The Rurouni Kenshin Live Action was by far the best live action adaptation of any manga or anime series so far. From cinematography to musical score, flawless editing and almost perfect screenplay adaptation, director Keishi Ōtomo perfectly showed the heavenly and death-defying Hiten Mitsurugi Ryo sword style and that pretty much sealed its fate, much to the delight of Kenshin Himura’s fans all over the world and perhaps to a new generation of would be- followers of the Sakabato (back-blade) sword.
The Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film started with the Meiji Revolution. A short but a very important introduction to the film’s story. When victory was achieved, Kenshin Himura dropped his sword and vowed never to kill anymore. Anyone who had been to Japan would be glued to the screen, the setting couldn’t have been more perfect, depicting that very cold winter revolution and the Meiji period of Japan. The scenery was almost palpable as slowly Udo Jin-e rose from a deep flurry of dead bodies and ice, left alive and found the very sword of the infamous Hitokiri Battosai.
Every move by the actors were properly executed like a piece of the puzzle. The lines were delivered perfectly and every facial expressions played a vital role in understanding the story. Himura Kenshin, in spite of his otherwise feminine appearance, was once the cold, heartless killer who made a promise never to kill anymore after the revolution. As Japan was ushered into the New Age, Kenshin Himura wandered as Rurouni until he arrived in Tokyo in 1878. And this is where and when the story started.
Udo Jin-e rose from the dead, took the sword and re-appeared. He took the name Battossai and started killing people. Not only was he pretending to be the infamous Battossai but also copying his style, dropping notes after the killing. Until he came face to face with the real Battossai.
The film started from the very beginning, like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring that focused on building trust, fostering new relationship and living a new life. The sequences were carefully chosen, establishing its characters, their principles and beliefs, drawing the line between killing and living. This has been the central core of series’ success.
Manga lovers of the famed Samurai X so as the countless fans of the anime series would perhaps be connecting the dots visavis to the film’s adaptation. The film neither followed both the Manga and the Anime series religiously but formed a coherent story of its own, keeping the very heart and soul, designed for a live-action film.
The story was not that difficult to follow. In fact, I admired the few flashbacks made in the movie so as not confuse a non-follower of the anime series. It was done in a semi-linear or one way direction that anyone would be a fan after watching the film. It may seem rather long but everything contributed to the whole ensemble, albeit at some point I would have rather some scenes omitted in exchange for something else, like establishing more of the Saito-Himura relationship, rather than dwelling too much on the power-hungry Kanryu Takeda. But there were no dull moments and for a manga series turned into a movie, it was simply the best. I could cite some Marvel stories gone bad on its first installment like Captain America or DC’s Green Lantern. But this one was exceptionally well done and researched! This was the WAY to do a live action film!
Emi Takei wonderfully played the effervescent Kaoru Kamiya. Though some commented that she was rather too beautiful for the role, I believe it was more of her honest portrayal that won me over showing her deep sense of allegiance to the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu (Kamiya School) and to the very belief that the Sword was not the harbinger of death but a breather of life. She sashayed her role with such youthful hope like schoolgirl in awe of Kenshin Himura yet showing such motherly love full of understanding to a lost child. The last part of the movie said it all, when she thought Kenshin had left only to find out he was just gone to pick some vegetables for dinner. And yes, the crowd was tickled by such unspoken romance that was yet to unfold in the next installment, perhaps?
Other noteworthy performance came from Teruyuki Kegawa, the shrewed businessman who had ambitious dreams of bringing Japan to a new world order. His role as Kanryu Takeda made the whole film engaging to watch. Not only was he able to bring such uncontrollable hunger for power but also was able to bring such depth of a opium-sick madman capable of destroying everyone who stood in his way.
Munetake Aoki as the strong-willed Sanosuke Sagara conveyed the humor as expected of his character. My initial reaction upon seeing him was his short stature in comparison to a tall, loud-mouth persona and somewhat dim-witted personality as described by Saito in one of the episodes of the anime series. Nonetheless, he played the role with perfect timing, eliciting laughter from the crowd with his comedic nuances and arrogant moves. That fight scene at the kitchen with Genki Sudo as Banjin Inui was both realistic and utterly hilarious.
If there was one character who seemed fit for the role, both in nuances and physical stature, that would be Yosuke Eguchi. Watsuki Nobuhiro, the illustrator and author of this Manga series could have envisioned Yosuke as Saito, a samurai turned into a Meiji police agent. His tall stature and cynical outlook in life and his disgust over Himura’s new found philosophy of not killing anymore were portrayed with such ease in the movie. Perhaps in the next installment we would see more of Saito and some little flashback during those time when such heated rivalry between him and Kenshin Himura prior to the Meiji Revolution. That would be really interesting to watch.
The film’s biggest asset is the choice of Takeru Sato as Kenshin Himura. He embodied the role as a guilt-stricken Rurouni wandering for atonement and yet it was his child-like personality that endeared him more to the audience. I may not have all the amazing adjectives to describe how amazing his portrayal was but he commanded the screen with such honesty and depth. It was after all the most difficult character of all to portray yet he it didn’t feel like he was acting it. He was Kenshin Himura as much as he was the infamous Hitokiri Battosai. You would fall in love with him and would nurture him as much as Kaoru Kamiya did, envy his god-like movement and sheer talent with the Hiten Mitsurugi style, kill him for what he did in the past and cry with him as he had never felt any pain in his life. I could not wait to see more of him in the next installment as clearly the movie has just started a new wave of film making.
The movie’s fight scenes were clearly top notch and a force to reckon with. It just reinforced once again my belief in Japanese film making. It didn’t feel like too much CGI effects were applied as the movie stayed true to the whole art of anime film making. It was just the natural thing to do. For one, I never thought that an anime would look so good on a live-action film especially on the do-or-die battle between Himura and Jin-e or perhaps the use of the Jin-e ‘s Shin-no-ippou spell or the paralyzing spell. For another, the movement was so fast like an anime movie came alive without resorting to any slow motion effect. It was just so natural and the movie nailed it. How much more in the next installment of Rurouni Kenshin eh? Could you just imagine the battle between him and Shishio?
And even on quiet times when Himura waited for the bride to come for the slain stubborn soldier who gave him his first scar was both touching and chilling. The umbrella, the rain and the pain could have said it all.
And before this post came to end, the musical score and cinematography deserved a standing ovation. Not only was I hearing some opera music during some heavy sword fight but the music played a vital role in making this movie as the best live action film of any anime series.
Having been to Japan countless of times and falling in love with cherry blossom trees; I was just all smiles watching the Kamiya Dojo came into existence, a reminiscent of some Samurai houses in Chiran and Kyoto. Both music and film’s topography did play a vital role in making this movie close to reality.
The Rurouni Kenshin: Samura X Live Action Film delivered a never-seen before anime series turned into a movie. The long hype was all worth it. Only Japanese outfit could bring justice to any anime or manga series. It was by far the best and will be a classic just as the Samurai X Anime. It would be dubbed and distributed to so many countries as a proof that anime could be a live-action movie after all. Being a long time fan of the anime series, I never thought the movie could be this realistic, honest and anchored so well on the manga series, yet breathing a life of its own. It was after all what we have been expecting and waiting for. The movie made the audience laugh, fall in-love, and cry at the same time. My only complaint was I wanted more, and hoped that a next installment is on its way. Because as much as I have waited long enough for this series to come close to life as a live-action film, I could wait some years more to see this series come to its rightful end. This was just the beginning and I wanted more! Again and hell with redundancy, the Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film was the best ever live action movie of any manga series so far!
Pictures were lifted from the below sites respectively…