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Samurai X - Director's Cut

ADV Films // R // December 6, 2005
List Price: $44.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted December 25, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Show:

When Nobuhiro Watsuki sat down to create Rurouni Kenshin you have to wonder if he realized how popular his character would become. What started out as a manga turned into a long running TV show with a pair of OVA series and movie following the main characters. While each is fairly different in style and in the tale that they tell the grand schematic of Kenshin is still available.

Previously Samurai X was available in a couple of forms, so if you've been a longtime fan of the series then you probably have some incarnation or another of it sitting on your DVD shelf already. There were some original releases for the OVAs, and then they were compiled into a collection. From there the series got a retooling of sorts and were re-released as Director's Cut editions. Since ADV loves putting together thinpaks lately, it only seems fitting that the Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal and Reflection Director's Cut versions would be neatly packed into one tiny box.

Chronologically the two OVA fit into different places in the Rurouni Kenshin saga. Trust & Betrayal is more of a precursor to the popular show and tells the origins of Kenshin. Reflection, however, is more of a follow up to the series. While the two work well together as a separate collection, they will be most appreciated by folks that have sat through the TV series and possibly read the manga. Likewise Reflection proves to be good on its own merit, but you have to watch Trust & Betrayal first to understand it even if just a little bit more.

Trust & Betrayal tells the story about a young boy named Shinta who was sold into slavery after the death of his parents. The caravan he was traveling in was attacked by bandits and thanks to the intervention of a Mitsurugi swordsman, Shinta was able to survive. The man took the child under his wing to teach him the ways of the sword. He was also responsible for giving the Kenshin name to the boy, because Shinta wasn't exactly a good name for a fearsome swordsman.

Kenshin became an assassin and shed plenty of blood following the ideals of a revolutionary. He was feared by many and recognized as a cold-blooded murderer who was an enemy of the Tokugawa shogunate. The dark deeds of his past tend to creep up on him now and then as many people come his way looking for vengeance, including a woman that works her way into his heart. The tale that the first disc tells is extremely emotional and horrifically violent account of Himura Kenshin's earlier adventures.

Reflection brings us to a point in Kenshin's life where he and Kaoru are still together. While Kenshin has attempted to relinquish his murderous ways, the past always seems to be one step behind him. Kaoru is kidnapped in an attempt to flush him out and make him pay for a killing done years ago. We learn that the kidnapper is a ghost from his past and it really ties the two OVA together once it's discovered who it is.

Both of these features come together to make a very theatrical presentation for Samurai X that wasn't really available in their original non-Director's Cut form. The two were edited together to make a seamless experience and the only credits are at the end of each disc. If you have only seen the Rurouni Kenshin TV series then you may be taken aback by the art style in Samurai X at first. Everything has a very realistic and serious appearance that is totally different than the look of the show. Real images of fire and running water are tossed into the mix and all of these things combined work with the violent content to make it a more adult-oriented anime.

I hadn't seen these for a long time but revisiting them helped remind me of just how much quality they had to offer. The storytelling is fantastic with a lot of emotion, intrigue and fluid action. The only "problem" that I had with both of these OVA was that the plots drag a little at points. There are many scenes where next to nothing happens and characters just kind of stare in a direction with a depressed look on their face. You could argue that it represents the Meiji period and the subject matter at hand, but compared to the interesting bits and the TV show these points felt a little out of place.

In total there has been roughly 15 more minutes of added material to the two stories compared to the original regular releases. Is it enough to warrant double dipping? Probably not considering that the new stuff isn't very important and really serves as a form of glue to tie everything together. If you love Rurouni Kenshin and haven't seen Samurai X then you definitely owe it to yourself to check these out. They really help flesh out the background of Kenshin and showcase more of his darker exploits.

The DVD:


The Director's Cut editions of the Samurai X OVA series are presented with two different aspect ratios. Trust and Betrayal comes with a 4:3 widescreen presentation while Reflection gets anamorphic widescreen treatment. The colors are vibrant, the picture is sharp and the image is very clean. There were a few points were some grain appeared but it was very faint and nothing to really complain about in the grand scheme of things. The saturation is a little more subdued in Trust & Betrayal and it really gives more emphasis to the gallons of blood that smatters the screen.

It should also be pointed out that the aspect ratios of the original material were of full frame lineage so much of the material here has been cropped to fit a widescreen format. I've seen both versions and while some fans may be upset, I honestly felt indifferent about it because I felt it made the whole package better.


Just like the video quality, the audio for both Samurai X OVAs is fantastic. Both discs offer English 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 Japanese with English subtitles. The sound quality was very clear and deep on both tracks, though obviously you'll get more out of your system with the English 5.1. I personally enjoyed the Japanese track much more and though the dubbing isn't really bad by any stretch of the imagination, I just have something about watching films in their original language.


The individual releases for the Director's Cuts included commentaries as well as a few other bonus features. Unfortunately as is the case with most ADV thinpaks we get absolutely nothing here for some reason. The menus basically boil down to offering a "Play Feature" and "Language" selection though on Trust & Betrayal there are some ADV previews to take a gander at. Whoopee.

Final Thoughts:

Samurai X is a great companion series to the Rurouni Kenshin anime. If you are a fan of the show then you owe it to yourself to check these out if you haven't yet. The Director's Cut Collection really isn't worth a double dip if you own the previous editions though since there isn't enough new content to get excited about. As it stands this is quality storytelling with real emotion and action that stops a little too often to smell the cherry blossoms along the way. I highly recommend it for fans of Kenshin, suggest that you skip it if you already own any of the prior editions, and give it a recommendation for anyone that loves good solid anime. Recommended

Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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