During the regular showings at CJAS, we all saw the final battle of the Kyoto Arc as Himura Kenshin finally defeated Shishio Makoto, his greatest rival from the Bakumatsu. Kenshin fans should be happy to know that the Kyoto Arc is not the conclusion to the series, and is only part of the Kenshin story. Even during the series, we get short glimpses of Kenshin's past that are not covered in the Kyoto Arc. Everyone knows that Kenshin has the title of Hitokiri Battousai, but the reasons behind how he got the title were never clearly explained. The flashback scenes of Kenshin as a child, and a mysterious woman telling him to go on with his life, are also not clearly explained. The episodes shown at CJAS only briefly explain how Kenshin met his master (Hiko Seijiro) and his previous encounters with the Shinsen-gumi. These issues will all be further explored in the OAVs as, most importantly, we finally learn the meaning of the signature cross scar on his cheek.
Tonight, CJAS will be showing the Kenshin OAVs, a 4-part OAV series released after the end of the TV series that mainly deals with Kenshin's past and his role in the Ishin-Shishi. The OAVs are set at the end of the Tokugawa Era, when the Ishin-Shishi were fighting a revolution to destroy the old government. Kenshin, believing that he should use his training in Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu to help the innocent, decides to leave his master and help the revolution. He is discovered and recruited by Katsura, leader of the group, and becomes part of the Ishin-Shishi, helping them fight against the Shogunate.
Many of the familiar faces from the TV series are not in the OAVs, since the OAVs cover the story of Kenshin's past. Fortunately, the two coolest characters of the TV show will be making an appearance in the OAVs: Saitoh Hajime and Okita Soushi, as the 3rd and 1st captains of the Shinsen-gumi, respectively. And Kenshin is just not the same if you leave out the 13th inheritor of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu, Hiko Seijiro. The OAVs also introduce two new characters, Tomoe and Enishi, that will be very important to the rest of the Kenshin story. Since many of the characters from the series, like Sanosuke and Yahiko, are not in the OAVs, one should expect the OAVs to be much more serious. The biggest difference between the TV and the OAV series is probably Kenshin himself.
In the pre-Kyoto part of the TV series, Kenshin is a goofy and happy person who only gets serious when he faces a strong opponent. As the TV series progresses, we see the show becoming more solemn, as Kenshin's old enemies start to reappear in his life. But even with all the dramatic battles and cliffhangers, there are still a few jokes and portions that are intentionally funny. This change in style is immediately obvious in the OAVs. Aside from the conspicuous alterations in animation design, the OAV Kenshin's personality is the complete opposite of the Kenshin we see in the TV series. By the conclusion of the Kyoto arc, we see Kenshin as a heroic and forgiving individual who was willing to risk everything to save Japan while keeping his oath of not killing. This image will be shattered when we see Kenshin in the OAVs. Without friends or family, he barely even talks to his comrades in the Ishin-Shishi. The Kenshin from the OAVs is a 16-year-old samurai who is determined to use his skills to stop the death of innocent lives during the revolution. But with his hands stained with blood, is he still a hero of the people or is he just an assassin for the Ishin-Shishi?
Without trying to spoil the rest of the Kenshin OAVs, I guess this as far as I can go with the description. For all the Kenshin fans out there (and who isn't?), if you like the Kenshin OAVs, you will be interested in knowing that the story covered in the Kenshin OAVs tonight is only a part of the "Revenge Arc" in the manga series. So if you still can't get enough of Kenshin after tonight, try to get these final volumes of the manga -- you won't be disappointed. In the meantime, enjoy the Kenshin OAVs.