But my history is littered with the occasional series that did manage to get my attention. And the Samurai X cartoon series was definitely one of the highlights of my geek life. It's not necessarily my all-time favorite or anything like that, but it was a show that I did find myself investing significant time in.
And initially I was really scared about the news that this was being adapted into a live-action movie. Time and time again we've seen how cartoons just don't immediately translate well into life-action, especially complex tales like this one. Add in the fact that only SM Cinemas were going to bring the movie to the country and you can imagine my initial reluctance to go see this movie.
But Tobie and I eventually made the trek to Ortigas and managed to catch it at The Podium. And the end result- totally blown away by what they filmmakers accomplished.
Synopsis: Rurouni Kenshin is a 2012 Japanese movie based on the Nobuhiro Watsuki manga of the same name. The movie was originally released in Japan in August of this year while it finally made its way to the Philippines by December.
The movie starts with recapping the life of Hitokiri Battōsai (Takeru Sato) towards the end of the Bakumatsu War prior to the Meiji Period in Japan. He was an infamous assassin who had killed many in order to help restore power to the Emperor. Fast-forward ten years and we find that he is no longer the assassin Battōsai, but is now just a humble wanderer named Himura Kenshin roaming Japan.
Upon arriving in Tokyo he encounters Kamiya Kaoru (Emi Takei), the owner of a fencing school left to her by her father before her. The school has not been doing so well as of late since rumors have been circulating that a killer who practices their particular fencing style has been assassinating various people night after night. Thus her only student is young Myōjin Yahiko (Taketo Tanaka). In time they are joined by the mysterious Takani Megumi (Yu Aoi), who is on the run from Kanryu Takeda (Teruyuki Kagawa), a bit of a gangster trying to take over the city through his various criminal activities.
Now the movie nicely touches on various story elements from the first season of the anime series that was created based on the manga. Hence we have the whole arc where Kenshin meets Kaoru and of course the whole complication of Megumi. And beyond the effort to follow the story as well as they could, they also put a fair amount of love into the casting to make sure they got decent matches for the various characters.
Takeru Sato was quite the remarkable choice for Kenshin. Beyond the visual appeal, he's quite the skilled actor and did quite well bringing the classic anime character to life. And Kenshin is not an easy role for anyone given the fact that his portrayal swings from being comical in an almost slapstick manner all the way to being deathly serious when he's in full assassin mode. And Emi Takei was a nice balance for his character as a romantic interest, although I do wish she was a tad stronger in some moments. The anime had her almost as a tomboy when it came to defending her school and their particular fighting style, and that was not fully established in the movie.
But I was a tad disappointed in their choice for Sagara Sanosuke - this being actor Munetaka Aoki. While he did grow into the role much later in the movie, from an initial impression perspective he didn't seem like a good match. And this goes beyond him being shorter than what I expected for Sanosuke, but more along the lines of him not quite embodying the role consistently.
It's a tad subtle, but the movie remains a tad more tailored towards fans of either the anime or the manga series before this. It's not that the movie doesn't have a coherent story on its own, but there are still those moments that don't seem fully explained but are in fact nods to the prior versions instead. Thus while the moments may not make full sense strictly within the movie alone, they still get viewers to make the necessary oohs and ahs when fan moments are involved.
The fight choreography behind the movie was rather, well, spectacular. A lot of the different sequences did their best to embrace the various fighting styles of the various characters. This is certainly where the movie truly shined more often than not since the fights weren't just impressive by they were often quite beautiful - and this fits perfectly well with the tone of the manga and anime series.
Rurouni Kenshin was a good demonstration of how to properly adapt an anime series into a movie, although it could have been a tad better to make it stand on its own for non-fans. Still, the movie well deserves 4 brilliant fight moments out of a possible 5.