Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Movie Recap
Nichan is the resident expert of all things Kenshin for Asian Addicts Anonymous, but I don’t think she’s had a chance to see the movie yet. I’m really looking forward to her commentary when she does get a chance. Thus, NeeNee is going to talk about Kenshin’s live action movie. This is one of the rare instances where I haven’t read the manga nor seen the anime first. And to tell the truth, when I heard about the movie, I wasn’t excited that the series was getting a live action, but I was over the moon to hear about it. Why? As I said before, total Kenshin noob, so what would make me excited for this movie? Sato Takeru starring as Kenshin of course! Yep, yep. It’s nice to see Sato in a leading role. Not to say he’s never been a lead, but he’s usually only a second lead or part of a more ikemen group. So yay!
We open up the movie with the Battle of Toba-Fushimi during the Bakumatsu war and early days of the Meiji period in Japan. Shinsengumi (a special police force of the late shogunate period) member Saito Hajime [Eguchi Yosuke] is on the battlefield looking for the one they call “Hitokiri Battosai.” Basically Battosai was known as a man-slayer. He was an assassin for the new government (the Meiji vs. the currently ruling Tokugawa shogunate) and was solely responsible for hundreds if not more deaths. Saito is looking for Battosai to battle with as he is not ready to give up the fight. We then cut to Battosai appearing and quickly dispensing with nearly an entire army by himself. NeeNee was squeeing over the well-done fight scenes. And even though they was literally blood flying every where, it wasn’t done in an overly gory way which makes me happy.
Just as Saito and his men find Battosai, the announcement is made that the Imperialist forces have one. It is now the official end of the Tokugawa shogunate and the beginning of a new period. This news seems to relieve the young assassin (I do believe they said that this young man was active in the war and as an assassin from the age of 14-19). Saito calls after him and says that this is not over. Battosai does not reply and merely thrusts his blood-drenched sword into the ground and walks slowly away. This action seems to surprise Saito and his men. You can tell here just how much Battosai was fighting for the new era, which he firmly believed would be better than the current era. Once his task was accomplished, he was done fighting the war and fighting in general.Before we come to the present time of the movie, we see a many rise out from a pile of snowy corpses on that battlefield. He ponders why he is still alive. He stumbles over to where Battosai left his sword and touches it. He immediately feels the blood that has been spilled with that sword. This man—freaky eyes. They are really hard to describe. When he’s not using his powers later in the movie, his eyes appear to be completely black with no whites. When he does use his powers, they glow and eerie blue.Anywho, 10 years have passed. General (I think) Yamagata Aritomo is giving a speech on the new era (which sees Japan becoming more Westernized). We then cut to see Battosai, who now goes by Himura Kenshim, arriving at the town where Yamagata is giving his speech.
We are then introduced to a Westernized mansion which is the home of evil merchant Kanryu Takeda [Teruyuki Kagawa]. A team of workers have successfully completed a new form of opium that is purer and more addictive. The team go to leave when two of them are detained in the office and the others are left outside the door to be slaughtered. This shocks the two inside. Kanryu reveals that he only needs one person who knows how to make the drug. He chooses to let Takani Megumi [Aoi Yu], the sole female of the team, live. The man with her quickly jumps out the window to run away.
The next day Kenshin [Sato Takeru] is walking around the town which seems to be celebrating something. He quickly gets some dango and notices a wanted poster looking for “Battosai.” At this time, a young woman comes up and exclaims that he slightly resembles the man in the portrait (he doesn’t really beyond his hat). Kenshin quickly asserts that he is not this murder, but the girl does not believe him and then says he obviously isn’t a good person since he’s ignoring the “no swords” mandate passed by the new government. She then attacks. Kenshin is fairly quick on his feet to avoid the blows. He does manage to tell the girl he is not anything more than a wandering samurai (samurai have basically dwindled in this period of westernization). The literal term is “Rurouni” [Hence the name of the manga/anime/movie]. He then unsheathes his sword and shows the girl that it is a sakaba [reverse blade sword]. This puts the girl more at ease since it’s harder to kill anyone when the sharp end of the blade is pointed in the opposite direction.
