Tag Archives: Rurouni Kenshin

Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan – Tsuiokuhen


Related: Rurouni Kenshin (main series)

Similar: Basilisk

Ninja Scroll


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Samurai Action Drama Romance

Length: 4 episodes



  • The right type of tragic backstory.
  • Surprising turns.
  • Improved technicals compared to series.


  • Missing a poetic detail from the manga.
  • Tomoe doesn’t have enough of her own story.

I made my disappointment for Rurouni Kenshin clear in my review, finding the ‘neutered for children’ approach to be a ruination of the good manga. The series also removed the best part of Kenshin’s tale, his backstory. Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal is that backstory told over four episodes.

In the lead up to the Japanese revolution, a swordsmaster rescues a slave child from bandits. That child is Kenshin, who, after training under the swordsmaster, would play a pivotal role in the Meiji restoration of Japan. Trust and Betrayal details Kenshin’s bloody legacy and the price it exacts from his soul. One night, he meets Tomoe, a mysterious woman who sees beyond his assassin’s visage. However, his actions have already set in motion a fate that cannot be avoided without a price.

Rurouni Kenshin failed in large part for forgetting who Kenshin was, what atrocities he committed, in the series’ efforts to protect the children. Trust and Betrayal remedies that error by delving deep into Kenshin’s character. It doesn’t hide why he kills as many people as he does; it doesn’t pretend that his actions are pleasant; it doesn’t pretend that he can merely walk away unscathed from it all. An honesty of character is never a bad thing.

Trust and Betrayal does falter in two parts. First, Tomoe doesn’t have enough time for her own story. Not knowing her importance, one would assume that she is a minor character based on her screen time. Where Kenshin is dissected to his core, Tomoe is left unexplored. I understand she is supposed to be mysterious, but even after the conclusion, too little comes to light. Second flaw: they removed a minor detail from the finale that who have compounded the finale’s impact.

Rurouni Kenshin the manga was a seemingly light-hearted samurai story that hid darkness within. The anime was all that darkness removed; Trust and betrayal is the darkest point realised. I wish for a full Rurouni Kenshin adaptation in this style.

Art – High

The mature style suits the narrative better than the childish version from the series ever could. The art reminds me of classical Japanese still-life paints, like the one of the cranes in Kenshin’s house. Good cinematography and animation. Could do without the epilepsy flashing for action, which was all the rage in that era.

Sound – High

Though the cast is the same in Japanese (where common in characters), the acting is much better – not having Kenshin sound like he’s gargling bubble bath helps. The English, too, is better, void of the irritating mannerisms. Music has more impact.

Story – High

The legend of an assassin who would kill hundreds and the consequences of his actions. Kenshin the Manslayer’s origin story. A tragic story soaked in blood. Great, but could have gone deeper.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: Even if you have no desire to watch the main series, Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal is worth your time. If only Rurouni Kenshin had this level of quality.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)


Extensive Character DevelopmentStrong Lead Characters

Negative: None

Rurouni Kenshin – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Rurouni Kenshin: Meiji Kenkaku Romantan


Related: Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal (prequel – watch after main series)

Samurai X: Reflection (sequel)

Samurai X: The Motion Picture (side story)

Rurouni Kenshin: New Kyoto Arc (alternative version)

Similar: Trigun


Samurai Champloo



Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Samurai Action Adventure Comedy Romance

Length: 94 episodes + 1 OVA



  • Enjoyable with some good humour.


  • Takes a season to reach the main plot.
  • Neutered from the manga.
  • Poor understanding of physics, even with suspension of disbelief.
  • Go-nowhere romance.
  • Kenshin’s voice.

Rurouni Kenshin (or Samurai X in some places) was the first mange I ever read. I was visiting some friends in France and they had the full collection. I am ashamed to admit that I read too much Kenshin instead of spending time with my friends – Nicolas, Simon, je vous en prie de me pardoner. Needless to say, I found the manga a great read. I thought nothing of the sort with the anime.

Kenshin is a wandering samurai trying to distance himself from the world, but he can never escape his past as the Hitokiri Battousai, for someone in every town either wants to hire him or wants to kill him for the massacres he committed in the previous era. He goes largely unnoticed because of his unassuming nature and he carries a reverse-bladed sword. After an initial moment of disbelief that he is the legendary manslayer, dojo owner Kaoru takes him in, charmed by his goofiness and aid he leant her against a Battousai imposter. She has a ‘in love, but I will deny it at every turn’ relationship with him.

The first few episodes serve to introduce the main gang of Kenshin, Kaoru, and later, Sanosuke, a street fighter who lost his honour, and Yahiko, a street rat in need of disciple, which Kaoru provides. The subsequent episodes focus on minor conflicts – bandits, thugs, people after Kenshin, etc. You wouldn’t know that the main plot involves a presumed-dead warrior, successor to the Hitokiri Battousai name, Shishio. Surviving live immolation, he wears bandages at all times and must regularly cool himself, as his skin doesn’t ventilate anymore. You wouldn’t know of this main plot because it takes a season of meandering to reach him. It’s not as though he is some surprise revelation or the first season was about building him up. No, beyond the character introductions, the first season has no effect on the second – the third is non-canon filler.

This would be okay, if season one was good in its own right, but it’s too light hearted, feels too tailored for children, and void of meaningful tension. At one point, a group of villains run at a Gatling gun one at a time, only to die – too stupid to garner emotional investment. The season gives bits and pieces of relevance among filler plot of the week. The manga didn’t have half this nonsense, was darker, and faster reading washed weaker segments away. The writers also separated the manga’s best story and created Samurai X: Trust and Betrayal out of it (the quality is better in that segment, so I am actually thankful).

The action translated poorly from the manga as well. The special techniques already required suspension of disbelief, but to accept them in the anime approaches ignorance. Better animation to illustrate them would have helped. The one aspect that did translate was the reverse blade plot device; they make far too big a deal out of it here and on paper. Kenshin refuses to kill anymore and wields a katana with the blade on the inside to avoid killing in combat. Er…yeah…even the blunt side of a sword would kill with his speed and strength. He even makes a huge fuss over using a normal katana, at one point, as though he couldn’t simply turn it around – again, with his skill, that would impair him little.

Look, Kenshin is still a decent anime, above average – good humour – but with the source material they had to work with, this should have been much better.

Art – Low

Did they have one animator chained to desk animating three seasons with the time and budget for a single season? Stiff animation, lots of stuttering. Next time, take the money you wasted on season three and use it to animate the episodes that mattered. The sequel, prequel, and OVAs look far better, a high quality.

Sound – Medium

Voice work is equally average in either language, except Kenshin. You have a choice of poison: you can take his annoying Japanese voice or take his stupid speech mannerism in English. (“It is beautiful, that it is.” “You should not fight, that you should not.” “Please, cut my tongue out, would you, please.” [Alright, that last one is fake.]) Acting is better in the sequel, prequel, and OVAs as well.

Story – Medium

A manslayer wanders around to escape his past, until he meets a woman. Bits of story with lots of filler, then story, then filler.

Overall Quality – Medium

Recommendation: I rarely advocate for reading manga instead of watching the anime, but this is one instance where I insist. If you do want to watch, prepare to skip some episodes – the ones with pirates are useless – and don’t bother with season three.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None


DissapointingPoor Pacing