Spoilers spoilers many many spoilers.
I am a Rurouni Kenshin/Samurai X fanboy. Terms like ama kakeru ryu no hirameki and kuzu ryu sen come to my mind when I need them, effortlessly. I was therefore rather excited when I found out a live-action movie was being produced. I was even more excited when I found out they were releasing it in Singapore, because there were murmurs that it would take a pretty long time to get released outside of Japan. Strangely enough, my parents managed to watch it about a month ago; it was showing on the in-flight entertainment system of Qatar Airways when they flew to and from Africa.
I watched the movie last weekend. The exclusive distributor for the film is Filmgarde, which only has cinemas in Bugis+ and Kallang Leisure Park. Apparently they extended the run for the show due to popular demand. Excellent, I say.
So basically, the story of Rurouni Kenshin
(the anime/manga) is that there’s this guy called Kenshin who used to work as a government assassin during the transition to the Meiji era but after the transition happened he decided to leave and become a wanderer, and the anime/manga follows his life as a wanderer.
The movie deals with two storylines that occur quite early on in the anime (I never read the manga) but combines them. If you have any idea what I’m talking about, they’re the Jin-E Udo and Oniwabanshu arcs. The movie combined the two quite nicely but as a fanboy it was a bit sad to see, because the only things extracted from the Oniwabanshu arc are the douchey businessman and Megumi, which means the actual Oniwabanshu doesn’t show up. There’s a guy with a mask, except he isn’t as cool as Hanya and he actually turns out to be a K-pop singer in disguise. You will understand if you watch.
I liked very much that they included Saito, one of my favorite characters, considering that he doesn’t actually appear in the anime until later. There was a promotional picture that showed him in the specific fighting stance he uses, and I kept waiting for it to appear in the movie. When it finally does appear in the movie, it is extremely cool and then extremely lame. I got confused early on as well, because he was wearing his sword on his left side and I was pretty sure the character is left-handed, so it didn’t make sense to have his sword there. The confusion lasted the whole movie because at one point he uses his right hand to fight and then at another he uses his left, and this is never explained. [UPDATE: He wears his sword on his left in the anime too; maybe he is ambidextrous. Also, I am sad that my memory isn’t as good as I thought it was.] I was trying to remember the name of his stance, and because the dialogue kept mentioning Battousai, I kept being distracted by the name Gattuso, but then I finally remembered that it’s gatotsu. The letters are the same; how cool is that? I wish they had casted Saito better, though. Apart from him, the rest of the cast was pretty good. Kenshin’s actor was especially good. And the women playing Kaoru and Megumi are really pretty in real life.
The pacing of the movie was a bit strange to me; it kinda plodded along at certain points and felt a bit too serious during parts that didn’t really need to be serious. One thing I love about the anime is how quickly and easily it transitions from being funny to serious, and although the movie did this every now and then, it didn’t capture the essence of it often enough.
The fight scenes are great. The one between Kenshin and K-pop dude was especially impressive because of how fast it went. Yeah I know it was definitely sped up post-production, but it still looks very cool. It’s also a nice nod to the source material that the fight between Kenshin and Jin-E ends the exact same way. I was extremely disappointed that they didn’t reuse any of the fight music from the anime; that would’ve been like a super shout-out to fans of the anime and the music that they used in the movie instead didn’t do much for me.
Overall, I’m glad this movie was made and I’m glad they managed to more or less be as faithful to the original series as they could while taking creative license so the movie fits within its 2+ hour timeframe. If you know nothing or little of the series, the movie is entertaining enough on its own but you’ll definitely appreciate it a lot more if you’ve followed the anime/manga. I do hope they make more movies; I would particularly like to see the Shishio arc coz then it means there’ll be Soujiro. I adore Soujiro. After watching the movie, I was reminded of a Soujiro fanfiction that I read a long time ago but never finished because it hadn’t been completed yet when I started reading. I tried to look for it again and managed to find it after some searching. You can read it here. It’s the only fanfiction I’ve ever really gotten into, which doesn’t really say very much at all.
You can also read a much better-written review of the movie here.