The Lone Gamer’s Movie Review: Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno


Now when do we get our live-action Revenge Arc?

When I saw the first Rurouni Kenshin live-action flick a couple of years ago, I was satisfied and inwardly pleased- but I honestly didn’t expect a sequel. Well lo and behold, two years later, we will not be getting a sequel but TWO sequels, in the form of a two-part epic adapting the series’ most beloved story arc (both in the manga and in the anime series).

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno starts off the tale strong, with a small army of Japanese Meiji-Era police on the prowl to capture a notorious criminal named Makoto Shishio (an unrecognizable Tatsuya Fujiwara or Nanahara for you Battle Royale fans). Though led by the cigarette-smoking former samurai Saito Hajime (Yosuke Eguchi), the police are pretty much massacred and Saito left all by his lonesome to chat with Shishio, who makes an impressive and suitably demonic first appearance, surrounded by hanging bodies of dying constables and backed by his own cultish group of chanting monks and blade-twirling henchmen.

The ball is soon thrown to our man, Kenshin Himura (Takeru Sato), our androgynous, gentleman retired-super assassin, who has been living the quiet life in the Kamiya Dojo with Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei). With every police detachment sent to apprehend Shishio being wiped out, the government’s head, Home Minister Okubo (Kazufumi Miyazawa) turns to the legendary Battousai. It turns out that Shishio was Kenshin’s replacement after he turned Rurouni. Though Kenshin is advised by everyone he cares about to refuse the mission, events soon take it out of their control (and of course we wouldn’t have much of a movie then would we?).

The first chapter of the Shishio Saga adaptation includes Kenshin’s acceptance of the quest to rid the land of his successor, his first journey into Shishio’s occupied territories and his meetings with several important allies and villains- including Makimachi Misao (Tao Tsuchiya), a feisty young kunoichi or ninja, and the staff of the Aoiya Inn in Kyoto- all former Shogunate Ninja, and Cho the Sword Hunter (Ryosuke Miura), the first of Shishio’s minions he fights. Also lurking in the sidelines (but thankfully having the direction sense of Ranma 1/2′s Ryouga) is Aoshi Shinomori (Yusuke Iseya), another former ninja-turned swordsman looking to challenge the Battousai.

I have to say that this is a very Japanese film in style, flavor and feel- anyone not familiar with the source material may feel a bit out of it- particularly because the flick doesn’t explain much… it just assumes you have watched the first film at least, or are a fan of the anime/manga. Which is FINE since otherwise, you wouldn’t be watching. Heh.

At more than two hours, this costumed, period epic and anime adaptation will surely please Rurouni Kenshin fans and those who enjoyed the first film- it pretty much is an improvement on everything- the story pacing is faster (but still a bit leisurely), the action a lot better and visually more punchy (the high points being the fight between Kenshin and Sojiro, the village battle and of course, the Kyoto finale) and the costumed characters even more anime-ish (and in this case that’s a plus) from Shishio’s bandaged, mummy-like visage to Cho’s blonde coifs that would make Paul Phoenix and Guile bristle with jealousy. You just gotta love it.

Of course, the film ends with a MAMMOTH cliffhanger, but thankfully we don’t have to wait too long- Part 2, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends, is set to arrive here in Manila on September 24.

I feel so lucky that RK is so beloved here in the Philippines we Pinoys get a special release so soon after Japan. Heheh. Till then, I may find myself rewatching the anime over and over till late September. All I can say is, I can’t wait to see Kenshin finally, FINALLY, do THE stance. Heheh. Can’t. Freakin’. Wait.

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