by Nobuhiro Watsuki; adaptation by Gerard Jones
published by Viz; $7.95 US
This volume marks a major turning point for the wandering samurai. It begins with him having a flashback to the past, before he gave up killing, and ends with a new direction for the series.
Kenshin’s thinking of the past foreshadows the appearance of an enemy with similar history. Fujita Goro was formerly a captain of a military unit of fearsome swordsmen. Now, he’s changed his name and meekly works for the police. He also takes on freelance assassin assignments, of which his latest is to kill Kenshin.
Kenshin’s sense of honor is sorely tested, since Fujita is more concerned with results than means. He’s got an almost corporate air about him, muted by a claimed lack of ambition to avoid seeming a threat to his superiors. He argues that because of his refusal to hold to an old-fashioned code, he could have done excessive damage to those Kenshin cares about.
The big question is whether one sinks to the level of one’s opponent, or even whether one can prevent oneself from doing so. Kenshin risks losing himself in his old ways, regardless of his vow to never take another life, when the subconscious desire for survival takes over.
Powerful fight scenes make up the meat of the book, with expert combatants attacking each other. Other images are atmospheric, with allusions to times past, never to be recovered, symbolized by scenes of falling leaves. Beyond all this, I was pleased to see the medical Megumi return, because she causes some interesting sparks with Kaoru. Plus, her competence comes in handy, given the violence.
More information is available at the publisher’s website. I previously reviewed Book 4.