Rurouni Kenshin, Season 2, Disc 8 – “Fire Requiem”
**post by nichan**
So here we are! It’s the last disc of season 2… And if you’ve ever wanted to see what a season finale ought to be like, look no further. The last episode on this disc delivers big time. Luckily, there are awesome outtakes and “character messages” that you can watch to cheer you back up after you’re done going “D’awwwwwww… Best ending ever!!!”
This is disc 8 of the second season: “Fire Requiem”!
Episode 58 – “The Age Choose Shishio? Kenshin’s Greatest Crisis”
So, up until this episode, the titles have always been white text on a black background. However, this episode and the next are coloured text on white backgrounds, followed by coloured text on black backgrounds, followed by the text right over the image. I think they were trying to point out that Big Things were about to happen, in case you weren’t paying attention or something.
Anyway, when last we left off, Shishio was treating Kenshin like a granola bar. Let’s see how well Kenshin’s faring, shall we?
This is mostly a fighting episode. Lots and lots of fighting. Scads of fighting. And Shishio’s got the upper hand the entire time to the point that he appears to kill Kenshin.
Kenshin’s supposed death (I mean, he can’t really be dead, can he? This is only the first episode of the disc!!!) spurs on a series of events:
Episode 59 – “Not Out of Luck! The Revival of a Fighting Spirit”
The interesting thing about Aoshi’s attempt is that it’s not exactly what it seems: he’s actually stalling. He’s totally convinced that Kenshin isn’t dead – and he’s the only one. Hajime had assumed he was dead, and Sano hopelessly threw himself at Shishio under the assumption that he was a goner. Aoshi’s the only one who has any faith at this point.
Shishio, Houji, and Yumi all tell him it’s futile, but then something happens…
Leaves start blowing all over the place, completely out of nowhere. Aoshi knows what’s up: it’s Kenshin’s spirit reviving.
Anyway, Kenshin screams his head off while regaining his spirit, and then suddenly he’s in attack mode.
So, anyway, Kenshin’s back! Everybody’s watching him and silently cheering him on from the sidelines, and Houji’s having a mental debate with himself about how he really shouldn’t be worried, but he kinda is. Yumi keeps staring at her watch obsessively. Shishio’s having the time of his life.
Unfortunately, Shishio still has the upper hand. Maybe he’s stronger, maybe he’s more determined, maybe it’s just ’cause he isn’t afraid to kill, maybe it’s because Kenshin’s run out of energy. Whatever it is, our ginger hero is losing. Badly.
So, as has been known to happen before with him, he kinda loses his grip on reality and starts to have flashbacks. This goes on through the course of the rest of the episode and into the next. In this case:
This gives him the boost he needs to clobber Shishio, and clobber he does. Things are looking up until Shishio’s spirit starts acting up. Only, instead of leaves, it’s fire. So now there’s fire everywhere, and then we’re back to this again:
Episode 60 – The Man who is Chosen for Victory: Shishio versus Kenshin, Finale”
Throughout all of this, Shishio’s been going on and on about his philosophy on life: the strong survive, the weak die, and all of that. He even takes it to the national level, saying that Japan needs to be strong to defend itself, rather than being weak and succumbing. The overeager historian in me wonders how much of this was written as commentary about where Japan was heading at the time…
On one side lies Kenshin, bleeding, exhausted, gasping for breath. On the other side is Shishio, who’s been knocked on his backside.
Oh! And remember how Yumi kept staring at her watch? Well! Come to find out, Shishio can only function for fifteen minutes before he has to take a break because of his body heat. If he goes for even sixteen minutes, he runs the risk of seriously injuring himself in some vague, yet apocalyptic, manner.
Sooooo… Guess what? This fight lasted longer than fifteen minutes. Shishio starts to heat up, freak out, and froth at the mouth. He begins flailing around, grabbing at his chest, and making a slew of unfortunate noises.
Yumi stands there in front of Shishio and begs Kenshin to let it go. She insists it’s over, that he’s won, and that further fighting is pointless. And Kenshin, being the man he is, is moved by her words, and he lets down his guard.