Kenshin asks after the poster and the young woman, Kamiya Kaoru [Takei Emi], explains what has been happening. For half a year, this murderer has been committing killings saying he is from her father’s kendo school. Even though the chaos of the previous era should have ended, such evil things are still going on. She excuses herself and Kenshin goes to leave when he notices that he still is holding the handkerchief she lent him to clean himself off after their fight.
You know, I just have to stop here and say that there’s something so suitable for Sato Takeru taking on such a role. We had the deadly serious Kenshin in Battosai mode in the beginning of the movie and now we have this soft spoken young man who does know how to act innocent. Recalling from nichan’s recaps, though, I thought Kenshin’s character had a more playful side to him, but we don’t seem to get to see that in this movie at all. Maybe I’m wrong, though, since I am not familiar with the series personally.
Kanryu gets a visit from Saito who is now a police officer for the new government. Earlier, Saito and his men had found the body of the man who had escaped the mansion. Turns out the man was an undercover policeman. Along with his bloody corpse was a letter stating why he was killed with a bloody handprint. It’s Battosai. However, Saito asserts that this person is not the real Battosai. He’s got that right. Saito shows Kanryu the bloody note and of course Kanryu acts all innocent. Bells are then heard and a swarm of people surround maids who carry trays of food. Kanryu then tells Saito these are all former samurais that have been reduced to this state since they no longer have a way of making their livelihoods, thus Kanryu takes pity (yeah right). This, of course, makes former Shinsengumi member Saito angry. He tells Kanryu again to be careful as other police officers need evidence—he doesn’t. LOL.After Saito leaves, Kanryu is horrified and angry to learn that Megumi has taken off. She has gone to the local police station. Kanryu is reminded that there is no way Megumi can spill the beans on Kanryu without implicating herself since she is the one who made the opium. Jin’e [Kikkawa Koji], owner of the freaky eyes and Battosai’s sword, leaves to get Megumi. Kanryu reminds his man that Megumi cannot die since she’s the only one who knows the secret to the new drug’s purification.
Jin’e calmly goes to the police station where Megumi is seeking sanctuary. Of course, the police can’t help her or protect her if she keeps refusing to give any details. All hell breaks loose as Jin’e calmly begins slaughtering every policeman in sight. I have to say his character slightly reminds me of Bullseye from Daredevil. The Kingpin asks if it was necessary to kill those people. Necessary? Nope. It’s fun. It’s not necessary for Jin’e to do this, but it’s his “fun” or rather addiction as he LOVES blood. Megumi manages to escape before Jin’e can get to her.
As Kaoru is walking home she sees a wounded policeman fall to his death off of the bridge. When she looks up she is startled to see Jin’e who looks exactly like Bottusai in the wanted posters. She calls out to him. Girl—do NOT attract crazy dude’s attention. Jin’e sits down calmly while Kaoru demands to know if he’s Battusai. [Did anyone else notice that the body that fell off the bridge disappeared during all of this?] He jumps down and the two start fighting. I can’t believe this girl goes armed with a wooden kendo sword. Sure, wooden swords can do some damage…but against a steel blade…not so much. Bottusai belittles her father’s school’s teaching and easily defeats the young girl. As he goes to take the killing blow, out jumps Kenshin! He tackles Kaoru to the ground and says he’s returning the handkerchief she gave him. His speed and agility definitely catch Jin’e’s attention. Kaoru is shocked to hear Kenshin talk about the true school Bottusai is from. Jin’e seems to recognize something in Kenshin and tries out his ultimate technique which involves his eyes flashing and freezing his opponents in fear. Those who fear the most are his easiest prey. This tactic, however, does not work on Kenshin. Yep, Jin’e has pretty much guessed Kenshin’s true identity. Kenshin quickly grabs Kaoru and takes off running as a new police force comes in.
