Rurouni Kenshin: Is the Live Action Film Triumph or Torment? | Fanboys Anonymous

Rurouni Kenshin: Is the Live Action Film Triumph or Torment?

Posted by Sean Mitchell Friday, August 23, 2013
For anime fans, the name Rurouni Kenshin may conjure up feelings of nostalgia. Rurouni Kenshin made it's American TV debut on Toonami back in 2003. Personally I had loved the show (and judging by this I'm not the only one) but I was also pretty new to anime. At that time I was in high school. I didn't really have a well playing job, nor did I have a car, so going out and buying DVDs wasn't always on the table. Things like Toonami and Adult Swim were a good thing to have as a teenager first discovering entertainment more popular and suited for other cultures. (Bored already? Skip to the tl;dr at the bottom of the article!)

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Not from the anime, in case you couldn't tell.
So. A live action version of a fairly beloved manga/anime. What could go wrong? The anime certainly had it's faults. The show was slow to gain momentum. The show had emphatic things to say about war, and murder, and redemption. However the show wasn't all dark and morose. The show was full of lighthearted scenes and outright comedy. These are the parts where the show didn't always shine. There was an episode where Kenshin and several of the other main characters performed in a circus. What? But the over the top silliness was also a big part of the show's charm.

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But absolutely the biggest draw to the entire Rurouni Kenshin franchise is Kenshin himself. The whole premise of the character is (and they let you know this almost immediately, so if you didn't know I'm sorry I guess? But this is pretty much the furthest thing from a spoiler possible.) his history. Kenshin's routes are sewn in a very chaotic part of Japan's history. The late 1860's saw major civil unrest. Several clans sought to force the Tokugawa shogunate to step down from power and restore the Japanese emperor to his rightful place. Kenshin, a very young swordsman with frightening skill, serves as an assassin for the Choshu clan. Kenshin's intentions are good, as he fights to end the shogunate for the sake of those suffering. After a series of tragic events unfold (which I will NOT spoil, because, well shit, that storyline is PHENOMENAL. Seriously. If you haven't seen it and are even a little bit curious, do so. I'll even make it easy for you. There. Just click that.) Kenshin's actions as an assassin begin to weigh heavily on his heart.

The whole premise of Rurouni Kenshin revolves around Kenshin wandering the country with a "back blade" sword, saving lives to atone for the ones he took. A back blade is exactly what it sounds like, the dull side faces the opponent, and the cutting edge faces the swordsman. The plotline for this is that it allows Kenshin to use his sword skills without threatening the lives of his opponents. But, come on. He's bashing heads with a thin piece of metal. If anything the blade would be more humane instead of the internal hemorrhage bludgeoning would cause. But minor detail aside, Rurouni Kenshin brings up morality and asks one of the biggest questions that every person needs to find an answer to during their own wanderings. Do we ever truly escape the choices we've made? 
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You bet your ass some pretty awesome sword fighting is about to/already may have happen/ed.
As an anime fan that lives in New Jersey, I've been attending Otakon (which takes place in Baltimore, Maryland) every year for the past four or five years. This year, though, was special. Not only were they officially premiering the live action film at Otakon, but Nobuhiro Watsuki's (the man who created Kenshin) wife, Kaoru Kurosaki, was there to introduce the film and speak about filming. Honestly, it was pretty sweet. You should totally be jealous. She also confirmed that the success the film was experiencing in Japan was rather unexpected. The movie was so successful, in fact, that they've confirmed two sequel films have been green lit. Which IS a good thing. Which brings me back to why you're here. WHY it's a good thing.

Rurouni Kenshin works phenomenally. The casting is solid. People were nervous about Takeru Sato playing the titular character, but he gives a truly stellar performance. The man brings every aspect of the character to life in a film that is truly ambitious. In a film of this nature, the action is almost every bit as important as the plot, and every fight scene is fantastically choreographed. The sword skills in the film are based on actual true to life sword techniques.
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Guess who shows up early!?
 Perhaps most importantly, the adaptation is as faithful as a silver screen adaptation could get. Some characters are introduced early, but by the end of the movie you will not care. You ESPECIALLY will not care if you haven't seen anything Kenshin before. The changes made to the storyline streamline the events of the movie. The slow start the anime series had is definitely not to be found here. At 134 minutes, the film is a decent length and a joy to watch. Never did it feel overly long and onerous. The absolute BEST thing about the film is the fact that it lays the groundwork for a sequel, without ever feeling like you're missing out on movie. Nothing is rushed. The characters stand out as well on film as they did in animation. That is a triumph all its own.
Takeru Sato definitely look the parts.
TL;DR: Rurouni Kenshin is a live action film that will appease Kenshin fans, but more importantly it'll appease anyone looking for blockbuster sized action paired with a well written drama.

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