When it comes to anime/manga adaptation, the U.S. has a less-than-stellar track record with films like Dragonball: Evolution and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. Many fans insist that Hollywood should just leave anime adaptations to their Far East counterparts. While I've generally found myself on the opposite side of that sentiment, Rurouni Kenshin goes a long way towards supporting the other side of the argument. Possessing a strong following in Japan and a devoted fanbase in America thanks to its Toonami run, Rurouni Kenshin should please both hardcore fans and first-time viewers alike. Watching the film, it was as if Takeru Sato (Kenshin), Munetaka Aoki (Sanosuke), Emi Takei (Kaoru) and Yû Aoi (Megumi) stepped out of the anime, each of the main actors channeled the core elements of their respective character admirably. However, in a crowd of strong performances, it's Teryuki Kagawa's turn as the villainous Kanryuu Takeda that steals the show. Kagawa plays Takeda with equal amounts of malice and quirkiness which keeps him from being a one-dimensional antagonist.
While the acting performances are great, if you're watching a film adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin then you're watching for the action. The film does not disappoint. If you're a connoisseur of martial arts films then sword-fights take on a repetitive feel after a while. However, this film features swordplay that's fresh and fluid, making for some of the best sword-fights I've ever seen in a film. And make no mistake, the film puts swordplay front and center and lets everything else fall where it may.
Rurouni Kenshin is one of the more complete films to be released in 2012. Yes, there are certain elements better than others but there are no glaring weaknesses. Everything from the editing and cinematography to the costumes and sets are cleverly executed. When the credits roll and the end song plays, you'll definitely be thinking about where the film can go in sequel. Hopefully, the next entry will have a larger theatrical run in the U.S.
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Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: August 25, 2012 (Japan)
MPAA Rating: Unknown
Starring: Yû Aoi, Teruyuki Kagawa and Takeru Sato
Directed by: Keishi Ōtomo
Written by: Nobuhiro Watsuki (manga, Kiyomi Fujii (screenplay)and Keishi Ohtomo (screenplay )
Produced by: Warner Bros., with actual film production done by Studio Swan
SYNOPSIS:In 1868, after the end of the Bakumatsu war, the former assassin Kenshin Himura travels through feudal Japan defending those in need without killing through the use of an inverted blade. When Kenshin saves the idealistic Kaoru Kamiya from the gangsters of a powerful opium drug lord named Kanryuu Takeda who seeks Kamiya's dojo for his production of opium, Kenshin becomes immersed in a plot that reaches all the way back to his assassin days. When drug chemist Megumi Takani escapes from Kanryuu and seeks shelter in the dojo it will take the combined forces of Kenshin and street fighter Sanosuke Sagara to take down the drug lord.