My promise not to kill… This is my sakabatou!
I haven’t been posting because of the flu – I’ve had hellish nights during the past weekend.
I’m feeling better though, and no flu can possibly stop me from finally getting around to watching the Rurouni Kenshin live action movie. I was certainly hyped for this movie and I honestly lost my patience waiting for an eventual American screening – so I simply grabbed the Japanese Blue-ray and watched it anyway. Hell yeah!
Anyways, I’ve always thought Rurouni Kenshin was a shounen manga that was suited for a live-action film simply because of its historical setting, only if they went with a style similar to the OVA’s take on the Bakumatsu flashback (Kenshin’s Shadow Hitokiri days) from the Jinchuu arc. Because, let’s face it, as cool as many of the battles are in the anime/manga, quite a few are them stretch reality too much – and the appeal of a Rurouni Kenshin live-action film would be that it would be a unique jidaigeki film with awesome in-the-flesh choreography; only containing few of Ruroken’s rather fantastical assets (“swordsman spirit” as a form of ki in small portions). That’s right, no copious inserts of bullshit CGI with Hyottoko’s fire-breathing and Fuji’s absurd amounts of gigantism. And Yahiko’s certainly not going to be taking down any major enemies in this live-action universe in your over-the-top shounen fashion.
These were my personal expectations on how things were probably handled for the film and they followed that for the most part. And I liked it. I mean, unlike book trilogies and the like, in a live-action movie adaptation of a long-running anime/manga series, faithfulness sometimes doesn’t work all that well and some changes need to be made to accommodate the format. What makes a movie adaptation of an anime good is if it keeps in the spirit and feel of the original story in a respectful manner while doing these changes. Which is what the Rurouni Kenshin movie did well in this regard.
One plot aspect from the manga series that translates really well in the film is Kenshin’s character and his resolve never to kill again – I thought Takeru Satoh portrayed Kenshin really well and is pretty much the perfect casting for him. In the manga and anime series, you can sense the enormous difference between Kenshin’s wanderer persona and his change to the Battousai persona under immense stress, and it’s very much the same in the film. Also, Satoh totally has Kenshin’s petite physical build which becomes a crippling plot point at the end of the manga, in regards to the Hiten Mitsurugi-ryu.
Other actors I give props to are Emi Takei who played Kaoru and that dude who portrayed Jin’ei. Emi can’t be any more of a live-action Kaoru than Satoh is a live-action Kenshin. She’s not ugly – she’s actually pretty cute, but has a very modern tomboyish look to her that *wouldn’t* have been considered attractive in Japan in those days, in contract to Yu Aoi, who portrayed Megumi, taking on the traditional, old-school look of Japanese beauty within the film. Jinei wasn’t as maniacal as his manga counterpart (or, at least, his speech isn’t as BUHAHAHA!), but his actor portrayed the character well for what he was in the film and came off as genuinely 100% bloodthirsty and I loved it.
The story of the film is a mesh of many from the manga… there’s the Kanryuu story, with Gein and Banjin Inui from the Jinchuu arc replacing the Obiwanbanshuu (and thus Aoshi Shinomori is absent as of now), Hajime Saito makes an early appearance, Jin’ei is working with Kanryuu and replaces Gohei Hiruma as the “fake Battosai”, etc. Yet it’s all executed well, somehow goes together for the movie’s plot, and really wouldn’t bother fans all too much. The only problem I personally had was Saito. Although I have no real “this is good, this is bad” opinions on Saito’s movie counterpart, there was something different about his character, and notably no mention of aku soku zan. I didn’t hate him, but I honestly don’t like him as much I did in the manga and anime series. But I admit, I got chills when he did his Gatostsu stance when facing Kanryuu’s gattling gun.
I also didn’t like that the movie never mentioned Sanosuke’s background with the Sekihoutai. He just brawls Kenshin once (for fun!) and then befriends him like that, and there’s no indication that he hates the Ishin Shishi. Despite this, I loved his “realistic” zanbatou and his character being just as badass and hot-blooded as he was in the manga (by the way, there’s a really funny scene during the climax of the movie involving Sanosuke, food and alcohol; made me laugh my ass off :P).
My favorite fight, just because it simply depicts Kenshin being awesome and taking out about twenty dudes without drawing his sword.
Look familiar, OVA fans?
The fight scenes in this movie are just… completely badass and exactly what you would imagine live-acton Ruroken to be like. The choreography and stunts were just clearly so well-thought out and done so well by the actors that it just blew my mind. For atmosphere though, I loved the Bakumatsu flashbacks to when Kenshin was still the Hitokiri Battosai. Those scenes were the most brutal, along with Jin’ei’s slaughter of the police station, in my opinion. There’s not much bloody murder going on when Kenshin’s in the scene, so when he‘s the killer, there’s really nothing left for the squeamish.
Tangent: It annoys me when some people just don’t get Kenshin’s character during the Bakumatsu. He was never an uncaring killer, he was trying to hold onto the little humanity he had left while killing people. He, Kenshin Himura, never liked killing, and Battosai represents the dark line he crossed since he became involved in political affairs; becoming a killer. And I love it how the movie clearly shows that Kenshin had as much remorse for the people he killed as the Shadow Hitokiri as he does now. He just thought he could never turn back until you-know-who comes into his life and ya’know. It just really pains me to see how some people would prefer a cold killer as a main character over a likable protagonist who’s badass enough to be the ultimate killer, but chooses not to be because it’s the right thing, and still manages to pull amazing feats with the handicap. Whatever.
The Akabeko… in live-action!
Along with the movie’s awesome fight scenes and amazing choreography, I loved the fact that many of the characters’ costumes stay true to the spirit of manga without making them all look like a bunch of nuts cosplaying. They’re so well-done and detailed, and even though they’re not as bright as they are in the manga, I love it how they stay recognizable while still looking like they fit the period, and that works well with the live-action format. In a contrast to Dragon Ball Evolution‘s disgusting wardrobe and hair-styles, it helps the viewers take the damn thing seriously without laughing at amateur cosplay on the big screen.
Overall, this movie was GOLD. So far, it’s the only movie adaptation of a long-running/famous anime that isn’t complete crap and doesn’t make me cringe. I actually enjoyed it and as a fan of Rurouni Kenshin, I’m glad. I honestly can’t wait for the sequel!
HEART OF SWORD, BABY