Rurouni Kenshin is an episodic adaptation from the manga and TV show. The important characters are all included and while it may not give enough arcs for each, the film is consistent on giving each their dignified roles, especially Kenshin’s backstory.
The year is 1868. During the Battle of Toba-Fushima, Kenshin Himura was hired as an assassin to help the Imperial forces win against the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate which later on paved way for the Meiji era.
Ten years later, Kenshin is now a wanderer with a reversed blade sword on his waist and an oath to help people by never killing anyone again, to repent his former deeds.
Here he meets Kaoru whose fencing school was destroyed by a group of thugs. They then get involved in the activities of an infamous drug dealer Kanryu Tanaka, when his sole drug chemist Megumi breaks free and hides in Kaoru’s school through the help of Yahiko. To top it all, there is a blood thirsty former samurai named Jinei who hides under the guise of Battosai, a former title being disowned by Kenshin now.
The adaptation remained faithful to the anime, with a few minor but reasonable revisions. Watching it brings me back to my childhood days twelve years ago when it was first shown in ABS-CBN. It’s also good that the screenplay managed not to alienate non-fans of the adaptation.The movie is nearly flawless.
The fight scenes are a sight to behold as they implemented various camera angles to highlight the movements of the characters. And the swordplay was impressive, probably one of the finest I’ve seen in cinema. Every blow and swing is amazing. Even the musical scoring is impressive as it accompanies the pace of the film. The love story dynamics and tension are very much preserved.
The casting is consistent in every role’s fighting style. Takeru Satoh as the lead is spot on. He is lovable as Kenshin, innocent and comical at times. In a snap, you can see his seamless transition to Battusai as the legendary killing machine. From the way he charges his sword and releases a brisk series of cuts, accentuating each movement with the sound of steel scratching in the air, to the way he jumps in mid air and land on ground still in precise form, up to the way he babble Kenshin’s signature line “oro”. Simply put, he has given the role justice.
The rest of the characters also did a fair share of their roles and while it is easy to just spread out their story arcs in the other installments, it is evident that these characters are given dedication and careful attention in the movie. They all closely resemble their cartoon counterparts, except for a few physical differences that are easy to overlook, given the good material.
Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei) looks very beautiful for her role and Megumi (Yû Aoi) looks young contrary to her older image in the anime but still good acting. Sanosuke (Munetaka Aoki), the brutal, hard hitting street fighter wasn’t Sano in the flesh but still both strikingly comical and serious in his scenes especially that mid fight scene in the kitchen where they eat, such a delight to watch. Saito Hajime’s (Yôsuke Eguchi) role as the former Shinsengumi captain-turned-police was a bit condensed to the point of irrelevant as we see him popping in and out of the picture, same with Yahiko (Taketo Tanaka), Kaoru’s hardheaded student.
Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is one of the films that salvage the reputation of anime adaptation. It’s full of good things that overcomes its flaws; an exciting start for the trilogy, nevertheless.