JMovie Review: Rurouni Kenshin Finale
The first movie in the live action Kenshin series was pretty awesome. The next two movies (Kyoto Inferno and The Legend Ends) both ratcheted up the awesomeness even more! The acting was superb (for the most part) and the action sequences are great and not as bad as some movies with the overly obvious wire work that defies the laws of physics.
These final two movies follow the Kyoto arc to its conclusion. In the first movie, our band of friends are enjoying a play chronicling the Bakumatsu era and a very bumbling Battosai. They enjoyed the farcical comedy possible only in this time of long-awaited and promised peace. Unfortunately, trouble brews on the horizon with the announcement of the crazed Shishio. He, like Kenshin, was an assassin to help bring about the new era. Unlike Kenshin who lost his desire to kill, Shishio always thirsted for blood. Fearing the monster they helped create, the man was attacked by those he helped and burned. He managed to survive thanks to the arrival of a snow storm and now he’s hell bent on revenge and bring the era back to the dark days of fighting and death. It is believed that only Kenshin can stop this monster. Kenshin’s meetings with Shishio do not go well and we end the first moving with Kaoru’s whereabouts unknown and Kenshin washing ashore on the coast of his master’s home.
The second movie follows Kenshin’s struggle to learn the ultimate technic from his master in order to stop the monster Shishio. To appease the crazed lunatic, the government makes Kenshin an outlaw for all the murders he committed during the previous era. A rouse is staged so that Kenshin can get close to Shishio and destroy him. While he and his comrades fight on Shishio’s warship, the police and government start bombarding it, nearly killing all on board. Kenshin ultimately wins over Shishio and returns home to Kaoru’s dojo where he asks her to help him guard the new era (kind of, I guess, akin to him proposing, lol).
These two movies bring back our favorite characters. Sato Takeru reprises his role as the wandering swordsman Kenshin, Takei Emi reprises her role as Kaoru, Aoi Yu as Takani Megumi, Aoiki Munetaka as Sagara Sanosuke, Eguchi Yosuke as Saito Hajime, and Oyagi Kaito as Myojin Yahiko. We are also introduced to some new characters.
Fujiwara Tatsuya takes on the role as the crazed and evil Shishio Makoto. My problem was that in the first movie, for whatever reason, I could not divorce Akagi Saimon from Shishio just because of some of the ways Fujiwara delivered his lines and emoted. The image of Akagi Saimon completely disappeared in the second movie, so I don’t know why I kept picturing the neurotic detective from ST. I think that Fujiwara did a great job with a very difficult character. You definitely can’t blame the man for having a chip on his shoulder since he was betrayed by the government he helped create.
By Shishio’s side is Komagata Yumi (Takanashi Maryjun). She doesn’t really have all that big of a role until the final movie where her sacrifice spurs Kenshin on to fight Shishio to the bitter end. Also by Shishio’s side is the young and equally crazy Seta Sojiro (Kamiki Ryunosuke). Seta is an interesting character. He kind of resembles a cross of Kamiki’s Ninomae from SPEC and Numata from Kazoku Game. He seems like a cheerful young man until he’s killing you with that bright smile on his face. We then have Takito Kenichi playing Shishio’s right-hand man Sadojima Hoji. Another slightly crazy character…with a Gatling gun no less.
Joining our good guys are ninjas Kashiwazaki Nenji (Tanaka Min) and Makimachi Misao (Tsuchiya Tao). These two and their associates help to battle Shishio’s army against the burning of Kyoto. Alos we have the character of Shinomori Aoishi (Iseya Yusuke) who has gone mad since the end of the war. With no one left to blame for the slaughter of his men, etc., he turns his entire rage on Kenshin and goes around doing evil deeds to find him. This, of course, brings him in conflict with the master Nenji. Oh…and Misao really likes psycho swordsman. He is tallied as one of the good guys at the end since he does join Kenshin in destroying Shishio.
I have no complaints about the acting, plot, or acting sequences really. One complaint I do have resides with Takei Emi. Her acting in this movie was not bad. It really wasn’t. But my problem comes with Kaoru. She’s the female head of a kendo clan. She teaches and practices the art of the sword…and she can’t fight at all. Her practice scene where Sanosuke and Megumi are scolding her for not chasing after Kenshin when he heads out to Kyoto is very weak and her fighting to help Kenshin when Kyoto comes under attack was even weaker. The little boy, Yahiko fights better than his own master. It just doesn’t seem like Kaoru should be so weak in fighting given her background. Oh…and Kaoru’s faith in Kenshin was too easily shaken when he fights with Cho. She’s screaming at him not to kill and all upset. Yahiko has to go and show that Kenshin’s new sword (his old one broke) is indeed another reversed blade so Cho is only unconscious and not dead. While I understand Kaoru’s principles…does she not get that sometimes, as horrible as it may sound or seem, a death is necessary? Shishio would not stop until he died and he is a monster of a tough cookie. In some situations, it is killed or be killed. Would she rather Kenshin stay his hand and be killed instead?
