I think I died a little when I heard that Rurouni Kenshin would be made into a live-action movie.
It was a happy coincidence that I was in Manila when the movie was shown exclusively in SM Cinemas. Failing to muster enough troops to watch the movie with me in SM North (as said troops went home to Zamboanga for their Christmas breaks), I convinced my mother and aunts to leave me behind in SM Dasma, while they go do shopping and stuff.
I watched the movie with my cousin who admitted, quite sheepishly, that she had no idea who Kenshin was. Yes, my cousin had no childhood whatsoever.
So, did I like the movie? Oh, yes!
Since I’m not really good with reviews and I suck at analyzing stuff (there is a reason why I fail at chess and any game rooted in logic), I’m just going to list down the things that I really loved about the movie.
The Fight Scenes
Honestly, my biggest trepidation about this movie was the fight scenes. The Hiten Mitsurugi style which Kenshin uses utilizes speed over power and I feared that in order to emulate it, the sword fights would be all about exaggerated theatricality, swishes, zooms and pans. Believe you me, I know how hard it is to do the stuff Kenshin does. I spent half of my high school years trying to perfect the Amakekiru Ryu Nu Hirameki and failing.
Thankfully, the movie’s fights scenes were beautifully choreographed. I noticed that in this version, Kenshin utilizes his entire body and his environment when fighting, and not just his sword. For me, it came across as more believable that someone with his slight build could really take on an entire platoon. Watching the fight scenes – and they were a number of gloriously wonderful encounters – was extremely satisfying. If I may say so myself, I think they were even better than the animated version.
Minimal CGI effects were used, I think, and only for the blood and gore details accompanying the rampages of Jinnei, our main antagonist.
Casting would probably be the hardest part in re-creating a widely-known anime into a live action. I’d like to believe that the casting for this movie would pass even the most hard-core fan’s character litmus test. All those little details were there – Kenshin’s hair (thankfully, not a gaudy red but rather a somber brownish-red), the costumes, the props.
My favorites had to be Takeru Sato as Kenshin and Yosuke Eguchi as Saito. Sato had Kenshin’s posture and mannerisms covered.
(Hunh, no wonder Saito looked so familiar – Yosuke Eguchi played the titular character in the movie Goemon)
Aoki Munetaka as Sano – well, he really was not how I imagined Sano would be but he was awesome! Things tended to liven up when he came around swaggering, challenging just about everyone to a fight. Glasses shattered, tables upended, people knocked senseless. Ah, good ol’ Sano.
And let’s not forget Koki Kikkawa as Jinnei. Creepy eyes, this one. Very creepy.
The Cleverness of SM Cinemas
During the breaks in between viewings, the cinema played OPs and EDs from the anime. Oh, SM Cinema, you do know how to set a fangirl’s heart a-flutter.
You dog, you :3
My only qualm was that the movie toned down Kenshin’s comical side. Aside from the scene where he and Kaoru meets, Kenshin here is serious – too serious and brooding for my taste. I guess I just have gotten used to Kenshin being the funny and bumbling guy that he is.
Emi Takei is too timid as Kaoru for me. I would have wanted to see the movie establish her as someone who can hold her own in a fight. For example, in the scene where a bunch of hooligans vandalize her dojo, it would have been nice if Kaoru managed to dispatch a few baddies on her own, instead of being, well, a helpless damsel. I’m all for demonstrating how badass Kenshin really is but Kaoru is pretty badass with a wooden sword too, you know.
In my opinion, the interaction between the two leads suffered without the presence of Kenshin’s ‘oro-ness’ and Kaoru’s natural brashness. It takes away a big chunk of the dynamic relationship which made Kenshin and Kaoru together so interesting.
The movie covers the first few episodes from the anime’s first season. It also inserted bits and pieces about Kenshin’s past which were taken from the OVA. It has enough material to entertain and intrigue without overwhelming audiences with details, story arcs and characters. It would definitely work well as a stand-alone, but then, I am all but hoping for a sequel. Shishio Makoto arc, anyone? And Aoshi. We need Aoshi!
My cousin managed to follow the story without much trouble, despite never having seen an episode. Familiarity with the anime is definitely not necessary to enjoy the movie.
Whether you’re a fan of the anime or manga, or just someone who wants to enjoy a good movie, rest assured, Rurouni Kenshin will not disappoint.