The RuroKen anime is hit and miss, brilliant in some parts, downright poor in others. The animation is passable. However, did they have to put Kenshin in a pink kimono? Pink! For goodness sake! Couldn't they have at least put him in a color that didn't clash with his hair?
Another change I really didn’t like was in Kaoru’s character. They made her personality way more obnoxious than she was in the manga. In the anime, she’s constantly running around bopping people over the head with her bokken and mistreating Kenshin, as seen in the picture above. She does these things in the manga too, but with far less frequency.
However, this is balanced out by the anime giving Kaoru more fighting scenes, such as including her in the battle at Kanryuu’s mansion as well as having her attempt to rescue Yahiko from the yakuza on her own.
The first season follows the manga's Tokyo Arc pretty faithfully. However, there are some noticeable changes made and several filler arcs added to lengthen the season.
The music is nothing to write home about. The only pieces from season 1 I like are Who Are You Protecting and Minagoroshi no Elegy. All the others are very poppy sounding or are heavy on the jazz tonality. I just don't see it working with a 19th century period piece.
Hiruma Kihei is excised from the story and Gohei's background is changed, making him a former Kamiya Kasshin student out for revenge on Kaoru's school after her father crippled his sword hand. This isn't a big deal, but it's just the first of many.
In Kihei's place as Kaoru's live-in helper is Dr. Genzai and his two granddaughters, Ayame and Suzume. I really found the children unnecessary and quite irksome. They were there only to add levity to the series and make it more kid friendly.
Many filler episodes are interspersed among the canon ones. The plots are harmless and include an underconfident sumo wrestler, a struggling circus, a crazy train ride, Kenshin being kidnapped by pirates and things of that nature. These can be watched or not, just as you please. I choose not to watch them because I find them unnecessary and irritating.
The highlights of season 1 are Kenshin’s battles with Udo Jinei, a crazed ex-assassin and Shinomori Aoshi, the brooding leader of a group of rogue ninjas.
In the battle with Jinei, Kenshin is driven to such rage that he actually reverts to his “Battousai” mindset and wants to kill Jinei. This is the first time we see our sweet, bumbling rurouni acting in this manner and it is quite jarring!
The battle with Aoshi and the Oniwabanshuu shows the first time Kenshin has to deal with a skilled martial artist as well as a swordsman. Oh, did I mention they’re both the same guy? Shinomori Aoshi is no pushover and exposes a weakness in Kenshin: difficulty in countering martial arts moves.
I give season one a 7/10. The episodes that followed the manga were quite good and the fillers weren’t too horrible. However, fewer of them would have been better.
If you can endure the filler addled season 1, season 2 is where this anime kicks into high gear. As in the manga, Saitou Hajime makes his violent entrance and forces Kenshin to face his hitokiri nature. The events unfold, peeling away layer after layer as we learn the reason behind Saitou's brutal attack on Kenshin and his friends.
The fight between Kenshin and Saitou in the dojo alone is worth watching. It’s dark, gritty and brutal, surpassing even Kenshin’s battle with Jinei, as once again, Kenshin reverts to Battousai and is out for his enemy’s blood, even Kaoru’s voice failing to bring him back this time.
In season 2, the art, animation and music receive a notable bump in quality. Everything is crisp and fresh. Gone are the jazzy tones of season 1. In their place is an orchestral soundtrack that is second to none.
This season excels to 10/10 because it follow the manga 95% and dispenses with the unneeded filler. The story is tight and coherent and enjoyable from start to finish, with moments that will make you laugh, cry and probably even stand up and cheer.
This is where it all fell apart. The anime caught up with the manga before Watsuki was finished working on his current arc. To stall for time, they created several filler arcs in a row, starting with the Shimabara Arc and ending with the Feng Shui Arc. I found these episodes almost impossible to watch. They made no sense and each arc seemed worse than the last.
The volume of filler arcs caused the audience to lose interest. The ratings plummeted and Rurouni Kenshin was canceled before the manga's final arc could ever be animated. Thus, I give this season 1/10.
In my opinion, it was a shame the anime ended this way. It could have been one of the greatest anime of all time. Instead we are left with an incomplete story and questions of what might have been.