Tag Archives: Rurouni Kenshin

Review: Rot & Ruin – Warrior Smart

Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart

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Writer – Jonathan Maberry, Artists – Alex Ronald & Tony Vargas

Continuing the adventures of the apparently popular book series, Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart finds a band of teenagers wandering the zombie infested countryside searching for a jet they may have seen (and that never comes up again) only to soon find themselves trapped on a farm with crazy breeders.

Let me back up a bit.

What looks interesting and cool about this series is the kid with the sword. We get the idea that this is going to be kind of a wandering samurai kind of book set in a zombie apocalypse (zombies here are called “rotters”). The other teenagers have some “backstory” to explain the various types: the city kid, the feral jungle girl, the crazy redhead, and the aforementioned sword wielding kid dealing with the loss of his brother.

This whole volume feels like it could have been an episode of The Walking Dead, and not in a good way. It is humorless, and adds little to the zombie canon (we still have to make ourselves smell bad and move slow to trick the zombies). I did like the idea of labyrinths and written instructions as a way to weed out zombies, and the idea that zombies only really move when there are brains to eat, but I suspect these aren’t really new ideas, just things I hadn’t encountered before.

But my biggest complaint is how much the story telegraphs a “shocking” plot-point, and then spends the rest of the volume dwelling on that point.

Our (heroes?) are saved by a pregnant young girl and are taken to a farm with a lot of strapping young men, no women in sight except for some in their 50’s, and very little visible animal life, including the mysterious “cows.” If you’ve been reading this genre for more than 10 minutes you know that the “cows” (*Spoiler alert I guess*) are going to be the pregnant young women, all locked in a barn, and sure enough we readers find this out maybe 10 pages later. Our main characters don’t realize it until a full chapter later, to the point that I thought the big reveal was going to be some other even more horrible thing these farmers were doing (not to say that the cow thing isn’t horrible, because it is).

What I object to most about the “cows” is that it is only in this story for shock value. There are a lot of interesting motivations to explore here, maybe even some parallels to human trafficking, but the writer treats the women like the cattle the farmers believe them to be. We get no personal narratives, no women making this choice for themselves, they’re just brainwashed and don’t want to leave. This isn’t what we thought this story would be about. Weren’t we going after some jet or something?

There are long drawn out and implausible fights. People fight, get captured, ramble a bit, escape, fight, get captured, and finally escape again. And the conclusion is that kids aren’t monsters I guess because they chose not to kill one guy, even though they killed many other people in trying to escape, and pretty much left the farm at the mercy of the rotters.

*Blecch*

You know what would be cool? Take the classic manga Rurouni Kenshin, steeped in Meiji era politics, and just add zombies. That would be the zombie samurai epic we deserve. That would add a whole new dimension to the whole “I’m not going to kill anybody” arc of Kenshin. Would Kenshin kill Zombies? Nobuhiro Watsuki, I’m looking at you.

Orororo.

(2 Stars | Even for zombie faire this was terrible)

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Amazon Manga Madness!!!

Long time readers of the blog may remember I like to read manga, but being an Amazon Kindle user my options were limited and they had none of my favorite series (including Bleach and most Viz media).

Apparently that has changed.

After a couple of layers of Amazon “you may like” or “customers who bought this item also bought”, I discovered Rurouni Kenshin – Restoration, a two volume retelling / tie-in with the live action movie (also discussed on this blog). Each volume is priced at $5.79 and are welcome editions to my Kindle (I’ll evaluate the story and the movie in a future post once the live action arrives on my doorstep).

It turns out Amazon has a lot of good titles: Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, Rurouni Kenshin and Neon Genesis Evangelion. Single volumes all seem to be priced at around the $5.79 price though the Evangelion title’s offer three-in-ones priced at $9.39. Absent though is Fullmetal Alchemist, Trigun, Love Hina and numerous others that I would have loved to see.

As I have long suspected it would, manga looks great on the Touch. Barnes and Noble, who used to be the only game in town, did not offer manga on their eReaders, only supporting it on their tablet models. There are some quirks, however:

  • Manga is compatible with my Touch but not my first generation Fire. This seems odd since the Fire has a better resolution and supports a variety of other comics. It works on my crappy generic Android, however. To my understanding the Touch and the Fire are the same hardware generation so I find it a little odd that the Touch works and Fire does not.
  • The manga pages are ordered backwards, or more to the point they are placed back to front as a real printed volume would be. I think it’s a little weird to have to hit the previous button to get the next page, and the effect is not as natural as it is with the actual book.

