“Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal” – Chris Luedtke

Okay, here’s two words I’ve never really wanted to put together because it sounds too cliché, and yet I cannot avoid it here: brutally beautiful. There, I said it. Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal cannot be summarized with better words. The nasty violence and the tender love make this film brutally beautiful, mixing like cookies and milk. Very few animes can really pull off what director Kazuhiro Furuhashi was able to do with this masterful prequel.

For anime fans, this is the prequel to the ninety-five episode series “Rurouni Kenshin,” but you don’t have to know the anime to enjoy and understand the prequel. Eight-year-old Shinta’s parents died of sickness, and so he has to travel with a group of people (presumably slave traders) in order to survive. During his travels, his group is attacked, and everyone is killed except Shinta who is saved by samurai Seijûrô Hiko. Hiko becomes Shinta’s sensei teaching him the sword art Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu and changes his name to Kenshin Himura. As Kenshin grows older, he eventually leaves his sensei and becomes an assassin for a political group bent on revolutionizing Japan.

Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal is about fifty percent action and fifty percent romance. The first half of the film is a total blood bath as Kenshin carries out assassination after assassination. A quarter of the way in, Kenshin kills someone in front of a girl named Tomoe. From here on, the story really kicks off (as if it hadn’t already), and twists come around at every corner.

The characterization in here is just amazing. From Kenshin’s stone cold heart to Tomoe’s mysterious personality and the characters that surround them, I’d swear this wasn’t just a period piece but a true story. Kenshin and Tomoe develop bonds that become almost too human, and the betrayals will pull heart strings and make viewers call for vengeance in blood. Few times have I been so moved by characters.

The animation is flat-out beautiful also. The one extremely minor thing that I could complain about is the few shots where there is animation mixed with real running streams, but I’m not going to dwell on such petty details. The assassinations are brutal and dark while the love sequences are tender and touching. The animation in here really knows how to invoke emotions in the viewers. The seasons also add a lot to the mood at hand.

Few films I’ve seen even come close to touching Samurai X: Trust & Betrayal. Sure the “Samurai X” part of the title may sound a little cheesy, but the “Trust and Betrayal” part couldn’t summarize the film better. This is one of the few films out there that I think could please everyone from the macho action guys to the chick flick girls. This one’s got enough in it to pump your adrenaline and send you into a bitter veil of tears.

Rating: ★★★★

-Chris Luedtke

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