Now… Remember back to “Betrayal” when Tomoe died? Yah… This is the point in the disc where you’re about to jump out of your seat, because this happens:
Kenshin totally flips out at seeing this, but Yumi explains that she’s happy that it’s happened. She’d always wanted to help Shishio in his quest to take over Japan, but she’d never been able to. This is the first time she was able to assist him in battle. So she dies in his arms after a somewhat peculiar sentiment of love.
Like I said earlier, the overeager historian in me was really lit up about huge portions of this. Shishio represents aggressive, cocky, dominating determination, and stuff like that. Our ginger hero, meanwhile, is the good guy, defending an idea of peace and calm, the strong defending the weak, happiness, and all of that stuff. Their epic fight will define the fate of Japan: if Shishio wins, things are gonna get ugly. If Kenshin wins, there’s still hope. …I’m just sayin’: this is all tickling my fancy. Particularly when the last battle occurs.
Kenshin fights his best, but Shishio’s just a bit stronger and a bit more energetic and a bit more crazy. He still has the upper hand, and though Kenshin lands a good shot, Shishio’s still standing.
But remember that whole fifteen minutes thing that Yumi was freaking out about? Well, we get to find out what happens when he hits his limit. Just as he’s about to really clobber Kenshin and win, this happens:
Kenshin literally wins by default when his opponent turns into ashes. Yup. The fate of Japan came down to a guy being too hot to handle. It’s a little anticlimactic, I guess, except for that whole history thing. That part is pretty wicked, anyway.
Hajime, Aoshi, and Sano are all happy for the victory. Kenshin’s a little bit “meh”. Houji, though…
He runs off past the lot of them and disappears, but happens to bump into Kenshin on the way by. And that’s all it takes, really. Our dear ginger hero only had one last shred of energy left in him, and being lightly tapped on the side burns through all of it.
Episode 61 – “The Juppongatana who Remain: A Choice for Life”
Heeeey, guess what Houji ran off to do? He ran off to blow up the hideout. That seems reasonable, right? Might as well, anyway, his side having lost and all. So after a few ominous flares of fire and booms of explosions, Hajime nudges Aoshi and Sano (dragging an unconscious Kenshin) towards the exit while heading off into the blast. I’m not exactly sure where he’s going, because it seems like Houji went in the opposite direction, but I think the implication is that he’s off to go fight a last battle.
But this is an anime, so of course death doesn’t come so easily. Somehow or another, Anji and Sojiro magically pull Houji from the fire and drag him way, way, way off into the distance.
Houji decides to turn himself in, too, but only so that he can yammer on and on about how awesome Shishio was while working his way through the court system. Fantastic. There’s nothing a little nutty about that at all. Nope.
Anyway, though, back to the important stuff: Aoshi and Sano manage to drag Kenshin to Misao’s place, and everybody’s super happy.
After a month, Kenshin manages to get back on his feet, and they have a visitor:
He’s come to explain what all happened to the members of the Juppongatana, staring with himself: he’s been hired by the government to be a spy. In fact, almost every member was hired by the government. Apparently the Meiji decided it was easier to use them than to try and contain them. So he rattles off the list of members and what each of them is up to. The only exceptions include the guy dressed as a woman (who becomes a storyteller), the dumb guy (who is just off being dumb), Sojiro (who decides to become a wanderer for ten years, because it took both Shishio and Kenshin ten years of wandering to get to where they were during the fight), and then Houji… Well, Houji wouldn’t shut up about Shishio, so the government killed him before he got his day in court. So… There’s that.
Oh, and Yumi, come to find out, used to be a “high class courtesan”, which I think translates to a tayu, right? Yah. Those are kinda interesting. I just read an article about them the other day…
Episode 62 – “Kyoto, the Engraved Memory: Begin with a Wish”
Up until now, this disc has been so-so. I mean, the fight scenes in episode 60 were astonishingly spectacular in style, animation, and drama. Yumi’s death scene was pretty awesome. The random flashbacks of Kenshin’s were rather epic.
This episode, though. Oh, ho, ho. This episode packs enough punches to make up for the rest of it. Super awesome. Go buy this season just for this one. Do it. Do it now.
First we have Megumi checking on Kenshin’s wounds. She’s worried as heck about him because he continually pushes himself beyond reason in order to defend those around him. At some point he’s going to hit the ceiling, and she’s worried the next battle will be when it happens. (Also, she knows she’s the only one out of the lot of them who realizes this.)