The price point’s not bad, though I wish they offered more of the long running series in the same format as the Evangelion books (the equivalent of buying each volume for $3.13 instead of $5.79). Kenshin is a 28 volume series, and Bleach and Naruto have 50+ volumes. Manga has never been the cheapest hobby to sustain, and Amazon is cheaper than most print runs, but it’s still expensive to have a complete collection.

Overall I’m happy, particularly for trying new series like Attack on Titan that I haven’t read. One of these days I’ll have to review a real book so you don’t think all I read is comic books 🙂

What other manga titles do you like?

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Oro?Live Action Rurouni Kenshin?

Live action versions of anime have a long and storied history, a bad one. Leaving aside big blockbuster adaptions of cartoons like Transformers and GI Joe, most live action anime fails to capture what we love about the show, either by cramming too much or too little into the time frame, choosing poor actors, special effects that don’t live up to what they were able to achieve with animated cells, or dreaded things like the Bleach Musical.

That said, this trailer does show some promise that the movie might be at least as good as the live action Blood: The Last Vampire, which while not excellent, at least captured some of the OVAs spirit. So in the spirit of “Let’s Rush To Judgment” I thought I’d give you some of my impressions:

1) It’s a little weird seeing Kenshin look … well … Japanese – It totally make sense that the cast would be of Chinese or Japanese descent, given that this is a product not only of their pop-culture, but their history as well. But anyone who has watched anime for a while knows that many of the characters look … well … American. Certainly a long shock of red hair on the character wouldn’t look natural on this actor, and I’m glad that it seems they have muted this considerably.

2) Where’s Yahiko? – Even with a lot of fast cuts, this movie shows a lot of characters that would be instantly recognizeable to fans of the Manga or Anime, except one, the young Samurai brat Yahiko. I’m sure some people will be bummed by his absence, but given the arc this movie seems to cover, it would over complicate things to include him. I think this is a good decision. The tone of this movie seems a little serious minded, and Yahiko’s presence in the early arcs was largely for comic relief. A good Kenshin will accomplish enough of this on his own without needing a little sidekick. And Sagara’s there so Kenshin still has an ally / adversary to play against.

3) We’re covering a lot of ground – The presence of the Gatling gun means we’re probably going at least through the Oniwabanshu arc, which concludes at the end of Volume 4 of the Manga. The prescence of a Megumi looking woman seems to confirm this, as her arc takes the bulk of Volumes 3 and 4. But Kaoru screaming at the end seems to be from the when Udo Jin-e captures her in Volume 2 and tries to bring out the killer in Kenshin. In the Manga these are two separate story arcs, and I’m not sure how the movie will treat them. I have a feeling there will be some blending going on, which might result in the elimination of the Aoshi character altogether, or making him Kenshin’s adversary in some other way, possibly resulting in his death which would significantly change canon. Okay, this is a lot of speculation, but given the elements we’re seeing, some kind of blending has to be going on. Thankfully, they at least seem to be getting rid of the stupid fake Battosai from the opening arc. If he really turned out to be Jin-e, I’d be okay with that.

4) Oro sounds weird coming out of a person – He says it, at least twice in the trailer, though both times it seems like its out if sync. That said, this is a defining character trait of Kenshin, and would be missed if not there.

5) The scar is exaggerated – If you think about the actual injury, maybe not, but it does stick out at moments.

6) Action is a little frantic – One of the fun parts of the anime in particular was getting inside Kenshin’s head. His finishing moves were always well laid out, often his opponent thought he recognized the move, but then Kenshin would throw in a little surprise. One of the first I remember of these was him using the sheath of his sort as a second weapon as he whirled around, seemingly missing with the sword. This might be a little hard to convey convincingly in live action, but I hope we still see some insight into his technique.

Overall my impressions are that this looked good. I have a feeling there will be some of the same mash-ups of plot we’ve seen before, but the trailer does give me hope that they’ve got the tone right, both the action and the humor. Casting can always be better, but I’ll give this guy a chance, whenever this movie comes out in America (late 2013)?

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