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, Fukuyama Masaharu
RunTime: 2 hrs 15 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 9 October 2014
Synopsis: To stop Makoto Shishio who aims to conquer Japan, Kenshin arrives in Kyoto and tries to face off against Shishio’s troops. However, his enemy has begun its course to start invading Tokyo with the steel-reinforced battleship. To save captured Kaoru who is thrown into the sea by Shishio’s men, Kenshin also dives in after her but is washed ashore alone, unconscious. Kenshin recovers with the help of Seijuro Hiko, the master of Kenshin who happens to find him on the shore. He realises he is no match for Shishio unless he learns the ultimate technique of his sword style, and begs the master to teach him. In the meantime, Shishio finds that Kenshin is still alive, and puts pressure on the government to find Kenshin and execute him in public for his sins during his days as the “Battosai the Killer”. As Kenshin faces his biggest challenge, can Kenshin really defeat his fiercest enemy Shishio, and be reunited with Kaoru?
I’ll say this first – die-hard fans of the manga series would probably not like the movie very much.
Well, book fans rarely go gaga over movie adaptations, deeming it inferior to the original due to the lack of detail most of the time. That said, it is lacking detail, and there is changing the storyline until it feels like a different story but with the same characters and a vague resemblance to the original plot.
I might be exaggerating, but for a self-confessed Rurouni Kenshin fan, it sure felt that way for a good part of two hours.
Picking up where Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno left off, Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends launches itself straight into the plot. With Shishio Makoto (Tatsuya Fujiwara) advancing to Tokyo and threatening to take over the country, the weakened Himura Kenshin (Satou Takeru) must dig deep and find out how to defeat him, and fast. And in a stroke of good luck, who else to find him washed up from the sea but his teacher, Hiko Seijurou (Masaharu Fukuyama).
Despite the deviation from the original manga, the plot does retain some part that require the audience to have read the manga to fully enjoy. For example, the self-sacrifice required behind the ultimate technique of the "Flying Heaven Honorable Sword Style", and the backstory behind Sagara Sanosuke and “Ten Swords” member, Anji. This lack of information does not take away anything from the plot, but it does seem lacking in some sort without these intricacies.
Like the first and second Rurouni Kenshin movie, what the Legend Ends uses to sell itself to non-readers of the manga is probably the sword fighting sequences in the movie. To get to that, however, the audience must sit through 1.5 hours of dialogue with almost next to nil actual fighting scenes. This could be to make up for the lack of character development in Kyoto Inferno, where it was sacrificed for the action sequences. From the dialogue and non-fighting parts, we learn about Kenshin’s past, before he was picked up by his teacher, the callousness of the Meiji government, and in general, a lot more evil laughing from Shishio. That is fine for people who want to learn more about the characters and their motivations. But for action fans, I suppose it would be boring. On the other hand, what was not explained was the backstory behind Sojiro’s childhood, and how he became with cold, smiling right hand man of Shishio. That would have taken up more time, but it was the most memorable backstory in the manga, in my opinion.
And finally, after the huge buildup to the main fight – Shishio vs. Kenshin – the fight disappoints. Perhaps it is due to the need to rush through things, due to the time taken up by story and character development. Perhaps we were desensitized by the other fighting scenes. Or perhaps it is the four versus one (blasphemy!) to wear Shishio down. But Kenshin’s supposed victory over Shishio did not seem conclusive.
As a whole, the film accessible to all audiences, fans or non-fans of the manga alike. No prior reading is required, although watching Kyoto Inferno before this movie would be recommended. Also, with the Shishio arc in the manga spanning across multiple volumes, the Rurouni Kenshin movies do a decent job in condensing the story to make it suitable for theatres, so kudos for that.
(For non-readers of the original manga, the fight scenes would probably impress; for fans of the original manga, I’d say either prepare for a new version of the story, or just re-read your 28-volume Rurouni Kenshin series)
Review by Goh Yan Hui