Rurouni Kenshin (2012)
As I’ve said multiple times that I am a diehard fan of Rurouni Kenshin. It’s only natural that I decide to check out the live action movie.
The very basic plot of the movie is the same as what was established in the manga and anime series. Himura Kenshin (Satou Takeru) was the Isshin Shishi’s most feared assassin until he hung his sword up for good, vowing to never kill again. One day, he wanders into a chaotic Tokyo and meets Kamiya Kaoru (Takei Emi), an instructor at a struggling swordsmanship dojo.
This movie definitely got the look of Rurouni Kenshin right, especially in Satou’s portrayal of the titular hero. I was worried about what would happen as soon as I heard someone that was not Suzukaze Mayo (Kenshin’s voice actress in the anime) say, “Oro?” However, I will say Satou actually did a very admirable job, as did the rest of the cast in getting the essence of their characters, particularly Eguchi Yousuke as Saitou Hajime. Did I mention I think Takei Emi is one of the most beautiful women in existence? Well, now you know.
Director Ohtomo Keishi also had a painstaking attention to detail. Rurouni Kenshin didn’t exactly look like what I would expect a more serious samurai drama to look like, but it got the job done in feeling like the anime on which it was based. The fights were decently choreographed throughout.
The problem with Rurouni Kenshin was that the story was a complete mess. In about two hours, the movie tried to cram in the “introduction”, Jinei, Sanosuke, and Kanryuu arcs; combined, they took about a dozen episodes in the anime series. Didn’t feel like enough was squeezed in? A dash of the Tsuioku-hen OVA was thrown in for good measure!
What resulted was a story where there simply wasn’t enough script to go around. By the movie’s logic, Sanosuke more or less joined Kenshin in rescuing Megumi for no apparent reason. Yahiko was living at Kaoru’s dojo for no apparent reason. Jinei wanted to kill Kenshin for no apparent reason. Many of the characters, who had more than loving development both in the manga and in the anime, walked into the movie without a backstory, and I wasn’t even clear as to who the movie defined to be the main villain. For that reason, the movie wound up suffering exactly the same problems the Seisou-hen and Shin Kyoto-hen OVAs did.
Rurouni Kenshin is also the first time in a long time I’ve seen a movie where its soundtrack actually stuck out to me in a bad way. The series’ soundtrack was made of nice, catchy tunes written by Asakura Noriyuki, while Tsuioku-hen and Seisou-hen opted for subtler, more haunting pieces by Taku Iwasaki. Rurouni Kenshin anime were known for having good music. This movie, however, went for dramatic Hans Zimmer-esque action movie music. More than anything else, the music both overwhelmed and simply felt out of place.
Ultimately, the movie fails because of its need to use a very well-established manga and anime as a crutch instead of standing on its own two feet as a feature film. It had a clear target audience and was relying on fan service to support itself; to that end, it succeeded as two sequels have been greenlit. It faltered in many of the areas The Adventures of Tintin really succeeded in. While the acting overall was decent as was the nostalgia factor, I really have a tough time recommending Rurouni Kenshin to fans of the manga or anime. That includes the Takei Emi bonus. I’ll leave you with a good song from the anime series if you feel like me and that you need to clean the movie’s soundtrack from your system.
At least it’s better than Shin Kyoto-hen.