Last year, I reviewed the phenomenal live action version of Rurouni Kenshin. It was a great film and, like most fans, loved it. The movie was a critical and box office success. So, no surprise that they decided to make a sequel to the film and fans of the anime and manga were excited. Because we knew what story they had to tackle next: the Shishio Makoto and the Juppongatana (Ten Swords)!
So when it was announced that they were going to cover this with the second and third films of the series, expectations were understandably high. Everyone who loved Rurouni Kenshin (or Samurai X, if you like) needed to see this, myself included! And were my expectations met?
Short summary of what I thought of the film: Good but a little disappointing, especially considering the number of episodes these two films are trying to encapsulate. Let me try to elaborate further…
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Takai-hen (transliterated: Kyoto Inferno) takes place a few days/months after the events of the first film. Himura Kenshin is trying to live a life of peace with Kamiya Kaoru, Sagara Sanosuke, Yahiko Myojin and Tanaki Megumi. However, the swordsman who took Kenshin’s place after he quit being an assassin, Makoto Shishio, is planning a major coup and threatens to destroy the new Meiji government. Feeling he is the only one strong enough to take Shishio down, Kenshin travels to Kyoto in order to prevent this from happening.
The plot pretty much follows the anime/manga at the start but then widely diverges during the latter part of the movie. Considering this film as well as the upcoming Rurouni Kenshin: Densetsu no Saigo-hen (The Legend Ends) is trying to summarize 34 anime episodes and 100 manga chapters, they obviously had to cut out some scenes and rewrite a couple of scenarios to make everything fit. Unfortunately, the story and overall flow of the film feels stilted as a result.
Case-in-point: Sanosuke’s journey to Kyoto has been totally cut out. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he just didn’t pop up during the big battle at the end of the film! I rarely use the word literally since, well, I know what the word means, but he literally just appears there in the fight! No mention of him arriving at all! He’s just there all of a sudden!
Another change that they made was Makimaya Misao’s introduction. In the film she tries to steal Kenshin’s sword and, after finding out it has a reverse-edge blade, she… starts following Kenshin. Why? Okay, so they have Eiji call for help to the both of them but, in the anime, they’ve been travelling together for a while. Also, in the anime, Misao had a reason to follow Kenshin: it’s because she figured out that he knew something about Aoshi and the remaining Oniwanbanshuu.
In the movie, it felt like there was no reason for her to follow Kenshin to Eiji’s village. She did it because… well, she had to because the story called for her to do so! Like I said, I understand why they made these changes (it’s hard to fit in all of plot elements from the anime/manga) but the first film did a much better job in doing this.
Also, while I expected the film to end in a cliffhanger (it is the first movie of the Shishio saga, after all), I didn’t expect it to end so suddenly! If you look at other films, like Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows, which also took the “Part 1/Part 2” route, you notice the pacing of the film slows down by the very end of the film before the credits roll. I think they needed to extend the ending scene a minute or two longer. I know: I want them to add a couple of minutes to a movie that already runs longer than 2 hours! But I think it would’ve made the conclusion of the film better.
Even if the flow of the story is a bit stiff and the ending garbage, I gotta hand it to the Japanese because they know how to get the tone right for each scene. The first scene with Saitoh tracking down Shishio was exceptionally well done! It sets the entire feel for the film early and was executed perfectly, showing how bloodthirsty and cruel Shishio is.
Like the first film, the fight scenes in Kyoto Inferno are also incredible! I like how frenzied and crazy the battles look whenever Kenshin is just slashing away against a horde of bad guys. Even if it’s exciting to see that, the one-on-one fights are much better! The choreography of each duel is exciting, if a little bit hard to follow at times.
The acting can look a little over-the-top at times but that’s to be expected for an anime adaption. It may seem like the actors are performing in a children’s movie at times because of this. The acting is still good, overall. There are three actors that stood out from the pack in my opinion: Tatsuya Fujiwara (Shishio), Min Takana (Okina) and the guy who played Sadojima Hoji. The first two’s performances were really kind of understated when compared to the rest of the cast. But the guy playing Hoji seems to be having tons of fun!
Like I said, the film is actually really good but disappointing because of the disjointed story and the hurried ending. Maybe this film will become better in retrospect when Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends is released next month. I’ll let you know when that movie is released next week. Because you know I just have to know how it all ends…
…And I really want to see the Kenshin and Shishio fight!
Have you watched the 2nd Rurouni Kenshin live-action film? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!