Kenshin is not only trying to run away from Jin’e, but also the police. Kaoru quickly guides him to her dojo. She talks about how illustrious her father’s school was until the murders started, thus smearing the school’s reputation (and her father’s name) in mud. Kenshin reads the prominent sign that says swords are not for taking lives, but for protecting them. He likes those words. He does, however, warn Kaoru that she was reckless in her actions. As much as he knows she wishes to protect her school and her father’s name, it’s not something worth dying over. She should have known there was no way for her to beat Jin’e. Her father would be sad to know how his daughter lost her life. With that, Kenshin leaves.
That night, the police are enraged to see the bloodbath at the station while Kanryu himself is still angrily brooding over Megumi’s betrayal. The next day Kaoru is busy cleaning the dojo when her only student shows up. She’s disappointed because she thought Myojin Yahiko [Tanaka Taketo] was Kenshin coming back. The boy scolds her for her lukewarm attitude and asks her to feed him the poor orphan. Kaoru says training comes first, but before they can get started thugs from Kanryu come to take over the dojo. Yahiko and Kaoru try to fend them off with no luck. At this time, Kenshin shows up. He says that while the dojo’s ideals (swords for protection not killing) are not realistic, he prefers that ideal rather than the bloody truth. He then takes on the gang sans weapons at first. He then unsheathes his sakaba. He can do some major damage hits with that alone even if he’s not killing anyone. Enter the police. In order to keep Kaoru from getting implicated, Kenshin states that everything is his fault. He is then arrested and Kaoru demands to know his name at long last. Kenshin smiles and says his name is Himura Kenshin. Kaoru repeats this. Kenshin literally translates out to something like “the heart of the sword.”
Now…I like Takei Emi thanks to Asuko March! as she seemed a fairly decent actress. I love Sato Takeru, too. But…I really can’t realistically believe that these two bonded all that closelyy so quickly. I don’t know why. Forget any romantic undertones, father-daughterly undertones, brotherly-sisterly undertones. There’s nothing really there. Or maybe that’s just me. It’s not like Kenshin is supposed to be some epic romance anyways. It’s just…why was she looking for Kenshin so eagerly? Why did Kenshin come back to the dojo again? Questions, questions.
Anywho. Kenshin is taken to jail where he catches the eye of another prisoner, Sagara Sanosuke [Aoki Munetaka]. Saito comes and Kenshin is shocked to meet the shinsengumi member once more. Sanosuke’s ears perk up as he catches Saito refer to Kenshin as the real man-slayer Battosai. Kenshin is then taken to see Yamagata. Kenshin is surprised to see the man again after all of these years and is even more shocked to learn that Saito is working for him (since they were on opposite sides). Yamagata requests for Kenshin to pick up the sword once more to find out the people behind the heinous opium crimes. He even promises Kenshin a prominent position in the army. Kenshin refuses. He is no longer a killer. He has put that past behind him. His goal now is to only protect those he cares about with his sakaba. This makes Saito angry and he challenges Kenshin. The two start fighting and when Kenshin refuses to unsheathe his sword, Saito does it for him. In the end, Saito actually bests Kenshin.
Okay. Let’s pause here. Kenshin is a GREAT fighter. I’m not saying Saito is a sucky one, but seeing Kenshin’s previous fight scenes, even if he was only trying to defend himself, there was no way that Saito should have been able to best him. End rant.
