Hollywood has gotten better in making live action films of geek media. Well, for superheroes anyway. Marvel’s series of movies, which culminated with The Avengers was awesome. And Warner Bros. Man of Steel was a good reboot for a new Superman series.
But there’s a lot of things they need to work on. American movie studios still don’t have any idea how to put the fantastic elements of cartoons onto the big screen. The Transformers trilogy may have been fun but extremely flawed. The Last Airbender was just a complete mess. Dragonball Evolution was just a big middle finger to all fans of the anime.
Leave it to the Japanese to show how to make a good film adaption of an existing property. The live action adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin was awesome and still faithful to the original ideas of the series.
Rurouni Kenshin (or Samurai X who watched the American dubbed version) tells the story of Kenshin Himura. Although he looks like a frail rurouni (wanderer), he is actually a trained swordsman and, to atone for all those he had to assassinate before, has wandered Japan helping various people. He has also vowed to not kill anyone ever again. Because of this vow, he carries and uses a special reverse edge sword so that the blunt side strike his opponent.
The film manages to cram in a lot of Kenshin’s early enemies of the series but the filmmakers did a wonderful job of making sure they are all given adequate screen time to shine. The filmmakers had to rework some of the characters’ histories to make it fit but they did it in such a way that even fans of the original series will accept immediately.
Being a film based on an anime filled with unbelievable swordfighting, it’s surprising that the action sequences manage to copy the frantic action of the show. The fight scenes look like they came out of the anime but they’re done in a way that is straightforward and easy to follow. Hollywood has become too fond of “shaky cam” fights. But Rurouni Kenshin shows you can make great fight scenes and still use a steady camera to follow the action. In short, they’re fantastic!
Takeru Satoh (Kenshin) is spot on as Kenshin, managing to change pretty quickly from being serious assassing but then switching to the comedic and seeming weak wanderer fluidly. However, for people who have no knowledge of the anime, the rest of the cast may seem like they’re overacting at times. This is especially true for Teruyuki Kagawa (the sleazy opium dealer, Takeda Kanryu). As a fan of the series myself, I understand why they are overacting like this: they are mimicking the mannerisms of the anime, which I actually liked. But it can look like they’re overdoing it because they are essentially playing over-the-top characters.
Speaking of which, will people who aren’t familiar with Kenshin’s adventures enjoy this movie? I think they will but definitely not to the extent that fans will. The story can be fairly complex since you need to have some knowledge of Japanese history which can be difficult since the film glosses over it quickly. Also, I watched the subtitled version and there are a lot of words that weren’t “translated” because they’re integral to the history. Words like “Battousai” and “Shin no Ippou” aren’t supposed to be translated and those who watched the anime know this. But new viewers will probably be confused. So, if you’re watching with someone who has no knowledge of Rurouni Kenshin, you may have to explain a few things.
Overall, the live action take of Rurouni Kenshin is a fantastic adaptation of the manga and anime of the same name and fans will have a blast with it. Non-fans will also probably enjoy it because of the over the top action it has. If you’ve enjoyed Rurouni Kenshin or Samurai X, you owe it to yourself to watch this.
Have you watched Rurouni Kenshin? What did you think of it? Do you know other live action film adaptions that are better than this film? Please leave your comments and thoughts below!