Remembering Tsuiokuhen

I spent the evening watching the newly released Blu-ray edition of Rurouni Kenshin: Tsuiokuhen. It’s worth every minute and every dollar (or yen). It’s the kind of thing that ages well, too.

The transfer, for the most part, is a faithful take from the original OVA. The only problems are the digital superimposed scenes in episodes 3 and 4; they look jarring and out of place in contrast with the vintage-looking hand-drawn animation.

Well, they already were out of place 10+ years ago.

The test of time is the one test that fewer and fewer new things stand to pass, anime or not. And admittedly despite the fond memories many had with the franchise, much of Rurouni Kenshin anime (and arguably the manga) is chaff to its core substance–a bloody HK opera about a redeemed assassin. Yet, in the anime adaptation of Tsuiokuhen, time has forged a diamond out of the romantic and bloody refrain of the mistakes of one’s youth, complete with a remastered Blu-ray disc that made it look better than ever before.

Without the memories of Kenshin on the shoulders, I believe Tsuiokuhen is still a powerful and graceful display of Japanese animation. Finely filtered with enough directorial gimmicks, but yet not too gimmicky; the art direction hops between emotionally grim-dark atmosphere and flashes of purity, of hope, and of the sheen of naked steel. The music remains one of Taku Iwasaki’s best anime works. The story alone works just fine on its own, even without the fanservice-nod of little Enishi or the silhouette of Shishio. The amount of enjoyment goes up to 11 when those nods start to make sense.

Despite all that, Tsuiokuhen is a blip on the radar; an artifact from the past. Its palette is suited for just those of us who have grown older, sentimental, and forgiving of simple stories that rely on the strength of its raw emotion, stirring up fond memories of a time not that long ago. The kids on my lawn will just have to learn to sit down to enjoy this masterpiece from a different era, and swallow that lyrical period-piece dialog like a preacher to his charge. It’s no Redline, but it will stay around longer.

Having borne the weight of most of UC Gundam since I last watched Tsuiokuhen, Hiko Seijirou’s words now ring truer than ever. Yep, it’s that mistakes of youth guy!

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4 responses to “Remembering Tsuiokuhen

  • NegativeZero

    I got my copy last week, haven’t had a chance to watch it yet. Hoping it still holds up and I’m fairly sure it will have.

    I think the biggest disappointment is that the re-release is designed to promote their upcoming ‘new’ one, but the ‘new’ OVAs are just going to re-tread the one part of the manga which already had an adpation that was pretty much perfect as-is. Seems so pointless.

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    You make it sound ancient. It was quite relevant and new in the states when I saw it in 2003, and I’d be slapped if I called anyone a kid on my lawn lol.

    Definitely a classic anime masterpiece, and my favorite samurai flick ever.

  • 21stcenturydigitalboy

    By the way I like Tsuiokehen a lot better than Redline.

    And the more I think about it, it’s not like Kenshin or this OVA are even remotely forgotten, so you’ve lost me. You call it a blip on the radar but it’s one of the best-rated anime of all time (#9 on MAL for instance).

  • omo

    @NegativeZero: The new series should still be interesting. The problem is how it will stack up versus what we already know, as generally an attempt to rewrite history typically fails in some way.

    @digitalboy:
    It’s 12 years old. Does it make it ancient? Does the fact that I watched it fansubbed on VHS make it ancient? It’s surely from a different era, and just because it’s “relevant” in 2003 doesn’t mean it isn’t “relevant” in 2011. I think it’s still an anime on the “other” side of the digital production line, even if it was probably digitally ink/painted for a good deal.

    As for “forgotten” that isn’t what I’m saying. I didn’t elaborate on this, but this is a title that the chatter on it is tiny versus its vintage and quality. Mainly because it’s an add-on for a really long shounen series, and we know how those are. Thus “artifact.”

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