With ‘Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends’, Keishi Ohtomo brings his stunning adaptation of the classic manga to a thrilling conclusion.
The journey started in 2012, with the release of ‘Rurouni Kenshin’, the first film in Ohtomo’s trilogy of adaptations. Starring Takeru Satoh, Emi Takei, Munetaka Aoki, Yu Aoi and Yosuke Eguchi, ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ brought the celebrated manga to the silver screen for the first time.
Beautifully filmed and masterfully directed, it is little wonder that this faithful adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s masterpiece became a runaway success with Japanese and international audiences. Its success hinged on the cunningly crafted mix of action and drama, part of which is the story and the other part is pure movie magic.
Once an assassin feared throughout Japan known as Battosai, the story follows Himura Kenshin after he left his sword behind and vowed to never take another life.
It chronicles his meeting with Kamiya Kaoru, the owner of a Kendo school amd Myojin Yahiko, Kaoru’s only student; befriending Sagara Sanosuke, a street fighter; and saving Takani Megumi, a doctor forced to make opium by the film’s antagonist Takeda Kanryu, as well as a confrontation with his past.
Set during the Meiji era in Japan, which was between 1868 and 1912, the film is a beautiful depiction of a Japan long past. From the costume to the sets, Rurouni Kenshin is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. The story serves as a perfect compliment, skilfully weaving several plotlines and a cast of colourful characters into a cohesive whole that will enthral you.
Emi Takei is charming as the determined Kaoru and Yu Aoi captivates as the mysterious Megumi. Munetaka Aoki is spot on in playing the energetic, fight-loving Sanosuke and Yosuke Eguchi is brilliant as Saito, the tenacious samurai turned police officer.
It is, however, Takeru Satoh’s performance as Himura Kenshin that steals the show. His subtle acting clearly shows the dual personalities warring within Kenshin; the peace-loving, almost ditzy wanderer and the powerful, ruthless assassin. This performance is the core of the film and only gets better with the next two.
The second film, ‘Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno’ is the beginning of an arc that was the manga’s finale. Set some years after the events of the first film, Kenshin has settled into life at Kaoru’s dojo, with Sanosuke and Megumi. Things, however, are not as idyllic as they appear.
Trouble is stirring in Meiji era Japan, masterminded by Shishio, the assassin who took over Kenshin’s role when he made his vow to never kill again. In a desperate bid to stop him before overthrows the new government and returns Japan to a time of chaos and violence, the minister of the interior asks Kenshin to once more return as an assassin and hunt Shishio down.
Compounding the drama is Aoshi Shinomori, a former ninja played by Yusuke Iseya, who is determined to hunt Kenshin down. However, Kenshin is also aided by two new allies; Min Tanaka plays a ninja elder and Tap Tsuchiya plays Misoa Makimachi, a ninja who fights beside Kenshin while still in love with Aoshi.
‘Rurouni Kenshin 2: Kyoto Inferno’, like the film before it, weaves together several storylines while introducing another cast of engaging characters to complement the cast that returned from the first film. The tone of the last two movies are darker than the first, though there are comedic moments that cut the tension, only for Ohtomo to build it back up again with a calculating, masterful hand.
The music of the films plays a massive role in the rise and fall of tension. At times haunting, at times melodic, and at times a pounding beat that drives adrenaline up, the music underscores each scene perfectly and helps with the story’s pacing, especially when the ending will leave you on tenterhooks.
Following on directly from the cliff hanger in the previous film, ‘Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends’ completes the Kyoto arc and, thus, the climax of the manga. The film follows Kenshin as he trains and continues his hunt for Shishio; as Kaoru is once again reunited with Sanosuke and Yahiko; and as Shishio prepares for his biggest battle yet.
Once again Ohtomo delivers; this long-awaited finale is a thrilling ride from start to finish. While much darker in tone when compared to the first two films, ‘Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends’ still manages to capture the charm and drama that so captivated a country.
And the fights—the swordfights and action sequences are even more amped up in this film. One thing that all the films do exceptionally well are the action sequences; whether it’s Kenshin’s fast-paced, gymnastic sword fights or Sanosuke’s swaggering, knuckle busting fist fights, each action-packed moment is exquisitely choreographed and filmed, creating breath-taking fights that are easy to follow and pure pleasure to watch.
A word of warning though; as thoroughly entertaining as Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends is, it might not sense unless you have at least watched the previous film or are a big fan of the manga or anime. However, ‘Rurouni Kenshin 3: The Legend Ends’ is still a beautiful film to watch, with an intriguing plot, charismatic characters, heart-stopping action and beautiful cinematography that shows off exquisite costumes and set designs.
All in all, all three films in Ohtomo’s ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ trilogy are a must watch for any fan of the manga and highly recommended for anyone who likes a good swordfight or action movie. They’re worth it.
Review by Nadhirah Nadzri