It won’t take long to know that Kyoto Inferno deals more about Kenshin’s fight against himself more than his nemesis, Shishio.
Contrary to most heroes eventually killing their nemesis to eradicate the problem, our lead Kenshin struggles in the second installment due to his promise to forget his past as an assassin while people from the government asks him to help maintain national security by getting back to his old self. This is where the film takes its time on telling.
Kyoto Inferno is nothing short on action scenes but it’s a 134 minute long introduction to the battle which will commence in the third film. It’s kind of frustrating (think Harry Potter, The Hunger Games finale cut into two parts) but in a good way.
Returning with Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) are his buddies with little exposure on this film: best friend Sanosuke Sagara (Munetaka Aoki) who actually clicked the romance (or rather, bromance?) button with him even more than his love prospect, the dojo instructor Kaoru Kamiya (Emi Takei). Megumi (Yû Aoi) whose scenes with Sanosuke definitely lit up the screen, Yahiko (Taketo Tanaka) giving some unsolicited love advice for Kaoru and we also see the chainsmoker chief Saito Hajime (Yôsuke Eguchi) fighting side by side with Kenshin.
New inclusions are Sojiro Seta (Ryûnosuke Kamiki), the smiling smooth talker assassin, Sawagejō Chō (Ryosuke Miura) as the blonde haired enemy with his trademark squint eye and arrogant personality, Makimachi Misao (Tao Tsuchiya), a cute, feisty young female ninja, and of course Makoto Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) whose burned skin and body bandage is enough to cast fear to whoever sees him. There’s also this one scene where Shishio throws his line and it was unexpectedly funny.
The casting is nothing short from the first installment, all worthy of laud for their portrayals. The sword fights are still fast and abundant, you can hear the air scratching; the action scenes especially those involving the ninjas are breathtaking, all were well choreographed and still top notch, however there were obvious CGI flaws and some subtitle problems.
A few story arcs were also mentioned including the Hidden Watchers, the Ten Swords, and the introduction of the strong Aoshi Shinomori (Yûsuke Iseya) but the film doesn’t give enough enlightenment regarding these. Kyoto Inferno sidelines on a romantic climax and leaves a lurch ending, which they will hopefully weave in the third and final film, The Legend Ends, coming on Sept. 24 this year.
This better be a good month-long wait.