by Nobuhiro Watsuki; adaptation by Gerard Jones
published by Viz; $7.95 US
The series’ new direction begins in earnest with this volume. Kenshin has left his friends to go to Kyoto to prevent an assassination. They react as suits their temperaments: the fighter Sanosuke with rage, the caring Kaoru with depression. They feel abandoned, although duty prevents Kenshin from doing anything else. He’s trying to protect them, in his way.
I was impressed by the author’s confidence in his characterization. Kenshin doesn’t even appear until halfway through the book, yet the reader has a good picture of him through the others’ reactions. My favorite chapter was the one where Kaoru and Megumi compare their hurts out of jealousy. Both have feelings for Kenshin, but he only said goodbye to one. Their passions take different forms but are both deeply felt.
As always, there are plenty of battles, symbolizing the deep emotions held by the characters, inspired by Kenshin’s example. The distinctive character designs carry through the action, humor, and drama with flair, and the bold type fits the approach and makes the story easy to read.
Later in the book, Kenshin reappears with a new character, a spunky young thief. She has his fighting talent and determination, but she’s pledged to the other side in a situation fraught with eventual conflict. She’s also very cute with her long braid and huge eyes.
This series consistently raises questions of honor and duty, lightened through humor and the cast’s zest for life. It’s a good read, especially for those seeking the excitement of adventure comics presented with a fresh approach. I have previously reviewed Book 7.