Rorouni Kenshin is a show not in a rush, but in its own good time gets where it is going. The pacing moves you along much the way you would expect if you were reading a long term comic or manga series. Seasons 1 and 2 were based on the popular manga (episodes 1-62). They will be the focus of this take.
Most episodes peppered in plenty of action. Not surprisingly, but incredibly there always seemed to be a (sometimes contrived) circumstance to challenge the best swordsman in Japan, the protagonist Kenshin. This came in the form of other super swordsmen, rifles, Gatling guns, cannon, needing to be in two places at once, or one of their favorites, fighting tired or wounded to even the odds.
One sentence synopsis? Deadliest swordsman/assassin for the winning side, Kenshin has spent the years since the war atoning for his killings and wandering which leads him to meet an eclectic group of people in Tokyo who take him in and over time warm his heart and help him overcome enemies and trials.
While Rorouni Kenshin certainly had its share of less than stellar episodes featuring less than compelling plots, the long first season introduced a number if interesting characters. One of the strengths of this series was the vivid tapestry the show weaved and the large cast of recurring and returning characters.
So while you may have to endure an episode where the youngster of the cast has to beat up some bullies with his bamboo training katana, you are also treated to an entire arc where Kenshin had to take on 5 super-warriors of the Oniwaban group. Their leader Aoshi became an interesting recurring character.
Okay, so sometimes it was a little formulaic, and you just waited for Kenshin to get to the problem in time and really cut loose and beat the bad guys senseless. That was okay though. We mean that is what made the A-Team so popular. Sometimes formulas are good.
Just as Kenshin was finding some peace, he had to travel to Kyoto to face Shishio, the master killer that came after him back in the war. Shishio and his minions were threatening to take the entire fledgling Japanese government down. The season was different. Eventually, much of the cast from season one followed him and the tapestry grew wide.
A great part about season two was meeting Kenshin’s master. We found it unusual for a show about the best super swordsman to actually include someone better. Okay, the master Seijuro had an ego to balance out his awesome skill, but he may have been the coolest character of the entire series.
The second season Kyoto arc stood well because of the first’s foundation. However it did get a little fantastic – as in unbelievable. A show usually based in the “reality” of super fast moving swordsman suddenly included flying guys with bombs and giants. Huh?
On the bright side, no fights were ever as dragged out like Dragon Ball Z. However as Kenshin faced tougher opponents, the battles became psychological wars – lots of talking interrupted by super strikes. Rorouni Kenshin was also guilty of occasional flashback overuse, but not as much as Naruto.
Season 2 felt rushed when compared with the first. Or maybe too much time was spent in getting to the bad guys. Also, after all the build up, we were expecting something… well, something more from the final confrontation with Shishio.
The wandering samurai trying to redeem the horrors of his past is a classic theme. Rorouni Kenshin portrays it well if you have the time.