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Samurai X: Reflection
» written by Dark Wind [Discuss]
My first impression after having seen this was really high, I really liked it. But after re-watching it a few times and thinking it over, I realized this isn’t that good, at all. First of all, the first episode of Reflection is just that, flashbacks to earlier occurences, from the first episode when Kaoru and Kenshin ‘met’ to the fight with Jin’e and a random appearance by both Saito and Shishio. We are also shown in the first episode that Kenshin is currently on the continent (the flashbacks come courtesy of Kaoru, who is almost in a coma-like state with Kenshin’s absence). Granted, seeing flashbacks to events that occured in the TV series reanimated in this new animation style is cool, but it feels pointless and a waste of time when there is only 60 minutes to tell the story. Do we really need to waste time on what we already saw in the TV series when there is new stuff to tell? I think not.
He’s on the continent courtesy of the Meiji Government, who want him to lead their very young and inexperienced army into battle on the continent (for those who know their Japanese history, the battle on the continent is the Sino-Japanese war). Of course, Kenshin, always seeking atonement for his past misdeeds, goes to fight, but with the intention of saving lives. So far, so good. The flashbacks end of course, and then we are shown Yahiko, all grown-up, taking care of Kaoru during her coma-like state, and then we are shown a huge surprise. While we are told that Kenshin and Kaoru were married, it’s now told to us that they have a 15-year old son named Kenji, who is estranged and angered at his father Kenshin for always leaving him alone with Kaoru, never being there for them.
Kenji’s training with none other than Seijuro Hiko, Kenshin’s old master. Of course, he still looks 30, like the superman freak he is. Before Kenshin went off to war, we are told that he contracted a disease (it’s never told what exactly it was.) Of course, we are force-fed some BS that he’s sick because of his weak body and heavy sins, but it’s actually because he has a disease (and I imagine his accumulated injuries from his many battles contributed to his weakened state). Anyway, Kaoru says that she wants to share Kenshin’s pain and so they have sex and she contracts the disease to, so pretty much both of them are now destined to die (why she would be so selfish as to do this when she has a son to worry about is beyond me).
Before all this disease crap and before Kenshin went off to the Sino-Japanese war, we are off to the second episode of the DVD! Yah! Flashback (in the technical sense)! Of course, the second episode chronicles the Jinchuu (Revenge) arc of the manga storyline, which has never been animated before. Sounds awesome right? Wrong. Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator of the manga which all of this animation (TV series, yadda yadda yadda…) is based on, wrote a final arc for his manga, known as the Jinchuu (Revenge) arc. The TV series never got around to animating it, so when this was made, they decided to animate it here. How these guys thought they could condense 10 volumes of the manga (the last 10) into less than 30 minutes of animation is beyond me. And they fail completely.
While what is told in the second episode is pretty good, what with Enishi being a total bad ass with a cool character design, who has one hell of a fight with Kenshin, it feels as if a lot of the story is missing, the pacing of the second episode is extremely disjointed. I recommend instead to just read the manga, though this is a nice visual companion if you already have read all of the manga, I guess. Then of course, there’s the totally pointless and melancholic ending to the whole Kenshin saga at the end of the second episode. While I’ve said enough, there’s one more major problem with Reflection, the characters, they are totally out of character, other than Kenshin.
Sanosuke is off on some enlightenment trip in Mongolia which he has spent the last 15 years doing and Kaoru is an extremely depressed wife who has lost all of her wacky, spontaneous personality from the TV series. Yahiko has become some sort of bad ass, a complete decimation of his wacky, arrogant, and goofy personality from the TV series and Megumi has still made no ground in her medical career or with her relationship with Sanosuke, which isn’t explored at all in Reflection. I’ve had enough of this crap.
These character assassinations wouldn’t seem so bad if the story was told in chronological order, because if it was we may understand at least somewhat why these people we have come to love (by way of the prequel OVA series and the TV series) are acting the way they are, but since the story is told out of order we struggle to even understand what’s going on, much less why the characters are the way they are. I mean, we go from the Sino-Japanese War part, to flashbacks from events in the TV series, to time spent between the end of the Jinchuu arc upto the Sino-Japanese war, and then we go back again to the Jinchuu arc, and then forward yet again all the way to the end of the story when Kenshin comes back from the war. It’s hard to keep up, to say the least. For awhile I even thought Kenshin got his disease FROM the war, rather than BEFORE the war.