No dream sequence cop out here, Kenshin really was impaled by Saito’s blade. Fortunately, Kenshin’s vital organs were missed, so the fight can resume. It’s a solid battle. While Kenshin never really gains the upper hand, he does start to hold his own to a greater degree the longer the fight goes on.
While Kenshin is clearly in physical danger in this fight, a lot of emphasis is placed on the battle for Kenshin’s soul. Everyone notes that Kenshin is regressing to his slasher mindset. You can tell by the admittedly rather impressive death glare and Kenshin’s tone of voice. Credit to the voice actor, he adds a growl to Kenshin’s voice that makes it sound almost like a completely different person.
As good as the fight is, it is undercut by the ringside commentary. Kory’s fear adds some emotional weight and she does try to chip in by tipping Kenshin off to the kind of fighting style that Saito is using, but the others just point out the obvious.
Just as the fight seems like it is going to reach its fatal climax, the police bust in and call Saito off. While Saito was a hired gun, you’d think that his personal grudge would still offer him motivation to keep fighting. It would have actually been a great moment where he ignores the command and goes rogue, but alas, he just shrugs it off and walks away.
We do learn who hired Saito in the first place. Kenshin dramatically declares it before the episode cuts to commercial, but it isn’t a name that anybody has heard before. It kind of robs the reveal of any weight. Thankfully, his identity is explained in further detail (thanks to Yoshi not knowing who he is). It turns out that he’s the highest ranking politician in the Japanese government.
His goal was not to kill Kenshin, but to test him to see if he was ready for the job they want to hire him to do. One would think that all the other fights that Kenshin has gotten in would be a good indicator, but they could be trying to imply that this task is of another level entirely.
Said task is to confront (and by confront, they mean kill) a rogue slasher who the government had tried to kill but failed. The slasher is named Shisio and he has been raising an army to overthrow the government.
The exposition dump is appropriately dramatic, but there are a lot of questions that come up. For one thing, why not just hire Saito to do it? He’s clearly willing to kill and he’s a fighter on equal, if not better, footing than Kenshin. There is also a major objection to the idea of Kenshin killing, but couldn’t he just apprehend Shisio and turn him into the authorities? It seems like a way to solve the problem while keeping Kenshin’s code intact. Maybe turning Shisio in equates to a death sentence and even that doesn’t sit well? It isn’t explained. Instead, we see Sano and the cop argue rather poorly as both try to make their respective cases.
When the moral plea doesn’t work, the authorities try a different tact and use Megumi’s history as a way to try and press-gang Kenshin into service. Credit to Megumi for telling them to shove it. Whatever leverage that may have held is negated when she says that she’d rather go to jail than go along with it.
Kenshin is given a window of time to weigh his options before he makes his decision, but the episode still ends on an effectively dramatic note as Kory notes that this turned out to be a pivotal moment in their lives that changed things forever.
This was actually a rather strong episode. The fight was solid and the next arc was built up well. Even the old stand by complaints about voice acting and dialogue don’t apply nearly as much here. It looks like the second season is going to be a significant improvement over the first. The switch to a longer, serialized story is working for the better so far. The stakes are raised and it adds weight to what’s happening. It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes from here because it is finally finding its footing.