Rurouni Kenshin ends with style.
And here it is. Just a few weeks after Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno hit theaters in Manila, the third flick of Kenshin ‘Battousai’ Himura (played by the androgynous Takeru Sato) arrived, finishing the story of the Japanese swordsman with the cross-shaped scar. Of course, being a fan of the anime, I really didn’t buy into the ‘cliffhanger’ of Episode 2- Kaoru and Kenshin both thrown into storm-tossed seas? Meh. Kaoru missing? As if. This was all setup for the Final Battle you just knew was inevitable, and all that matters really was that it would kick ass like no other. Perhaps with that in mind, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends pretty much throws in all the action into this sequel’s second half (or final third) in its two-hour running time.
Now, if you’re watching RKTLE, it is assumed you have watched at least the 2nd flick, if not both preceding movies. This means pretty much you are invested into director Keishi Otomo’s film adaptation (or are with someone who is). The movie eases into the flow right from the end moments of the prequel- really, you can watch the two movies back-to-back. Kenshin, who jumped into the roiling seas to rescue his lady love, Kaori Kamiya (Emi Takei), who was kicked off the decks of the Rengoku by the baddies. Unfortunately, he fails to find her, himself only barely surviving and getting washed up on a beach the morning after. Serendipitously, he is found by the one person in the world that matters- his Master and teacher in the Hiten Mitsurugi Style of Swordsmanship, Seijuro Hiko (Masaharu Fukuyama). After he awakens (three days later), Kenshin pleads with his master to teach him the Final Technique of Hiten Mitsurugi, in order to defeat Shishio.
What happens next is- well, little in the course of about an hour or so, as Kenshin spends what seems to be an eternity getting beat up by Seijuro’s tough love training. Meanwhile, the rest of the Kenshingumi (Sanosuke Sagara, Yahiko Myoujin, Megumi and the Aoiya Ninja) are at a loss with their two leads missing. Shishio and his minions are chilling on their giant battleship, shelling a town and extorting the Japanese government into declaring Kenshin culpable for his past crimes and sentencing the Rurouni to a public execution. Because, well, reasons. This never happened in the anime or manga (heck, why would Shishio bother? Oh well) but I guess it gives the many dozens of actors playing policemen more action to do. Heheh.
Once Kenshin finally emerges from his training sabbatical, things begin to pick up. Everyone converges for the final third, which gives way to a seemingly non-stop all-action final battle extravaganza which gladly makes all the wait worth it. The bloody brilliant confrontation between Shishio and… well, EVERYONE is freakin’ cool and caps off this flick with style.
There are, of course, many points that fans may grip with. With a finale that has so many characters, it is almost a given that there will be shortcuts. Whereas the 2nd movie snuck in two major battles with two of Shishio’s fearsome ‘Ten Swords’ (Juppongatana) henchmen, The Legend Ends is barely able to match that- aside from the given rematch between Kenshin and Sojiro Seta (which I found quite satisfying though Ryunosuke Kamiki eventually acting like he had a brain tumor was kinda a bit over), we only see about to other of the Ten Swords in action- blind swordsman Usui, who was a considerable baddie in the anime and manga is only given a couple of kinda-scenes, but at least he gets offed by the same guy.
Then there’s the fight between Sanosuke and Anji, which fills in at least the quota for Sano to show some funny action. But everyone else- blink and you’ll miss some of the Ten Swords being led away by the cops at the end.
But then, this is all about the Battle between Shishio and Kenshin, and this is the heart of the movie- it’s a long and knockdown, drag-out bloody to the hilt battle that starts off one-on-one then moves to two on one and finally FOUR on one before it boils down to the last moment. The most impressive parts are whenever Shishio swings his fiery sword though, with Kenshin’s signature Amakakeru being slightly expected, but the end was impressive nevertheless.
The cast is still in fine form, but I award the best performances to Tatsuya Fujiwara’s Shishio who just screams badassand stands up favorably to his manga and anime incarnations, down to the final, evil death laugh. The best villains don’t fade away, they BURN away.
That all said, I guess Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends is yet another third part of a trilogy that is sadly inferior to the second flick (Kyoto Inferno is the best-paced with the most consistent action). A bit of a top-heavy gargantuan, The Legend Ends impresses with a bombastic finale, but it was more of the enemy kicking ass and didn’t have enough of the good guy ‘Yes!’ moments that would have made this more crowd-pleasing. And No Kamatari in action, dammit!
Still, if you watched the first and second parts, this is a no-brainer watch, and I say you need to watch it in a theater full of like-minded Kenshin fans. Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends is now showing in Metro Manila theaters.