Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 8 (Viz Big Edition)By Nobuhiro WatsukiViz, 608 ppRating: T +(Older Teens)
Nobuhuro Watsuki's samurai tale, Rurouni Kenshin rockets towards its conclusion with this penultimate volume! Enishi, a figure intimately linked to Kenshin's past, and his various allies lay siege to the Kamimiya dojo, but as the fight draws on and Enishi's ultimate plan is revealed, is there anything Kenshin and company can do to stop it?
This is arguably one of my favorite shonen series, and after the build up from the last volume I found myself excitedly looking forward to the various battles that were set up. Unfortunately they're all rather lacking. This first half of this volume features some rather middling action scenes, along with a group of villains who are all rather unremarkable and fail to live up to the memorable antagonists from earlier arcs such as Shishio's Juppongatana, or Aoshi's Oniwanbanshu. To make matters worse, the entire conflict is horribly forced, with it essentially being an announced duel that forced the characters to wait days until it kicked off in the previous volume. The result is that the confrontation feels awkward and unnatural, and not like something that developed naturally as part of the story, but as something that's designed to simply move the plot forward. As the fight winds down we enter into some rather grim territory as a major plot twist is revealed. Watsuki also takes the opportunity to flesh out Enishi a bit more, adding an interesting layer of insanity to his character, as well as some potential plot complications.
Rurouni Kenshin is always a visual treat, and Watsuki's art in this volume definitely doesn't fail to impress, with some gorgeous shots scattered throughout. The biggest problem here, is that he goes to the well one too many times. Throughout the series there have been characters who have been visually inspired by Marvel Comics characters. Here we get three of them, at once, and unlike some of the earlier characters, it looks like Watsuki barely tried to alter or modify their appearance to fit into the world of Kenshin all that much. As a result the volume ends up feeling a bit like Marvel vs. Rurouni Kenshin.
I'm still enjoying the series, and I'm glad I'm able to get in this oversized format, but this has got to be the weakest volume I've come across in the series. That's not a good thing at all as it leads directly into the big finale. To make matters worse, even at the end, we're still being introduced to new characters who seem like they'll figure into the climax. Rurouni Kenshin has been a good series over all, but this volume just doesn't hold up to what's come before. I'm hoping that Watsuki's able to pull it together and hit one out of the park with the next and final volume though.
Ruouni Kenshin, Vol. 8 (Viz Big Edition) is available now from Viz.