactory conditions for the heroine and that’s essentially the origin of Shishio.

Luckily, the manga doesn’t put too much emphasis on the prostitution part. You know that it’s happening in the city, but we never see anything even close to that, which is certainly a smart move on the manga’s part. The ending is also a lot happier than I had figured although I suppose that it is in a morbid sort of way. Shishio acknowledges that he is ultimately going to hell, but he simply isn’t fighting it. He almost doesn’t care as he still wants to be evil and he will just bring as many people as he can with him. That certainly solidifies Shishio as a villain.

At least he is a cool villain though. He’s not one of those guys who will just make you wince and groan as you read the chapter. If this had been about a lesser villain or an insane one, then it would likely not have been nearly as good. As it stands, Shishio does ultimately help against the villains so that will make the story a lot more bearable. After all, if you’re teaming up with a villain who’s as skilled as Shishio, you should have nothing to worry about.

The villain for this story gets a lot of hype at first, but then it all fades away. I think the author just forgot about it or something because the actual battle is very anticlimactic. It’s essentially over in a slash, which is sad. Based off of the imagination battle that they had earlier, I would have expected a very good fight. The Kenshin series had plenty of excellent fights so another one would have been a lot of fun. I suppose that fighting was not the main draw for this spinoff, but it still would have been a lot of fun.

The artwork is solid as can be expected. The original series had some of the best art in Jump and evidently, that has not changed in the years that have went by. It’s easy to see what’s going on and the characters all look good. The brief action scenes that we do get are very impressive and make you miss the lack of action even more. Alas, you can’t have it all right?

The volume also does a good job of getting you interested in watching the main series again. It’s an interesting story from start to finish and we even have a big group moment where all of the villains get to use their big attacks. They certainly were an impressive group and it’s good that Kenshin had so many skilled allies or this would have been a very difficult fight to win. In the final page, we get to quickly see a little of Kenshin’s fight against Shishio, but that’s more of a homage than anything else.

The villain from the final arc of the Kenshin series also gets a cameo. He tries to talk tough, but we all know that he would be crushed if he ever tried to fight Shishio. Shishio is simply too powerful for him and the other villain only lasted so long because of trickery and his many minions. Shishio doesn’t need any tricks to fight well.

So, the story is a little dark, but it’s handled well. The only negative could actually be the prostitution part of the plot as it is a little much when you actually think about it. The main characters were nearly sold away after all, but at least most of them get a happy ending or a sudden sad one so things went well. The villains were also permanently stopped so that wins the manga back its points. I’d prefer that these things really aren’t even included as there’s not much of a reason to tackle these issues in an origin story, but it certainly could have been a lot worse.

Overall, This Secret Chapter was fun. It’s certainly great to be back in the Kenshin world and I wouldn’t mind more spinoffs in the future. A sequel series would also be a lot of fun with some new villains and more power ups to help the heroes rise up the tier list. If you read the main Kenshin series, then this is a must read. If you just want to read a one shot with a villain who helps out when it furthers his interests, it’ll also work out for you. The one shot is serious and deals with serious themes, but the ending is satisfying and the art is quite good. There’s a good reason why Kenshin is known as one of the elite manga titles and this one shot lives up to that reputation. I guess we’ll see if anymore one shots come out in the future.

Overall 7/10