Tsuiokuhen, or Trust and Betrayal, is the prequel (although it was produced later) to the series Rurouni Kenshin. Don’t worry; you don’t need to have seen the series to enjoy this four-episode OVA. I haven’t seen it myself, nor am I planning to (my to-watch-list is already large enough without the addition of a ninety-episode series), but I was perfectly able to follow what was going on without feeling left out, unlike the two Patlabor-movies. The original series may be too large of a commitment, but this four-episode OVA is a must-watch.
Seriously, I’ve never seen anyone who didn’t like this after watching it. The story itself may have been done before, but the storytelling and characters more than make up for it. This is one anime that perfectly knows how to use its time with a great balance of building up and intense scenes. Sure, there are some very nice fights, but the two main characters really steal the show. The side-characters are also well-defined, and have their own clear roles to play and at the end, the storylines are all very neatly wrapped up.
Still, in terms of sword-fighting this series delivers as well. There may be fewer fights than you would expect, but right now I can’t remember having seen any other anime with more detail in its choreography than what I’ve seen in this OVA, even considering the epics of Shigurui and Seirei no Moribito. In addition to that, the background music is also stellar. The only thing I can name that gets close to a bad point is the fact that the main character may have been a bit too young to be such a masterful and unbeatable swordsman.
Still, after watching it, I totally understand why Tsuiokuhen is so popular and well-loved. If you’re into period-anime, this just has to sit on your watch-list, and this is another top-notch OVA. The people from Studio Deen have proven once again that even though they screw up at times, they can churn out a classic just as easily.