Yamagata calls an end to the fight (Kenshin’s reverse blade works against him as Saito forces it into his shoulder). He apologizes to Kenshin and lets him go. As he leaves the jail, there is Kaoru with an extra umbrella. She must know who he is by now. Kaoru does know—how can she not—but she chooses to ignore this. Everyone has a past that the wish they could put behind them. What matters is the Kenshin now. She then tells him that he can come and stay at her dojo seeing as he probably has nowhere else to go. Kenshin smiles softly as he follows Kaoru. At the same time, a wet and bedraggled Megumi shows up at the dojo and begs Yahiko for help.Kaoru is shocked to see the other woman appear out of nowhere after she and Kenshin get back to the dojo. Yahiko explains the situation, but Kaoru is rather uncomfortable with Megumi’s presence. Kenshin is then taken to his own room and given Kaoru’s father’s old clothes to change into. She says the coloring might be a little much, but Kenshin assures her it is fine. Thus we get the Kenshin that many people know and love—the white pants and reddish-brown shirt. He finishes changing and goes outside where he lifts his face to the sunny sky and inhales deeply—he’s at peace at long last.
Kaoru takes the two newcomers out to dinner (this is her way of thanking Kenshin and Megumi tagged along to annoy). Kanryu and his men enter and Megumi rushes off to hide in the kitchen. When his men point out Kenshin, Kanryu comes over with a bag of money to buy the young man’s services. Of course, Kenshin refuses and this makes Kanryu mad. You need money in this world. He then talks about how samurais are worthless and have turned into nothing more than beggars and thieves—Kenshin needs to leave his ideals behind him. Kanryu then showers money on him. Kenshin calls him rude and picks up the money and puts it back in the bag. Enter Sanosuke fresh from jail and ready to pick a fight. He says he will take on the position and money if he can best Kenshin.
The two go outside and Sanosuke unsheathes his giant sword. It has a special name that I can’t remember, but this swords is a remnant from what sounds like the oni wars (war against monsters/demons). He hasn’t maintained the blade well, but it is heavy and can easily crush Kenshin. The two start fighting. Kenshin doesn’t wish to unsheathe his sword or fight Sanosuke as he has no reason to. The young men (well…if Kenshin was 19 at the beginning of the movie and it’s now 10 years later—that makes him 30—not old, but not young either) put on a great show, but it quickly comes to an end with Kenshin asking why Sanosuke would work for such a man. Sanosuke doesn’t reply and just tells everyone to go back inside as the fight is over. Kaoru invites Kenshin to go back and finish their meal while Kanryu watches in anger. Money can’t buy the real Battosai’s rage. That automatically makes him an enemy.
I won’t lie. For some reason I had a John Wayne western stuck in my head. LOL. Totally random, ne? In El Dorado, the Duke is offered a job as a hired gun to protect a sleazy businessman. Of course, he refuses as he may be a man who hires out his gun arm, but he has principals and standards, and ends up taking a stand against the man and his henchmen later.
Ok, enough digressing. The next day Kaoru, Yahiko, and Kenshin come upon a group of men who had been slaughtered by Jin’e as well the previous night. Jin’e was all crazy and slicing men down left and right saying he needs more blood for his sword. The man is seriously sick in the head. Anywho, Saito is there and notices Kenshin. Our wandering swordsman sends Yahiko and Kaoru off so he can talk to Saito who basically says it’s all his fault. It isn’t, though. As Saito sees it, if Kenshin had killed those thugs back when they attacked the dojo, then innocent policemen wouldn’t have been caught up and slaughtered as well. Jin’e doesn’t discriminate, does he? Saito goes back to the scene and Kenshin gets an unpleasant surprise that makes him recount his past when a woman comes and cries over the body of her dead husband. This makes Kenshin go off into the woods by himself and he fingers one half of his cross-shaped scar.
We go to the past when he was first hired on as an assassin. He quickly and methodically took care of business. It just so happens he met a samurai who was getting married. The man refused to die as he had something to live for. In the end, Kenshin kills him, but gets his cheek scarred in the process. This makes him question if what he’s doing is really right. Will this killing really bring an end to the pain and suffering and save their country? When the murders are discovered, Kenshin sees the wailing fiancée. Major guilt trip for him. He asks the men who made him an assassin if killing these young men was really worth it for the future. In spite of the young man’s doubts and troubles of buying a better future with blood, he stayed as the man-slayer until the end of the war and only then gave up on ever killing another living being then.
