Sep 1, 2014

[Movies] Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (2014)

So the first Rurouni Kenshin live-action movie was rather brilliant. And while not necessarily a great movie strictly on its own merits, it was a great adaptation of the anime series and one that had a lot of long-time fans very, very happy. And admittedly, I enjoyed it too.

So we finally have the second movie of what is now a trilogy of Kenshin movies - Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno, which launched here in a rather grand way complete with members of the cast being present. Of course since I wasn't fully attuned to the news related to this movie, I was pretty surprised that they've already confirmed that the next installment will screen by September. Strike while the iron is hot, I suppose.

They've certainly tried to take things up a few notches - which is only naturally since the folks behind it feel a lot more assured of their potential success. And the actors are obviously a lot more comfortable in their respective roles. And so things were practically fated to get better.

Synopsis: Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Taika-hen) is the 2014 sequel to the 2012 Rurouni Kenshin movie, as adapted from the Nobuhiro Watsuki  manga series of the same name. It was directed by Keishi Ōtomo.

The story picks up with Himura Kenshin (Takeru Satoh) enjoying his peaceful life in Kamiya Kaoru's (Emi Takei) dojo. But this peace is not meant to last when the Meiji government asks for his help to deal with Shishio Makoto (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and his mercenary forces. Shishio was actually the new government's top assassin after Kenshin (then Hitokiri Battōsai) took his oath to no longer kill. Although Shishio had been believed to be dead, it seems he survived his ordeal and is now determined to take his revenge.

Kenshin eventually leaves Kaoru in order to try and deal with Shishio on his own. Meanwhile, intelligence seems to indicate that Shishio's grand plot is to burn Kyoto to the ground, although how exactly he plans to do this is uncertain. At the same time, he quickly surmises that the Meiji government would send Kenshin after him and he prepares an elaborate trap for our protagonist, with Seta Sōjirō (Ryunosuke Kamiki) being Shishio's primary agent at this point.

As I was writing out the synopsis above, I was worried that I was getting too far ahead of the story. And that sort of reflects how the movie generally tried to capture the pacing of the manga and the anime series before it. I wouldn't necessarily call it slow, but it's definitely a more measured pace compared your to your typical Hollywood blockbuster. And that generally reflects the tone of the entire franchise really, so that was a nice touch.

At the same time, you can't deny that the story's manga/anime roots include a somewhat comical legacy as well. And it was kind of crazy fun to see all these different characters "in the flesh" within the movie. And between their costumes and their mannerisms, they nicely captured the feel of the different characters for the most part. I liked the tone of them being a little ridiculous at times, and yet still enough of a threat here and there.

The fight scenes, like before, we very well done. It seems like Takeru Satoh probably spent hours and hours of practice trying to perfectly capture Kenshin's signature crouch pose that is seen so often in the original series. Each character had their fighting styles and techniques that were nicely translated into their choreography. You can tell which characters rely on their lightning speed to win battles, while others barrel through with brute strength.

With the size of the cast and all the different things going on, a lot of characters sort of fade into the background. Kaoru is only really seen mostly in the beginning and the end of the movie and Sanosuke (Munetaka Aoki) seems to show up out of nowhere during the final battle. It's not a totally bad thing about the movie, but it is a little sad.

On the whole, the story was okay, but I'm worried if folks who didn't watch the series or read the manga could have appreciated things as well as possible. With so many characters going around, it's a little hard to keep track sometimes of who is who and what is going on where. And then there's the fact that the story ends at an odd point, so that can leave weird taste in your mouth. Those who know the story understand that even bigger things are about to come. Everyone else might feel like they didn't know how to end the movie. It's not quite an Empire Strikes Back moment.

Still, Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is a fun movie and one that decently stands independent of the first film. But it still needs the final movie in the trilogy to be fully appreciated so folks may not fully understand things without that ending. But it still gets 4 plots within plots within plots out of a possible 5.

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