Rurouni Kenshin

(By Gerry & Rice)


"Beginning theme" (4,068,960 bytes MP3 format)
"End theme" (4,299,888 bytes MP3 format)


    This week, I thought I'd try something different for Rice World's serial Song of the Week article. Radically different. I know many of you probably stared at the title, befuddled at what it was, and some others knew instantly. To put the questions in your mind to rest, yes this week I am featuring TWO songs instead of one. Think of that as a Thanksgiving treat =). And the other question, no this is not in English. It's in Japanese, so those that understand the langauge can rest assured they know something that we here at Rice World don't. =)

    With that out of the way, let me attempt to explain why my choice this week is so out of the norm. Just lately, I have been exposed to a terrific anime series known as Rurouni Kenshin. From what I've gathered, Rurouni simply means wanderer, and Kenshin is the name of the hero of the story. Okay, so putting two and two together yields a direct translation of "Kenshin the Wanderer"... let's just leave it at that. Now, some people may remember me doing some friendly anime bashing, but that was mainly to annoy some friends that enjoy blowing their life savings every year at Anime Expo. Inside, I actually do appreciate their unique way of story telling through cartoons. Dragonball was one of my early favorites when I was in Taiwan.

    Rest assured, Kenshin is nothing like Pokemon. It's an anime geared towards teenagers and maybe even young adults. The story is of a strong Samurai warrior named Himura Kenshin, that was so feared during the Japanese revolution that he became a legend when he vanished for 10 years after the war. Here is where the cartoon series picks up, as we are introduced to a seemingly innocent wanderer in the now modern town near the outskirts of Tokyo. This journeyman is actually the legendary Samurai I mentioned earlier, but of a reformed heart and mind. All the cold blooded murders Kenshin has performed in the past during the war has haunted him, and he has vowed never to kill again. The sword he carries around is called the Sakaba sword, which is incapable of cutting through human flesh. All his talents as a warrior has been transferred to the cause of keeping his friends safe and protecting the people he loves.

    As the title of the songs indicate, they are the beginning themes and ending themes to the TV show. From what I gather, it has gained quite a cult following in Japan, and hopefully one day it will find itself into the boob tube of us Americans. The songs themselves aren't the same either. The beginning tune is upbeat, with some hints of electrical guitar scattered around. It's a song that would easily be stuck in your head if you give it enough time to pound it's way in. The ending theme, on the other hand, is a softer melody, but not entirely so. The singer, if you listen closely, has a good control over her voice and the octaves which she attains for the song is perfect. It's a smoother listen than the first, and it certainly conjures up happy images while the beginning theme is more of an adrenaline pumper. Overall, both are very catchy to my ears.

    Even if you have no interest in Kenshin, nor in any other anime series, it doesn't really matter. This is, after all, an article dedicated to songs, and people of all tastes should try them out. I think we work pretty hard to put up songs that are either relatively new to the radio waves, or unique enough that we think many of our readers would enjoy 'em while at the same time be different from what you're used to hearing day in and day out. I mean, what kind of article would the Song of the Week be if we put up songs that are in the Billboard Top 40 all of the time, right? =)


I admit I haven't watched this anime series before, even though all 92 episodes (maybe more) are sitting in my apt. getting dusty. But damn, anime has never ceased to amaze me, not only w/ its animation and storylines, but also w/ its music, which seems to consistently fit the mood and theme of the particular series.

    So when Rice put these 2 songs as the SOTW, I was both mystified and rather eager. On one hand this was the biggest step out of mainstream Rice World has ever taken. On the other hand, I love anime. It rocks! If only I had the dough to buy it. But damn, one series has a zillion episodes. How the hell are students and teens supposed to afford it? Luckily, I have a nice hook-up here at UCLA. My roommate is like the president/librarian of UCLA's Anime Club. So I get to watch all the latest releases from Japan, plus we have every episode! Woo hoo!

    What first struck me about the opening theme was how upbeat it was. Reading Rice's preamble about this SOTW made me think the music would be more moody. Like representative of Kenshin's internal strife and demons. But instead we have Judy and Mary chirping like birds. I realized, though, that all anime music is like that. The opening theme is supposed to sound mainstream Japanese, and indeed this hard rock style is evident on many series. I've been spoiled by Macross too much. =) The best soundtrack ever right there.

    The end theme is a great song, and perfect for overlaying highlights or previews from Kenshin. I realized Kenshin is not the typical brooding and dark anime series, ala Lodoss War or Berzerk or anything. I guess Kenshin even has its happy moments. But after listening to these two tracks, I confess I'm more eager to watch this series, especially since it's become a phenomenon of sorts in Japan.

Lyrics: <N/A cuz we don't understand Japanese>