The flashback ends with Kenshin still fingering the scars. I thought we’d get to see how he got the second one, but we don’t. Although, he later tells Megumi what happened. Anywho, Kaoru comes to find him and the two head back to the dojo (the young woman was worried that something had happened to him since he was taking so long to come back). Meanwhile, Kanryu gets a new toy—a Gatling gun. Great. Oh, and we get Jin’e sitting in a building on fire saying that the awakening of Battosai has just begun.
Kanryu’s masked henchman Gein [the totally awesome—not to mention pretty—Ayano Gou] goes to the dojo to pay Megumi a visit. Needless to say the girl is NOT happy to see him. I was a bit saddened by the fact that he held up his mask so half his face is covered, but at the end of the movie, you see why he wears it. Anywho, Gein says he considers Megumi a friend thus he is warning her that things are about to get dangerous. Not too long after that the dojo begins to fill up with sick people. What happened? Looks like Kanryu’s men might have slipped some rat poison into the town’s water supply.
We learn in this next scene that Megumi is the only survivor of the Takani clan which was a clan of doctors. The entire clan ended up being murdered for some reason. After the crisis is averted with Megumi’s quick actions and medical knowledge, Kenshin follows her to the water and asks for the truth. Megumi says he should tell the truth first. She then talks about how he must be proud of the sheer numbers of people he killed. Kenshin doesn’t say anything to assert that isn’t the case and only tells her about his scars. The first was from a young samurai and the second was from the woman he was to marry. Megumi reveals her history. She was taken in by Kanryu and to save herself she became his woman and made him opium. She then says that what he did was too much—what do they take human lives as?
Later that night, Kenshin goes to head off to Kanryu’s mansion because of the poison incident. Sanosuke stops by and says that he will go with them. Before they two can depart Kaoru rushes out with a note. Our duo learn that Megumi has run off to Kanryu’s mansion. Kenshin will go to bring her back safely. Kaoru goes to gather her things to help, but he tells her that she and Yahiko must remain at the dojo to protect it (Kanryu has set his sights on owning the dojo). Sanosuke then tells the dejected Kaoru to make sure she has breakfast ready in the morning since they will be hungry as they have nearly 300 men (Kanryu’s guards) to fight and it will take them all night. Kenshin and Sanosuke then leave as Kaoru and Yahiko stare after their retreating backs in worry.
Megumi has re-entered Kanryu’s mansion on a suicide mission. She goes to kill him, but fails and ends up getting beaten instead. Then arrives our heroes. Again, great fight sequences. Even though you know that they are using wires for some parts of the fight scenes, it’s not that horribly fake wire stuff that I hate. So, needless to say, Kenshin and Sanosuke singlehandedly whip the 250 guards’ rears and rush in to save Megumi. Inside they run into Banjin Inui [former kickboxer/MMA fighter Sudo Genki]. Sanosuke says that since he is a brawler, he will fight this man fist to fist while Kenshin goes on ahead. While Jin’e takes Megumi to somehow use her against Kenshin, our swordsman meets up with Gein.
Kenshin wonders how Gein who had to have been a samurai at one time as well, could sell his soul to a man like Kanryu. Soul? Peace, etc. can’t feed him can it? Gein (sans mask – yeesh, blonde hair and a disfiguring scar) then whips out guns and starts shooting at Kenshin who is apparently faster than a speeding bullet—just like Superman. When the gunshots sound upstairs, Sanosuke worries about his new found friend and yells to ask if he’s all right. Of course, this distraction allows Inui to clobber him well. Ah, these two fight scenes. So funny as they are so different. I especially like the break near the end of Sanosuke’s battle where he and his opponent break for food and drink before resuming. Sanosuke barely manages to win. Meanwhile, Kenshin refuses to unsheathe his sword once more. He will not kill. Gein tells him that he will have to kill him to end the battle. Kenshin, using his reversed blade, shows just how he can end a fight without killing anyone. Sanosuke arrives and finds Gein on the floor clutching his stomach unable to move. Gein yells at Kenshin to stay and fight, but Sanosuke and Kenshin ignore him and rush on.
