Director: Keishi Ohtomo
Cast: Takeru Sato, Emi Takei, Munetaka Aoki, Kaito Oyagi, Yu Aoi, Yosuke Eguchi, Yusuke Iseya, Min Tanaka, Tao Tsuchiya, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Maryjun Takahashi, Tatsuya Fujiwara
RunTime: 2 hrs 19 mins
Rating: PG13 (Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 28 August 2014
Synopsis: In 1868, after the end of the Bakumatsu war, the former assassin Kenshin Himura promises to defend those in need without killing. Kenshin wanders through Japan with a reverse-edged sword during the transition of the samurai age to the New Age. When Kenshin helps the idealistic Kaoru Kamiya from the gangsters of the powerful opium drug lord Kanryuu Takeda that wants her school for his production of opium, Kaoru invites Kenshin to stay in the school. But the drug chemist Megumi Takani escapes from Kanryuu and seeks shelter in the school. Meanwhile the killer Battosai is murdering police officers and leaving messages attached to their bodies. When Kanryuu poisons the population to get the school, Kenshin and the street fighter Sanosuke Sagara join forces to attack their common enemy.
I have a confession to make.
I am one of those Rurouni Kenshin (RK) fans who cringe whenever I hear someone refer to the anime/manga series as Samurai X (yes, I condemn what I would consider a bastardization of the original title).
So yes, I’m a RK fan who will be able to pick up the not-so-subtle references to Tomoe (no I won’t spoil it for those new to the RK universe and tell you who she is, just in case the third movie reveals who she is) and when the plot verves away from the original manga series.
Which happens towards, perhaps, the last 10-15 minutes. Generally, I get that adaptations differ from the original (they kind of have to, to fit the expectation of their own medium) but if you are a fan, I would just say that you really should walk out during the part when an exhausted Kaoru is drinking water from a barrel after an intense battle. Walk out and don’t look back. And don’t catch the third Rurouni Kenshin live-action movie (because you will be completely lost having missed the last 10-15 minutes of this movie). Trust me, that last 10-15 minutes is like a fanfic gone bad. Really bad.
Other than that, the movie actually makes a rather valiant attempt at merging various arcs of the original series together. It’s not too bad and the things that are changed in the process are generally acceptable – e.g. Kenshin encountering Misao before entertaining Aoshi. Or the fact the whole world seems to know that Battousai’s surname is Himura. The sharing of the backstories, while a tad boring, helps bring those unfamiliar with the RK universe up to speed though.
However, the flatness of the characters is unlikely to go down well with fans and non-fans alike. Kenshin oscillates mostly between broody Kenshin and super-intense-almost-battousai-mode Kenshin most of the time. Sano is reduced to a mediocre fighter who is comic relief. Kaoru becomes the voice of conscience for Kenshin (she actually keeps telling him “No, don’t kill!”) and a weak kidnap victim. Aoshi becomes a flat character who just goes around demanding to meet Battousai. Which is really sad because one of the great things about RK is how audiences can connect to its characters (despite the multitude of them) and this is completely lost in this sequel.
(If you are not an RK fan, I suggest you stick to watching the first live-action movie and don’t watch this movie; if you are an RK fan, don’t go in expecting this adaptation to be as good as the first movie - and walk out at the point I suggested in the review)
Review by Katrina Tee