Archive for January 6th, 2013

Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

Rurouni Kenshin

It is the year 1868 in the dying days of the Bakumatsu era and the movie plunges us straight into the Battle of Toba-Fushima where Imperial forces triumph over the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate ushering in the Meiji era. Himura Kenshin is the most feared assassin in Japan, his skills in combat having earned him the title of “Hitokiri Battousai.” Fast forward 10 years on and Kenshin Himura has now become a wanderer who offers aid and protection to those in need as atonement for his past deeds. During this time he comes across and helps a headstrong young woman named Kaoru Kamiya when a warrior who is also calling himself Battousai nearly kills her. It seems this man has assumed Kenshin’s former identity in order to carry out some murders and he is working for a ruthless businessman named Kanryu Takeda who is lining up his pockets by dealing in opium. Kenshin is invited to stay at Kaoru’s dojo which was previously run by her father. A young woman also turns up at Kaoru’s place. Megumi is a pharmacist on the run from Kanryu who she works for. His goons soon arrive creating trouble when they ask Kaoru to sell the dojo as Kanryu wants the place for his opium operation. Kenshin with his inverted blade cleans house with the lot of them but Kanryu isn’t a man to give up easily. With a couple of ex-samurai warriors at his disposal, Kanryu hatches a plan to poison the local kids through the water in a well, kidnap Megumi and hold her as a hostage. Kenshin and his new friend, a street brawler named Sagora Sanosuke decide to take the fight to Kanryu and make their way to his mansion to settle things once and for all. Kanryu though is ready for them with his own secret weapon. Things get even worse for Kenshin when the fake Battousai kidnaps Kaoru in order to goad Kenshin into reverting back to his old murderous self. It boils down to a showdown between the two but will Kenshin who has vowed not to kill again go against his own wishes in order to defeat his more powerful opponent.

I came into watching Rurouni Kenshin with zero knowledge about the manga and the anime on which this movie has been based on. I knew it was very popular in Japan but that’s all I was aware of so I wasn’t really sure what kind of movie to expect. I kept thinking to myself should I watch some of the anime and get acquainted with the characters first before checking out the movie just in case I get completely lost in the story. I was also aware that there had been some grumblings from long-time fans. Making an adaptation of a popular manga was always going to be difficult for anybody as you’ve got to create a movie that will not only satisfy the fans whose expectations will demand that it be faithful to the source material but also cater to those that know nothing about the manga. It’s impossible to make everybody happy but fans should be open to some changes as no director can ever make a movie that is 100% faithful to the manga. Then there’s the additional problem of trying to cram everything into the movie. Where do you stop and what do you leave out?

Rurouni Kenshin screenshot

I thought this was a rather enjoyable movie and there’s nothing to worry about for newbies with no previous knowledge either. You’re not plunged into a story where it is assumed the characters are known to the audience. The beginning of the movie plus the addition of a flashback scene to the origins of Kenshin’s X mark scar on his face gives the viewer some background knowledge on the main character. The plot is a bit predictable in that you can see where the story is heading. There’s nothing new or original in that aspect. The fight choreography though is spectacular with some intricate wirework added to the proceedings at times. It’s fast and exciting with an intense swordfight at the climax (probably the highlight of the entire movie). I wouldn’t say this movie is suitable for young kids as there is some blood being shed during the fight scenes. There’s a very good balance of drama and action in the movie. The characters in the movie are appealing enough. There’s a hint of a love triangle going on between Kenshin, Kaoru and Megumi but it’s never developed properly. The movie rattles along at a good pace and it builds up to the inevitable final showdown between Kenshin and the fake Battousai (a person he knows very well from the past). The running time was sufficient enough (2hrs and 15 mins) though I did think the middle section started to sag a bit. The cinematography helped to enhance the mood and atmosphere of the movie.

Takeru Sato is fantastic as Kenshin Himura. When I first saw him onscreen I thought I recognised him from somewhere and that’s when it dawned on me that he was Kamen Rider Den-O. He is believable as the mannerly young man with a dark past and he portrays the two sides of Kenshin extremely well. I’m not sure if Emi Takei’s character Kaoru was supposed to be the leading female in this movie but it felt like she was overshadowed somewhat by the alluring Yu Aoi as Megumi. Megumi it has to be said is the more interesting character of the two due to her involvement with the villain Kanryu in creating a new type of opium. Both Emi Takei and Yu Aoi are very easy on the eye. I liked the character of the swaggering brawler Sagora Sanosuke and the incredibly large sword he wields. Teruyuki Kagawa is suitably OTT as Kanryu Takeda. I’m not in a position to say whether they stayed true to the characters that appeared on the pages of the manga or not. I’ll leave that up to the fans to argue over.

Rurouni Kenshin is a big-budget action-packed blockbuster which should appeal to long-time and non-fans alike. I found it very entertaining. This movie did extremely well at the Japanese box office because there’s already news that a sequel is on it’s way.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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