Rurouni Kenshin (2012) [A Second Look]

RUROUNI-KENSHIN2Readers may remember my rather harsh review of last year’s Rurouni Kenshin, the live action adaptation of the hit anime series. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, having gone into the movie immediately after hosting a dinner that didn’t go as planned, I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind as I watched it. Furthermore, I was simply reviewing the movie on the wrong metric. For those reasons, I’m doing something I haven’t done before: A rebuttal of my own review.

The first mistake I made going in was letting my expectations affect my viewing experience. This time, I went in with a blank slate, and realized the story (while it’s still not without some problems) actually was fairly decent. It served as a good retelling of Himura Kenshin’s (Sato Takeru) entrance into the life of Kamiya Kaoru (Takei Emi).

The best character, by and far, was Kenshin himself. As I said before, Sato Takeru was spot-on as the title hero, both in look and in personality. While he did have a distinctly masculine voice (as opposed to Kenshin’s voice actress, Suzukaze Mayo), Sato landed Kenshin’s dialogue perfectly. Barring some minor lapses, the movie did a great job of showing Kenshin as a tortured individual haunted by his past.

As you should expect, the movie had some terrific fight scenes, with some absolutely amazing choreography and cinematography. Unfortunately, they do suffer the same problems as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in that the special effects didn’t quite keep up; my main grievances are that some of the jumps looked a little hokey and Sanosuke’s Zanbatou didn’t really look as heavy as it was supposed to be. Nonetheless, I take my hat off to director Ohtomo Keishi for capturing the look and feel of Rurouni Kenshin.

The movie still had the problem of trying to do too much in its runtime. I still felt Sanosuke (Aoki Munetaka) to be a woefully underdeveloped character, and Jinei (Kikkawa Koji) was woefully underused; in the case of the latter, he was absent from the screen long enough that I actually forgot he was in the movie after a certain point. Takeda Kanryu was kind of a waste of space as he wasn’t particularly menacing; they tried to make him funny here where he was more of a frightening presence in the anime.

Furthermore, I still didn’t like the music any more than I did the first time I saw the movie. The movie’s main theme, a tune that reminded me Hans Zimmer’s theme for the Nolan Batman movies, simply seemed out-of-place to me compared to Asakura Noriyuki’s score for the series or Taku Iwasaki’s for the OVAs.

Nonetheless, while the movie was nowhere near perfect, it definitely got things right, especially in the cast. The best performances came from Tanaka Taketo as Yahiko and Eguchi Yousuke as Saitou. In my opinion, Takei Emi is easily one of the most beautiful women in the world (some can even argue that she was too pretty to play Kaoru, who was supposed to be rather ordinary looking in the manga/anime), but I was (pleasantly) surprised to see her demonstrate herself to be a competent actress as well.

Is it the best Rurouni Kenshin media I have ever seen? Nope. That badge is still worn by Tsuioku-hen, and I doubt it will be shaken off anytime soon. In fact, I still liked the series more. Still, it’s a good movie to pick up if you like Rurouni Kenshin, and it’s definitely one to see if you were as disappointed as I was with the god-awful Shin Kyoto-hen.

Revised Score: 3/4