I do think that Tsuchiya Tao’s acting as Misao could have been a little better. She’s not too good at expressing emotions. Her shock at Aoshi striking down Nenji and during other parts just wasn’t all that believable. A bit of stronger acting would have been nice. Otherwise, like I said, the overall acting was okay. I know that they did not have time to encompass all that happened in the Kyoto arc. I was waiting to see the pirates and Sanosuke’s own journey to mastering his ultimate technic (which, I believe, had to do with the ability to shatter stones with his own hands), but it’s no shocker that we stick with Kenshin more often than anyone else. So we barely get to see Kaoru, Yahiko, Megumi, and Sanosuke.
I really do like the story and it rings pretty true even today. The government created and used these highly skilled assassins to bring about the new era. If Kenshin had not laid down his sword and vowed to never kill again, don’t you think he would have been in Shishio’s place? He would have been betrayed and hijacked by his comrades, too. Of course, Kenshin never really thirsted for blood and enjoyed the kill. Whenever we saw past shots of Kenshin, it was more like him being a machine than a man in the heat of battle, enjoying the kill. Anywho, when the assassins can bring bad light to the new government, what is the first thing they do? Throw them away. Betray them. When Ito (Ozawa Yukiyoshi) allows Kenshin to break free of his bonds and escape to Shishio’s ship to stop him from leveling Tokyo, he deliberately fires upon the ship knowing full well that Kenshin and his own men are on the ship. He doesn’t care. If everyone goes down the whole matter will be done with, won’t it?
Another thing that I liked was the introduction of Seijuro Hiko, Kenshin’s master who taught him the way of the sword (he even gave Kenshin his name since his real name was too soft for a swordsman). Seijuro does his best to get something very important through Kenshin’s head. Kenshin needs to face his past and move on without the fear that by returning to killing (to save the people for Shishio) he will be hated and live life on his own as an outcast once more. I really liked that Seijiro lectured Kenshin on how Kenshin’s life is not his own and that Kenshin’s life is just as valuable as the others. This is something we also saw in xxxHolic. Your life isn’t your own and people will be sad if you die, thus you are stupid to sacrifice yourself where you do not have to. In order for Kenshin to reach his true potential, he had to throw away his attitude that dying was okay and embrace his own will to live.
I really enjoyed Kenshin’s time with Seijuro even if he was getting his arse kicked most of the time. That relationship was interesting and hearing his master’s thoughts on Kenshin utilizing his skills for the purpose of helping a government instead of the helpless people was interesting. If you think about it, Kaoru’s school and Kenshin’s school of sword fighting weren’t as different as you might think. Of course, the Kamiya style abhored using the sword to kill while I think Kenshin’s style embraced killing it if saved the weak and oppressed.
It is interesting that Hajime has a change of heart in regards to Kenshin. At the end of the first movie he bated the young man and told him he’d always be watching essentially and that Kenshin’s foolish beliefs will get him nowhere. Here we have Hajime refusing to arrest Kenshin and even joining his side in the final battle against Shishio. Speaking of Shishio. I know they explained that due to his extreme burns, he can’t sweat (which is why he bursts into flames at the end of the movie), but they never really explain the reason why his sword is discolored and why the sword itself bursts into flames at times when he fights. I thank nichan for writing all of her recaps/reviews of the anime as to the reason why I even know why his sword does what it does.
What was also interesting was the people surrounding Shishio and the people surrounding Kenshin. When fighting with the gifted and crazy swordsman Cho when Kenshin was seeking a new reverse bladed sword for the sword master’s son, Cho easily flips on Shishio and reveals the plans to attack Kyoto because Shishio was not his friend, just someone he joined up with. He’s not loyal at all. This is reiterated when Sanosuke gets his big fight with a monk this time. The monk states he is NOT Shishio’s friend. The only reason the people have gathered around Shishio is because they do not like the present government. Sanosuke is quick to say he doesn’t like the government either, but he enjoys the hard won peace of the new era. See, with Shishio, these evil seeds gather together. These seeds were created thanks to the unrest between the previous era and the new one and the chafing of the new government. They are not friends, they are not even really all that loyal and do not care for one another. The people who gather around Kenshin are fiercely loyal and his friends. They trust in each other and the belief in peace and a better tomorrow.
I haven’t really touched on Sato’s Kenshin in these two movies. He’s as awesome as ever. You get to see more sides of Kenshin than we even saw in the first movie. It was nice that someone finally pointed out that he accepts the weight of the world solely on his own shoulders when that is not where the weight belongs (hence why Kenshin asks what he does of Kaoru at the end of the third movie). It was also nice to see Kenshin’s beginnings as a swordsman. It’s amazing how he can go from the soft spoken, silly man, to the dangerous fighter with the deep voice that commands attention…and obedience in a way. I just love how Sato does it and it is not fake sounding and quite natural. Oh…and I loved his fight with Seta on the boat. Actually both his fights with Seta and Iseya prove that he has grown and learned from what his friends and teacher were trying to tell him as he spits the advice back out at them with his own little spin. It like that there’s teaching, but really no preaching.
I highly recommend checking out this trio of movies. It’s an action feast with little comedy gems hidden within.