This episode was…actually good. Oh, don’t get me wrong; the voice acting and dialogue are still more than a little clunky, but the episode brings enough to the table to make up for that to some extent.
A madman is killing government officials en masse, forcing them to recruit Kenshin for help. Said madman turns out to be a warrior similar to Kenshin, albeit one who went down a completely different path. The parallel is touched on, but nothing is really done with it yet. Seeing as this is the first of a two-part story, it could be put to better use later.
Said madman, named Kurogasa and later named Jinei Udoh, makes for a good villain. He’s a much more menacing adversary as he kills people gleefully and easily. While the show is still fairly kid friendly, we do see a fair bit of blood, which surprised me. He also has a quasi-supernatural ability to paralyze his opponents by focusing chi through his eyes.
Sanosuke (who I believe has a different voice actor now) offers his aid, but is more or less sidelined. He doesn’t even bring his pyramid head knife for some reason and gets his wrists slit when he attempts to jump into the fray using a statue as a makeshift weapon. It’s a pretty big step down for him, though he does get thrown a bone when he is able to use his willpower to overcome Udoh’s ability. Yeah, Kenshin does it much quicker and easier, but it’s better than nothing.
While I would have loved to see a real 2 on 1 fight, we do get a pretty solid fight between Udoh and Kenshin. Udoh gets away, but it does focus his intent as he now wants to get Kenshin to return to the cold, ruthless warrior that he was before.
It does put Kenshin in a bind as he feels that he has to go back to that mindset, but he notes that it isn’t easy to come back from and he much prefers his pacifist approach.
When Kaoru panics about Kenshin, it seems like she is concerned about what he’ll turn into, but when she does talk to him, she only brings up his safety, which is a little weird. Well, OK, not weird, but it seemed like her intent changed. At the very least, she could bring up both points.
The episode does suffer a bit from the “why don’t you just shoot him?” query. In fact, Yoshi brings it up early on and it is said that Udoh is too quick, even for the guards armed with guns. Yet, the guards never have their guns drawn when they are on guard and Udoh is able to get chatty without anyone thinking to pull a trigger. I figured the paralysis stare would be a factor, but it isn’t put to use as much as I thought it would when Udoh is attacked by a mob.
This was a significant step up. The plot was gripping and there was much richer characterization. Udoh stands as the show’s best villain (though we are only a half dozen episodes in) and his presence forced everyone else into a situation they may not get out of. Hopefully the plot’s resolution can live up because this was actually a strong outing for this show.