Things get kind of dark and broody. Sano’s disappeared off on some day trip without telling anyone, and Yahiko’s gone on his own secret mission.
So where is everybody? What are they up to on their last day in Kyoto before heading back to Tokyo?
Megumi, meanwhile, has taken Kaoru down to the river to have a girl-to-girl talk, during which she explains her fears about Kenshin, and tries to pound reality into the girl’s head. …It takes some effort.
It starts to rain. I only point this out because the end credit song is about rain, and it just seems to tie in nicely. Everybody gets caught in it. Every scene shows it. It’s a theme. (It’s even happened in previous episodes.) Everything is dark and gloomy for awhile. Nice and moody.
Seijuro Hiko comes across him and comments that it’s been ten years, and Kenshin’s never come to visit the grave. Kenshin touches his scar and sits on his heels all the way through the storm, praying in front of the stone. There’s some symbolism throughout this with a butterfly and a flower and stuff. Pretty.
Yahiko, it seems, feels as though he might have been left out since he never even got to see Shishio. Sano gives him a pep talk about having held his own against a member of the Juppongatana. He, meanwhile, is on his own quest to inspect the damage, wondering if Hajime really died or not.
By the time the rain has stopped, Yahiko’s decided he needs to become stronger in body and spirit to match the standard set by Kenshin. And Sano’s done the same in honor of Hajime, who really proved how strong he was at the very end.
Megumi finally tells Kaoru what everybody’s been thinking this whole time: grow up already! Megumi hands Kenshin’s welfare over to her, and tells her that she needs to act properly for such a role as being the foundation of our ginger hero’s life. …Basically what she’s saying is, “Hey, you love him. He seems pretty bloody fond of you. Maybe you should stop being a little kid about it and make it worth his while to come back alive from every battle. Stop being annoyingly emo about things and moping so much.”
After they’ve all had their moments, everyone starts heading back towards Misao’s place, and they all run into each other. For, like, the first time all season, Kenshin seems to be, you know, Kenshin. Everybody cheers.
Anyhoo, then it’s time for everyone to go back to Tokyo. Okina guys them tickets for the train, which isn’t quite Sano’s cup of tea…
Oh! I forgot to mention Aoshi, didn’t I? Well, Kenshin goes up to the temple to say farewell to him, but Aoshi refuses to face anyone, and instead keeps his back turned to him. Kenshin says that maybe someday they’ll be able to drink sake together, but Aoshi bluntly declines. …Then he calmly remarks that he would, however, like to someday have tea with him. So that’s… That’s kinda a happy ending there, I suppose.
Then our favorite crew is back in Tokyo, walking down the old familiar road to the dojo.
Kenshin slowly comes to a halt, and everyone turns and asks what’s wrong. He comments that it feels weird to be back. He’d left abruptly in fear of what he might do, or who he might become. He’d run off so that none of them would get hurt. And now… Now he’s returned, as though nothing had happened. As a wanderer, he finds it particularly peculiar, and he’s not sure how to take it.
So Kaoru, finally being not entirely annoying, points out that they’ve come to a stop at the same spot where Kenshin had said goodbye to her.
Now, except for the one brief moment in the rain shown previously (episode 34), it seems like Kenshin and Kaoru have never held hands, and have only hugged once. So it’s kinda something when this happens right in front of everybody:
And then, right when you’re feeling all mushy inside, and kinda sad that things are clearly starting to wrap up, well…
So there you have it! Season 2 from start to finish! It started wickedly cool, it ended on a high note, and the middle wasn’t too bad, either.
Now, unfortunately, I don’t have season 3, so I can’t do any reviews on that, yet. On the flip side, I’ve heard it’s a crime against nature not worth watching, so maybe it’s a good thing to just leave the story on a super high note, right?
I do, however, happen to own the rest of “Samurai X”, which I’ve also heard is a crime against humanity. It’s certainly… sad, I’ll give you that. It kinda made me rock back and forth when I watched it. But perhaps I’ll muster up the courage to watch it again. I’ll sacrifice my mood for you. I’m selfless like that. Totally. I do these things for you. Absolutely.