Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai X – Trust
The end of season 1 of “Rurouni Kenshin” seems like the perfect place to tackle a little bit of “Samurai X”. Not all of it, mind you, but most of it. And this particular review will be somewhat different thanks to two random reasons: the first is that I own “Trust” on VHS, so I don’t have any screen shots; the second is that I watched this on Monday, and I’m kinda racking my brain right now in an attempt to remember what happens in the story.
The first two-thirds of “Samurai X” are very… artistic. They’re like, um, “Voices of a Distant Star”, I think, in that you get a tremendous amount of story in a very, very tiny dose. There’s so bloody much going on, and it’s crammed into such a tight space, that it’s kinda difficult to follow if you’re not completely focused. There are these stunningly beautiful scenes that are dragged out, given all the time in the world to develop, and pretty much never have a lick of dialogue. Then there are the scenes with words, and they take off on a rapid dash, and you’ve gotta have your eyes glued to the screen, and your ears perked up, ’cause if you miss a single second, you’ve basically blown the entire thing.
“Trust” slowly begins, eventually forming a scene consisting of a caravan of slaves finding their journey going from as casual as such a thing might be for slaves, to a sudden bout of anarchy and terror as a group of bandits mercilessly attack them. A tiny boy named Shinta tries in vain to attempt a defense, but just as he manages to lug a stray sword up off of the ground, three of the women in the caravan grab him, form a barrier between his childish body and the bandits, and proceed to beg and plead for his life. He watches, completely helplessly, as the bandits ruthlessly kill the women right in front of him.
From nowhere comes a savior at the last minute, and Shinta finds himself saved from death. A mysterious swordsman has killed the bandits, and with nothing else to offer Shinta (or, perhaps, with nothing else he’s willing to offer), he simply tells the boy that his revenge has been had, and he ought to push on with his life and try to move away from what he’s just experienced.
The swordsman is named Seijuro Hiko (Remember this name for season two!!!), and after spending the night thinking on the scene, he decides to go back and at least bury the dead. When he gets there, though, he finds that Shinta has already done the work. Seijuro notes that he’s not only made graves for the slaves, but also the bandits. He then asks Shinta about three plots in the middle, which have been given extra care. The boy replies that they were the three women who had tried to protect him (they’d also given him a wind-up top, which appears to be his only possession), and that he had only just met them that day.
Seijuro decides to take the boy in, and renames him Kenshin.
Fast forward about ten years, give or take. Kenshin is now a brilliant, masterful assassin for the Choshu Clan. No one can so much as land a scratch on him, right up until a fateful night in which he goes after a man in Kyoto. One of the man’s security guards, desperately attempting to cling on to life because he’s madly in love with a woman named Tomoe, and not yet ready to give her up, manages to slash the first of the two lines that make up Kenshin’s cross-shaped scar. It never really stops bleeding, after that.
Flashbacks that intersperse throughout the story tell of Kenshin’s training with Seijuro, how Kenshin longed to climb down from their refuge on a mountain, to become involved with the world below, and how much Seijuro fought him over it. Kenshin desired to save the world from the growing unrest, and Seijuro wanted him to realize he’d never accomplish it on his own. But Kenshin ran off anyway, was noticed for his talents, and became the highly prized assassin of the Choshu.
Kenshin keeps his life silent, it seems, except for the assassinations. Although Katsura, the leader, and Iizuka, the man with a thousand jobs who seems to be Kenshin’s handler of sorts, try to pull him into the world beyond his work on occasion, it’s mostly for naught: Kenshin is a stoic, silent sort. His talents are solely focused on his flawless abilities with assassinations, and he sees nothing beyond his assigned tasks.
Things begin to change for Kenshin, though, on a random day in the middle of a busy street. To one side is Saitou Hajime (Remember this name for season two!!!) of the Shinsen Gumi, and to the other side is the previously mentioned Tomoe. It’s a momentary thing, but it puts the players in place…
One rainy night during a meeting that Katsura is having with two other clans, Kenshin is attacked by an assassin. Right as Kenshin goes for the kill, Tomoe steps outside, and finds herself suddenly sprayed with the blood of the now-dead attacker. Kenshin freezes, as does she.
In the second act of “Trust”, Kenshin runs the now-unconscious Tomoe back to the ryokan that the Choshu have been staying at. From that simple panic, in which he insists she be taken in for the night, everyone in the Clan assumes she’s his lover. No matter how much he fights it, even Katsura and Iizuka believe it to be the truth. His case isn’t helped when Tomoe decides to stay on as an employee.
Meanwhile, though, there’s growing tension amongst the clans, fears that there’s a traitor within the Choshu, and Hajime’s group of the Shinsen Gumi keep ambushing Kenshin during his assassinations. When things get particularly tense, and Katsura finds himself breaking away from one of the other clans (they’re planning on burning Kyoto to the ground – and remember that, because the idea of burning Kyoto comes up in season two!), and Hajime seems to be getting closer and closer, the Choshu start to send their lovers away. Iizuka hints to Kenshin that he ought to send Tomoe away, but Kenshin insists that Tomoe means nothing to him. Katsura, however, has other ideas: he’s assigned Tomoe the task of taking care of Kenshin. While he’s pushing her away, she’s pushing closer.
Tomoe finally convinces Kenshin to go out for sake with her the same night everyone in the Choshu are breathlessly forcing their lovers out of Kyoto. As he’s drinking, Iizuka comes running in to tell him that tonight is the night, and that Hajime’s group have attacked. The three of them make a mad dash for it, only to discover that Katsura is safe – he’d been with the lady I assume is his tayu (there’s an oiran in season two, too, by the way!) and hadn’t been involved.
But now the Choshu have been destroyed, and in a frantic attempt to save what’s left, he demands Kenshin go into hiding. He sends him to Otsu, instructs him to pretend that he’s married to Tomoe, and insists he waits for Iizuka to tell him when it’s safe to come back.
And… That’s it! That’s it for “Trust”!
…And to find out what happens next, you’ll just have to wait for “Betrayal”!