They arrive to where Kanryu is hiding and the Gatling gun starts firing like crazy. At this time Saito arrives. He tells them that Yahiko alerted him to what was going on. He then also tells them the weakness of the gun—it can only fire a straight line in one direction. So Sanosuke and Kenshin go in and pretend to surrender and then start running around the room. Enter Saito who successfully takes out the gun. Kenshin then balances on top of it with his sword pointing at Kanryu’s neck. He tells the older man that the one thing money can’t buy is what Kanryu is now begging for—his life. He then jumps off the gun. Sanosuke wishes to beat Kanryu up, but Saito steps in and says he will take it from there. Sanosuke and Kenshin rush off and find Megumi tied up in a room. She reveals that Jin’e has gone after Kaoru.
Jin’e has taken Kaoru to the woods. He says that he needs her to unlock the man-slayer Battosai once more. Enter Kenshin. He’s mad. Like the hulk, you don’t want an angry Kenshin. The two start fighting, but Kenshin is holding on to his ideals (even though he’s angry right now). This will not do. His fighting isn’t up to snuff and he’s still clinging on to his no killing policy. So Jin’e uses an enhanced form of his ultimate weapon that freezes not just the body, but the lungs as well. This means Kaoru only has 2 minutes left. Kenshin demands Jin’e stop it and free Kaoru, but Jin’e replies that there are only 2 ways to do so—kill him or Kaoru has to find the will power to break the hold herself. So, in order to save Kaoru, Kenshin goes a wee bit berserk and even breaks out the special moves of his school. As he is about to kill Jin’e to save Kaoru, she screams at him to stop. This means she successfully broke the trance, whatever. This also means Kenshin has no reason to kill Jin’e. So he stops with just having shattered the man’s elbow so he can never be a swordsman again. Jin’e doesn’t accept this. He commits suicide and tells Kenshin basically that you live by the sword, you die by the sword. This new world is no place for them. He will watch Kenshin from the grave to see if he will be able to keep his ideals intact.
Saito shows up with his men. Kenshin carries Kaoru out of the woods while Saito basically reiterates the same thing. He also tacks on that the life of a wandering samurai is a display of great weakness, no wait…actually, I think he called Kenshin’s decision the cowardly one. I really can’t determine if Saito is bad or good—I mean, he’s on the good guys’ side I guess, but his antagonistic attitude towards Kenshin makes me wonder if they’ll ultimately be fighting against each other sometime. I guess this is where knowing more of the manga story would be helpful. Anywho, Kenshin defends his decision by saying that killing will only breed more resentment and he is determined that hatred and vengeance and resentment shall end now by following his new path. Saito mutters after his retreating back that if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Sooner or later Kenshin will face that fact. Saito then shouts out after our scarred hero and demands to know if he’s going back to wandering again. Kenshin says nothing and keeps on walking.
Anywho, Kaoru wakes up and the first thing on her mind is Kenshin. She finds Yahiko and Megumi in the kitchen, but no Kenshin. Where is he? She runs out of the house in her bare feet only to run into Kenshin returning with a basket full of food. Megumi and Yahiko scold her for not listening. They were about to tell her that Kenshin had said he was making dinner. Kenshin holds up his basket with a smile. Sanosuke then makes his battered appearance. With tears in her eyes, Kaoru welcomes him home with “oakeri.” This surprises Kenshin, but he soon smiles and replies with “tadaima.” Our wanderer has found his home at long last.
Overall—excellent movie for me. Some really great fight scenes and a pretty clear plot. This movie, even if no sequel was in the works, could stand on its own with no cliffhangers. Like I said earlier, my only complaint was not feeling the connection between Kaoru and Kenshin to make them become “family” essentially.
You can see stills from the movie in AAA’s Kenshin album on Google+.