Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal (1999)
CORRUPTION CAUSES JUSTICE TO APPEAR AS INSANITY
“Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal” (or if you prefer “Rurôni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan: Tsuioku Hen”… whew, that’s a mouthful…) is an extension of the series by the same name. It comes in four half-hour episodes. It has a distinctive darker tone than the T.V. series which is particularly appealing to me. The main character is the same but his story feels very different. This title was directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi.
Trust Act 1: The Man of the Slashing Sword
The story begins when Kenshin Himura was just a boy. In fact, that wasn’t even his name. He witnesses the savage extermination of everyone around him only to be saved by a passer-by of colossal skill. This man dispatches every attacker within seconds and leaves the boy alone to fend for himself.
The next day, the mysterious samurai, Seijûrô Hiko, returns to bury his victims. Surprised to find Shinta (who has not yet adopted the name of Kenshin) still on site, he graciously offers the young boy his tutelage.
The first part is quite brutal. I mean blood everywhere along with some memorable deaths. Fantastic artwork, as always, and a great soundtrack.
Trust Act 2: The Lost Cat
Now a young man, Kenshin ventures out to join one of the warring clans. He quickly becomes a proficient assassin and one night, during an ambush, he kills a bodyguard but suddenly… realizes he’s been cut on the cheek. Strangely, the wound would never stop bleeding completely.
Later on, he makes the acquaintance of a lovely young lady named Tomoe. She stumbles out of a bar one evening, drunk, right into Kenshin’s arms.
Sensing an opportunity to calm Kenshin’s inner beast, the head of the clan, Katsura, arranges for Tomoe to become closer to Kenshin. Meanwhile, a rival clan threatens to attack…
Here’s another neat touch in “Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal”: sometimes, at the beginning of a fight sequence, is the use of the first-person camera angle. It really makes the stances looks great. Must be pretty tough to draw though…
Betrayal Act 3: The Previous Night at the Mountain Home
Kenshin and Tomoe are now living undercover in a peaceful little town. Chopping wood and taking long walks into the city are now routine. In fact, Kenshin now looks forward to growing his own garden. A complete 180° for our deadly assassin.
However, an unexpected visit from an old ally disrupts Kenshin and Tomoe’s idyllic life and threatens to plunge both of them back into a life of bloodshed.
Yet another cool effect that went into “Rurôni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Roman Tan: Tsuioku Hen” is the way they mixed drawn images with real bits filmed with normal cameras. I remember a scene where you see a lake of sorts (or whatever you want to call a large body of water) surrounded by rocks and trees. The interesting part comes from the fact that they drew the rocks, the trees and the sky but the water is real. It’s tinted a little bit and looks sped up but it’s still feels amazing. It’s a reverse ‘Roger Rabbit’ effect. Instead of using cartoony images in a real scene, they used real images in an animé. Sweet.
Betrayal Act 4: The Cross-Shaped Wound
The connection between Kenshin and Tomoe reaches its boiling point soon after an impromptu visit from Tomoe’s younger brother, Enishi. Whatever sinister past haunts this unlikely couple, it seems as though there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel.
Act 4 is all about the ending (which I won’t spoil). What I can tell you though is that it features an excellent boss-type final fight. Fans of classic animés such as “Ninja Scroll” will find themselves grinning from ear to ear.
I really can’t fault this movie for any of its flaws. Yes, it fells like a pre-2000 flick. Yes, the artwork is a bit out-dated. So what? The story is very slick and engaging, the ending very solid and the fights are above average thanks to some awesome kill-strokes. Most fans will give it a 9, I’m giving it a 10. My cup of tea.
Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal (1999),