© 1997 N. Watsuki / Shueisha, Fuji-TV, Aniplex Inc.
Rurouni Kenshin OVA: Reflection (Seisou-hen)
Official Sites: Japanese, English
Additional Links: ANN Entry, MAL Entry
Video [Free]: Niconico
Picture Source: As is from Official English Site (different file name, same picture)
Back in August, Aniplex was generous enough to commemorate Rurouni Kenshin's 15th anniversary by providing a free, one-night-only stream of the celebrated Rurouni Kenshin OVA: Trust & Betrayal (Tsuioku-hen), which was also being re-released, remastered, on Blu-ray for the occasion. It was one of three Kenshin features receiving such a treatment, but now it is Rurouni Kenshin OVA: Reflection (Seisou-hen) turn in the streaming spotlight.
Seisou-hen is a curious--and very controversial--piece in the Rurouni Kenshin franchise. Made shortly after Tsuioku-hen, the two-parter serves as both a somber capstone to the saga and something of a direct spiritual sequel to its aforementioned predecessor, following an older Kenshin--now a husband, estranged father, and in failing health--lending his pacifist services to a rebuilding Japan and beyond. However, his wanderlust belies a restlessness festered by his blood-drenched history in Tsuioku-hen, one he cannot yet shake all these years later and one that--as his wife will first find out--will come back to haunt him with a vengeance.
What makes Seisou-hen so contestable are, chiefly, two things: one being its dour nature, which flies in the face of the more light-hearted manga & TV series, and two, its characterization of the story's figures, which many fans protest as a betrayal of how they had been portrayed thus far (ex. the chipper Kenshin now being deeply depressed; his wife, Kaoru, going from independent to waiting longingly like the "good wife" for his return). Even creator Nobuhiro Watsuki had expressed his displeasure of the OVA!
Having watched the TV series and Seisou-hen, I never believed the characterizations ventured far from one series to the other and, given the time leap and their maturation, felt they were believable shifts in tone. Then again, I have always favored the grittier, more realistic Kenshin over the lighter shounen stylings of the TV series (for which I have never liked, nor considered fitting for its kind of story).
At the very least, there is little complaint over its production values, which manages to outdo Tsuioku-hen's own laudable efforts. Seisou-hen works fairly well on its own, especially in the way it incorporates flashbacks to events that occurred in the manga/TV series (newly animated, not recycled), but one might gain greater mileage out of it if they had already seen the OVA and/or TV series, or read the manga. On the other hand, those with less knowledge of the series or had only watched Tsuioku-hen tended to have a more favorable view of it. Regardless, this Friday, December 16, at 11am EST (8am PST), you will have the opportunity to see it for yourself.
EDIT [12/15/11]: A minor one, just fixed "Seiso" by properly adding a "u" at the end of it. Must use proper etiquette, after all…